Huan Truong

Notes from a developer


Your phone vs. Supercomputers

Today, I looked up how many floating point operations per second (FLOPS) that an iPhone can do. It turns out the A14 chip in the iPhone can do about 11 TFlOPS according to Apple. Let's give Apple the benefits of the doubt and not get too deep into how they got that number, and put it to perspective and compare the iPhone with the Top 500 Supercomputers in the world over the years:

iPhone vs Supercomputers

The green line is how much computing power that little phone I'm holding in my hands has. If released in 2009, it would have made it to the list of top 500 supercomputers in the world! It has more computing power than the most powerful computer in the world in 2002. It has the combined computing power of the 1997's top 500 supercomputers in the whole world.

People talked about how the computer on Appolo was so slow. I get it, but I can hardly relate to that. I wasn't born then. However, 2009 was just 12 years ago. I could still remember it vividly. I was a freshman student then.

Reflecting on that, I figured:

  • Something with the form factor and power envelope of the phone alone is already exceedingly powerful. It could potentially do things that humankind couldn't achieve just ten years ago.
  • On the other hand, I don't need to have the most whizz-bang computer or phone to make programs that do amazing things. Writing programs for older hardware can be a pleasure. Supporting older hardware makes programs I create more accessible to a larger part of the human population.
  • As a programmer, when I complain about the phone or any computer I have is not powerful enough for whatever I want to do, it's much more likely it's me doing something wrong.
  • The world changes faster than my mind conceives. I need to be humble about what I know. Things I know to be fast becomes slow sooner than I expect. In the same realm, maybe ideas that I know to be good become bad sooner than I expect. Those ideas are not necessarily limited to technology: Maybe ideas in science, humanities, and society also envolve that way. It is just harder to put into numbers like TFLOPS.

We have the most power computer in our pocket. Doing something amazing with that power should constantly be a question on our mind. All that power just to push one more ads is a fucking stupid and disgusting idea.