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Intel Touchstone Delta

Manufacturer INTEL Super Computers
Identification,ID Touchstone Delta
Date of first manufacture1990
Number produced one
Estimated price or cost-
location in museum -

Contents of this page:

Intel Touchstone Delta


Massively Parallel with Intel's 32-bit 80860 RISC chip, performing at 60 MFLOPS peak

MIMD hypercube.

MIMD is for Multiple Instruction Multiple Data
Hypercube _ "

The Intel Touchstone Delta computer system is 16 32 mesh of i860 processors with a wormhole routing interconnection network [41], located at the California Institute of Technology on behalf of the Concurrent Supercomputing Consortium. The Delta's communication characteristics are described in [43].

Special features

Touchstone Delta

Overview of Platform:

The Touchstone Delta System

It should be noted that this is a research prototype for the Paragon system and is not intended for commercial production.

Architecture: Distributed Memory MIMD hypercube.

Node: Intel's 32-bit 80860 RISC chip, performing at 60 MFLOPS peak, with 8--16 Mbytes of memory. Features include pipelining and instruction caching but these make it difficult to approach peak performance.

Topology: A mesh with wormhole routing.

Operating System: MACH, Express and CrOS III are available.

Communication Paradigms: Extensions for explicit message passing are available.

Languages: C and Fortran.

Programming Environment: Tools are available for debugging, code parallelizing and profiling.

Performance: Peak performance is 32 GFLOPS for the maximum configuration of 484 nodes. Delta has achieved the highest LINPACK rating ever, with 13.9 GFLOPS, and until recently held the record for the SLALOM benchmark, with 5750 patches.

Historical Notes

This Specimen
California Institute of Technology

MAY 25, 1998


Lights out for original 'fastest super'

Federally funded Touchstone Delta set stage for later tech


The lights will go out on a piece of computing history May 29 when the California Institute of Technology pulls the plug on the first scalable parallel supercomputer to earn the title of fastest in the world.

Built by Intel Corp. as a prototype seven years ago, mostly with federal funds, the 512-processor Touchstone Delta spawned a new era of scientific computing. The system gave government and university researchers, for the first time, enough computing power to pursue such groundbreaking applications as real-time processing of satellite images and molecular models for AIDS research.

Although a second version was never built, the Delta was the foundation for even faster computers - some with thousands of processors - made by Intel and others and installed today at NASA, the Defense Department and the Energy Department as well as other federal labs. Those include systems made by Intel, IBM Corp. and Silicon Graphics Inc./Cray Research that are being used to model the condition of the nation's nuclear stockpile under DOE's Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI).


Intel never planned to build a prototype as large as the Delta, said Justin Rattner, who designed the system and is now the director of Intel's Beaverton, Ore., Server Architecture Laboratory. However, Rattner said, "it had always been our experience that whenever we proposed to build a machine of a given size, the potential users wanted a machine at least twice that big.''

Interesting Web Sites

Other information
from Eugene Miya
I first saw the Delta at Intel in Beaverton at I think the 5th Hypercube workshop (SIAM, I think). I just chanced to get invited to see it.

It then went down to Caltech and JPL, but I donít recall which bldg or anything like that. Then some years later Paul Messina and I happened to get together, and I convinced him to give it to CHM for Caltech and JPL history (which was scant). 1/2 came to CHM and I think Paul had an arrangement that Intel got the other half back. Iíve not seem much of Paul since (I knew Paul from Caltech management, a friend was his VP boss for a while). Paul and other friends would know the particulars. I have to be careful talking about this stuff contractually.

A modest number of papers were produced, most of which are in my bibliography on parallelism but not much became of the machine. The mesh interconnect was more limiting than prior hypercube connections. It was hard for most people to wrap their brains around gray coding. Not many were made in the end. The i860 version of course died, too. It was overblown which is why no successors were made.

The irony to me was that I was present at the machineís birth and death. I never used it. It was merely a curiosity machine, hard to program. Never really picked up. Had lots of flashy blinking lights which never became or much like Connection Machine lights.

I never retained any of my manuals.

I can think of a fair number of one liners to say to all the marketing commentary you have quoted, but I remember thinking in that period:

"Reinventing the ILLIAC IV again."

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Brennan Barber   
Sent: Saturday, October 04, 2008 6:12 AM
Subject: Touchstone Delta

So whatever happened to the Touchstone Delta? 
    I know it was retired but was curious about itís final fate.
I have been preserving any type of items related to this incredible project 
and have lately increased my search and thought I would check with you 
and see what the latest news was on it.
Thanks for any info.

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Updated Oct, 2008