If you want to know which supercomputer is the fastest in the world, you check the Top 500 list. The keeper of that list is Dr. Jack Dongarra, who teaches at the University of Tennessee.
Dongarra is one of the authors of the Linpack computing benchmark, introduced way back in 1979. With this benchmark, supercomputing sites can rate computers' relative performance at solving a set of linear equations.
Dongarra's group has ported Linpack to the iPad 2 to see how fast it really is, according to the New York Times. Tests on the iPad 2 have so far only been run on a single core of the A5 processor, but Dongarra estimates that a dual-core Linpack run will yield performance of between 1.5 and 1.65 gigaflops -- that's up to 1.65 billion floating-point operations per second. That raw performance means that the iPad 2 would have remained on the list of the world's speediest supercomputers until about 1994.
The single-processor tests of the iPad 2 matched the Linpack results of the four-processor version of the Cray 2 supercomputer (pictured). Back in 1985, the eight-processor version of the Cray 2 was the fastest computer in the world.
Yeah, the iPad 2 is a 21st century device, but its comparable benchmarks to supercomputers of the past are still pretty impressive when you consider it's thinner than a notebook and is cooled by plain old air. Most of the old supercomputers it rivaled required specialized cooling, custom-built enclosures and raised flooring. Just think: in 20 years or less, the power of today's fastest supercomputer could be in an iPhone.
Thanks to Brian for the tip.