Simulation for All: The Politics of Supercomputing in Stuttgart

David Gugerli, Ricky Wichum

To be published in March 2021

Supercomputing is exclusive computing at the extreme limits of computability. It is therefore controversial, politically attractive and costs a lot of money. David Gugerli and Ricky Wichum show how supercomputing has developed in Stuttgart over the last five decades – with many surprising twists and turns, crises in operations and new technical frontiers.

The expansion of the computing center in the 1970s, for example, ended up with the installation of an outdated supercomputer, and the spectacular acquisition of the world's fastest computer in 1986 generated an exciting search for users and suitable forms of operation over many years. When internetworks made global connections possible in the 1990s, Stuttgart was at the forefront and, after transatlantic experiments, had to realize that the question of supercomputing was decided at home. Carefully managed "users" and a cooperative German offering for Europe were at the forefront in the 2000s. More recently, limits to growth are becoming apparent in the hardware, which no one had previously reckoned with. From the perspective of the history of technology, it is still true that supercomputing will only work if computers, science, industry and politics are constantly reconfigured.