The Sand Castle Project

The Sand Castle Project

An Experimental Parallel Computing Cluster

The Sand Castle is a retrocluster, a low cost computing cluster assembled from commonly available obsolete hardware and software components.

SandCastle 1.0 originally appeared in an art installation Project Row Houses in Houston, where I was given large space to design in. SandCastle 1.0 turned the room into void, covering the floors and walls in black cloth. X-ray film covered the windows, referencing stained glass with views into the body. At the end of the room was the centerpiece, a 3x3 array of black and white monitors, a dynamic wall display. The display cycled through magnetic resonance slices of my brain, scanned and arranged such that each monitor displayed a piece of the image, the whole apparent across all monitors on the wall. Finally, the space was filled with subtle sound, as the system generated overlapping slow sequences of gamelan tones. These tones were also mixed with audio sampled from the audience and echoed back into the room.

Sand Castle 2.0 is to be an interactive art installation for children.

Our Goal: 32 complete NeXT nodes

Why would one want to do such a thing? And why NeXT hardware?

Certain difficult problems in computing yield to the application of parallel techniques. CRASH believes that education in parallel computation is important to the future of students beginning their studies in practical science today.

By initiating the Sand Castle Project, CRASH wants to make available high speed computing to the general public, including artists, technologists, and K-12 students.

And why NeXT hardware? Well, we're long time NeXT hackers at heart. We understand the system, and we feel it is certainly capable of providing amazing computing power for the price.


    "Using commodity personal computer subsystems allows supercomputer
     performance at a significantly reduced cost," said Thomas Sterling,
     a senior scientist at Caltech and JPL who led the original design 
     team. "Any college or university, or laboratory department, can now 
     afford a parallel supercomputer for research and education." Sterling
     also pointed out that electrical and computer engineering students 
     can benefit from the experience of building a parallel computer.
                                         - HPCwire, 11-8-96

Educational Focus and Applications

CRASH plans to provide Internet access to the Sand Castle machine so that students and developers can reach the machine from anywhere on the globe where a net connection can be found, including at school, in museums, and at home.

How can I help?

We need donations to help make this project a reality! In particular, the project needs more NeXT hardware, software, 30 pin SIMMs (1 or 4 meg), SCSI hard drives, Ethernet cable, and related networking hardware.

We need software developers who want to experiment with high speed parallel systems to work with us in developing some of the applications, tools, and techniques mentioned above.

We need educators and students who are excited about this kind of educational opportunity to communicate with us about things they would like to be able to do with the system, and to discuss with us ways of using the system to spark an interest in physical science, math, and computing in general.

Want to participate? Send mail to Jason Asbahr!

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