Enduring legacies of supercomputers and the Big Man

The statistics associated with Fujitsu’s Supercomputer will make you hyperventilate.  That is, if you can grasp the enormity of the numbers.  How many instructions can you execute per second?  Never mind.  That computer can execute 8,000 trillion instructions per second which, at the very least, introduces a new word to my lexicon….quadrillion, or 1,000 trillion. 

In the industry in which I work, one becomes inured to the steady onslaught of news that yet another record has been broken for speed, or for size (meaning, ever smaller).  It’s not that I don’t appreciate the achievements, because I certainly do, but when the records fall with increasing regularity and with (what seems to me) a decrease in attention from the popular media…..let’s just say that the wow factor is not quite what it used to be. 

So when that piece of news arrived on the same day I learned that Clarence Clemons died, the contrast between the two events could not have been more stark.   One story is about physics and human intelligence combining to produce a noteworthy achievement, but (alas) one that will be broken in a few short months.  The other story is about a huge and gentle personality that endured and grew stronger under the unforgiving microscope of popular culture for over forty years, about a man who changed his world by simply letting his raw talent soar.  To an impressionable young man watching a Springsteen show live in Detroit in 1976, the Big Man’s presence was something new, immensely alive, and powerful.

If I can remember only one of these two events a few decades from now, which do you think it will be?