Real Time Club 45th Anniversary: Building a Silicon Brain – The SpiNNaker project (18 April 2013)

We celebrate our 45 anniversary with a dinner at the House of Lords on the 18th of April 2013. Professor Stephen Furber will give a presentation of his €400m ‘SpiNNaker’ project to build a ‘silicon brain’ made up of a million ARM chips. Dick Evans, one of the last three active founders will propose the toast to the Club.

The RTC Anniversary Dinner is hosted at the House of Lords by Lord Lucas of Crudwell and Dingwall at the House of Lords.

Stephen Byram Furber, CBE, FRS, FREng

Stephen Furber, speaker at the RTC Anniversary Dinner.Stephen Furber is the ICL Professor of Computer Engineering at the School of Computer Science at the University of Manchester but is probably best known as one of the designers of the BBC Micro and the ARM 32-bit RISC microprocessor.

Steve’s latest project is known as SpiNNaker (Spiking Neural Network Architecture), also nicknamed the “brain box”, to be constructed at the University of Manchester. This is an attempt to build a new kind of computer that directly mimics the workings of the human brain. Spinnaker is essentially an artificial neural network realised in hardware, a massively parallel processing system eventually designed to incorporate a million ARM processors. The finished Spinnaker will model 1% of the human brain’s capability, or around 1 billion neurons. The Spinnaker project aims amongst other things to investigate:

  • How can massively parallel computing resources accelerate our understanding of brain function?
  • How can our growing understanding of brain function point the way to more efficient parallel, fault-tolerant computation?

Steve believes that “significant progress in either direction will represent a major scientific breakthrough”.

Steve chaired the Royal Society study into Computing in Schools, which resulted in the report ‘Shut down or restart?’ in January 2012.

Richard Evans

Richard Evans, founding member of the Real Time Club.Richard Evans was one of the original founders of the Real Time Club along with Alan Marshall, Philip Hughes and Charles Ross. He started Time Sharing Ltd. in 1967, which was the first ‘Online in Real Time’ bureau of its type in Europe.

He founded Metier Management Systems Ltd – which developed the midi-computer based project management system Artemis – in 1975. Metier achieved something like 80% of the N Sea oil project management market, around 70% of the ex-US project management market and 55% of the US project management market, and sold out to Lockheed for £100 million (more like £500 million at today’s prices).

Concerned that, although serious poverty was largely a thing of the past in the UK, many people were desperately unhappy – and psychological therapy could help many of them towards a happier life. So Richard retrained as a psychotherapist, and contributed substantial funds to found a charitable trust to make psychological therapy more available in the UK.