I just read about a big feat. Alex Yee of Northwestern U has written a program to computer 500 billion digits of e. The digits have been computed and verified. Here is the amazing part. He did this on a PC. And the PC was not in dedicated use for the computation. It is his workstation as well for other tasks.
Alex is in the EE and CS department. His computer does have a whopping 12G of RAM. And it runs Windows. The thing is overclocked for optimal performance. He describes his PC as a great gaming PC.
To make the computation, Alex relies on the Taylor series expansion to compute e. His program needs to do a lot of huge multiplications. It is one machine. But it has support to use multiple disk drives for a single mammoth operation. His program also makes use of another program called Y-Cruncher.
Y-Cruncher is a multithreaded program whose initial purpose was to compute the digits of Pi. It first did 1 billion digits. The thing has set a bunch of records. It was first coded in Java, then ported to C, and is now written in C++. The author is still in college. This is not an open source product. But as we can see, others in the academic community are making use of it to do great things.
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