July 1, 2007 Computer Engineer Mark Dean was recently inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame for his work with IBM. He's the man behind the first gigahertz microprocessor and the system that allows multiple devices to be connected to personal computers (such as modems and printers). He is currently working to apply spintronics, a technique that manipulates electron spin, to problems like creating more storage space in hard drives.
IBM fellow and Vice President of the Almaden research center, Dr. Mark Dean, built his 1965 Cobra replica with his own two hands. He is also known to his colleagues -- and the world -- as the creator of the PC. That desktop computer you use on a daily basis -- Dean is the man that put it all into one box.
"I like seeing people use what I have done," Dean says. "I get off on watching them be able to leverage the products or inventions or technologies that we have been able to develop."
Dean is also one of a handful of African Americans to be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. "It's a great group of people that have been recognized," says Dean.
Dean and his team have opened the door to many great inventions. "I managed a team that built the first gigahertz microprocessor which was a big breakthrough, I managed a team that started the world's highest performance supercomputer which was BLUEGENE -- that was great," Dean recalls.
This remarkable electrical engineer utilizes his position to act as a great role model. "[He teaches us] that everything is possible. He never says 'no.' He never says that it's not possible," says E. Michael "Max" Maximilien, Ph.D., IBM Researcher and friend of Dean. "I think this kind of an attitude is key to making things that actually do change the world."
Dean isn't so concerned about his awards and accomplishments of the past. He hopes to be honored for what hasn't even been discovered yet. "It feels funny because there is so much more to do; I am not ready to stop," says Dean.
The of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
BACKGROUND: Mark Dean is an African-American electrical engineer and computer scientist who holds more than 20 US patents, including three of IBM's original nine personal computer patents. One of the technical and innovative driving forces behind the personal computer, Dean was recently inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, one of only a handful of African-Americans who have been selected for that honor.
ACHIEVEMENTS: Today's desktop computers exist in part because of Dean's research. One of his earliest inventions was the Industry Standard Architecture 'bus,' a user interface that permitted devices such as the keyboard, disk drives, and printers to be connected to the motherboard. He developed a method for displaying color on monitors, helped design several PS/2 subsystems, and tested the first gigahertz CMOS microprocessor. Dean was also instrumental in developing the unique cellular structure of IBM's signature Blue Gene supercomputer.
ABOUT BLUE GENE: Blue Gene is a massively parallel computer designed to reach operating speeds in the petaflop range (see below for what a petaflop is). Right now, it can reach sustained speeds of more than 360 teraflops (just over a third of a petaflop). That translates into 360 calculations per second, making it the world's fastest supercomputer. It is a cooperative project between IBM, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Department of Energy and academic researchers. In addition to exploring new ideas in massively parallel machine architecture and software, Blue Gene's computational power enables scientists to run large-scale simulations of complex processes such as protein folding, or the reliability of the nation's stockpile of nuclear weapons. Blue Gene consists of five separate networks connecting huge numbers of processors, rather than the conventional massive central switch used in other supercomputers.
WHAT'S A PETAFLOP?: A petaflop is a thousand trillion floating point operations per second. (A thousand trillion is a one with fourteen zeros after it.) FLOPS are floating-point operations per second. Floating-point is a method of encoding real numbers on computers. Using floating-point encoding, extremely long numbers can be handled relatively easily. The number of flops a computer can do shows how fast its computing speed is.