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3.1.7 Sixth Generation (1990 -- )

Transitions between generations in computer technology are hard to define, especially as they are taking place. Some changes, such as the switch from vacuum tubes to transistors, are immediately apparent as fundamental changes, but others are clear only in retrospect. Many of the developments in computer systems since 1990 reflect gradual improvements over established systems, and thus it is hard to claim they represent a transition to a new ``generation'', but other developments will prove to be significant changes.

In this section we offer some assessments about recent developments and current trends that we think will have a significant impact on computational science.

Table 2: Network Speeds.

This generation is beginning with many gains in parallel computing, both in the hardware area and in improved understanding of how to develop algorithms to exploit diverse, massively parallel architectures. Parallel systems now compete with vector processors in terms of total computing power and most expect parallel systems to dominate the future.