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IBM and MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Complete First Ever Course on the Cell Broadband Engine


IBM (NYSE: IBM) and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announce the recent completion of the first course in the United States structured around the capabilities of the Cell Broadband Engine™ (Cell/B.E), the microprocessor that powers Sony Computer Entertainment’s (SCE) PLAYSTATION®3 (PS3™) computer entertainment system. IBM, Sony Corporation and SCE (Sony group), and Toshiba collaborated on helping to fund the course and Sony group provided the PS3 hardware to be used by students.

During the four-week Independent Activities Period course in January, students not only learned about the new microprocessor, but designed and implemented projects to run directly on PS3 system using open standards software. The student team with the best project -- a 3D version of the classic pong game -- later presented their work and discussed their experience at the Game Developer Conference in March 7 2007.

The course, which focused around introducing parallel programming to students, was taught by Saman Amarasinghe, a professor in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Dr. Rodric Rabbah of IBM.

“The fact that students -- with no background in parallel programming or the Cell/B.E. -- were able to get their projects done from scratch in just about one month largely goes to show the capability and determination of our students, coupled with the availability of a robust toolchain for Cell/B.E. development,” said Saman Amarasinghe, Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, MIT.

Throughout the course, students became familiar with Cell/B.E. and how its design choices compare to other emerging architectures. Students also formed small project teams and participated in a course-long project to develop applications to run on Cell/B.E. using the IBM Cell SDK available from IBM developerWorks.

“Cell/B.E. is going to be an underlying architecture that has the potential to be included in a wide range of industry applications and solutions in the future,” said Dr. Rodric Rabbah, IBM Research. “This course was able to break down the details of a highly complex microprocessor and challenge students to see where the performance, power and versatility could be applied outside of gaming. Based on the feedback we received from the students, it was a tremendous success.”

A website hosted by the Computer Architecture Group at MIT posts information on the course, including lectures and recitation plans. It has been visited more than a hundred thousand times since the completion of the course. More information on the course can be found at:

IBM is also currently hosting a first-of-its-kind programming contest -- the Cell University Challenge -- for college and university students in 25 different countries, offering cash prizes and awards for the most innovative applications of the breakthrough Cell/B.E. All information on eligibility, rules and requirements, and entry applications can be found at:

The revolutionary Cell/B.E. -- jointly developed by IBM, Sony group and Toshiba -- is a breakthrough design featuring a central processing core based on IBM’s industry-leading Power Architecture™ technology and eight synergistic processing elements (SPE). Cell/B.E. “supercharges” compute-intensive applications, offering fast performance for computer entertainment and handhelds, virtual reality, wireless downloads, real-time video chat, interactive TV shows and other “image-hungry” computing environments. The groundbreaking Cell/B.E. processor appears in products such as SCE’s PS3 and Toshiba’s Cell/B.E. Reference Set, a development tool for Cell/B.E. applications, as well as the IBM BladeCenter QS20. It is also embedded in custom Cell/B.E. based offerings from IBM Global Engineering Solutions.


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