LOOKS can be deceptive.
At first glance it might look like a rather snazzy double wardrobe.
But meet Sol – the University of Huddersfield’s new £100,000 ‘super’ computer.
Sol provides fast calculations for the most complex problems.
Desktop computers have a single or dual core processor.
Sol is a 256-core powerhouse which will prove an academic driving force for university researchers.
The latest university computer – like the others named after stars – eclipsed the previous one, Eridani, which was a comparatively puny 158 cores.
Sol – Spanish for sun – was donated by Lancaster University.
It was dismantled, rebuilt and loaded with new software – and to buy it complete would cost a cool £100,000.
Dr Paul Elliott, of the university’s High Performance Computer Research Group, said Sol could carry out the most complex calculations in a fraction of the time.
"In what might take a PC desktop a couple of months could be completed by Sol in a couple of days," said Dr Elliott.
"It is so much more powerful and has so much more memory."
Sol can compute academic puzzles across a range of disciplines including physics, science, electronics, engineering and art and design.
Sol may not be much to look at but it is one of the most powerful educational computers around and will help attract more high-calibre researchers to the university.
At least 100 researchers – both staff and students – now have access to the superfast machine.
It is already operating at 76% capacity and new software has been developed to better manage the queue of jobs.
Sol is housed in the university’s new Visualisation Suite.
It is equipped with large, state-of the-art screens that are ideal for the display and analysis of 3D and X-ray images.
There are also video conferencing facilities, including high-end speakers and cameras embedded in the ceiling, which will enable research to be discussed across the globe.
There has already been a Skyped conference linking Huddersfield and Chicago.
By contrast, one of the world’s oldest computers – also from a university – has just been restored by Rod Thomas and Roger Holmes in a garden shed in Kent.
The ICT 1301 mainframe was built for £250,000 in 1962, the equivalent of £4.2 million today.
Nicknamed Flossie, it processed GCE results and exam certificates for London University in the 1960s.
Despite being 25 sq ft and weighing five tons it only has the computing power of a digital watch. All its data could be stored on a third of a CD.
Yet Flossie was very futuristic in its day. So much so it featured in the Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun, Dr Who and sci-fi series Blake’s 7.
Looks indeed can be deceptive.