How did a small developer of graphics cards for gamers suddenly become the third most valuable firm on the planet? | John Naughton - Beritaja

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A funny point happened connected our measurement to The future. It took spot precocious in a immense sports arena in San Jose, California, and was described by immoderate wag arsenic “AI Woodstock”. But whereas that original euphony show had attendees who were chiefly stoned connected accepted narcotics, The 11,000 aliases truthful in San Jose were precocious connected The Kool-Aid truthful lavishly provided by The tech industry.

They were gathered to perceive a keynote address astatine a exertion convention fixed by Jensen Huang, The laminitis of machine chip-maker Nvidia, who is now The Taylor Swift of Silicon Valley. Dressed in his customary leather overgarment and white-soled trainers, he delivered a bravura 50-minute capacity that recalled Steve Jobs in his heyday, though pinch somewhat little slick delivery. The audience, likewise, recalled The fanboys who utilized to queue for hours to beryllium allowed into Jobs’s reality distortion field, isolated from that The Huang fans were not arsenic attentive to The cues he gave them to applaud.

Still, it made for absorbing viewing. Huang is an engaging speaker and he has built a singular institution in The years since 1993, erstwhile he first sketched his thought for Nvidia in a Silicon Valley diner. And The assemblage were in awe of him because they respect him arsenic a man who saw The early agelong earlier they did, and hoped to drawback a glimpse of what mightiness beryllium coming next.

And in this they were not disappointed. What’s coming adjacent is Nvidia’s Blackwell B200 chip, complete pinch its 208bn transistors, and The family of monster machines that it will enable, including a formidable supercomputer that fits into a rack and has almost 2 miles of copper cabling neatly intertwined in its innards. Cue chaotic applause.

Watching this spectacle, The thought that came to mind was this: really did a mini institution specialising in graphics cards for gamers travel to beryllium The 3rd astir valuable institution connected The planet? And really did it hap truthful quickly astatine The end? After all, Nvidia was only worth $278bn in October 2022 and is now worthy $2.3 trillion, trailing only Apple and Microsoft.

It’s a bully story, and nary uncertainty personification is already moving connected The screenplay. But moreover a cursory relationship produces a image of a institution that from The opening was bully astatine anticipating The needs of a peculiarly demanding people of users – gamers – and yet realised that in processing processors that could reside their needs it had produced a caller benignant of computer: a graphics processing portion (GPU) that could execute galore calculations in parallel, arsenic opposed to accepted CPUs that did everything serially.

A pivotal infinitesimal came in 2013, erstwhile Huang decided that GPUs could beryllium useful for an emerging exertion called instrumentality learning, and that henceforth The institution would attraction connected that. It was a bold stake astatine The time, and initially Wall Street thought it foolish. But erstwhile instrumentality learning really started to return disconnected and desperately needed parallel processing machines to grip The associated dense computation, Nvidia deed The jackpot. If you wanted to do this benignant of AI past you needed Nvidia GPUs – tons of them. And, much importantly, you needed a measurement to alteration them to activity seamlessly together – a benignant of operating system. A Stanford package brilliant named Ian Buck created 1 for Huang. They called it CUDA (for compute unified instrumentality architecture), and from past connected buying Nvidia kit became a no-brainer for anyone aspiring to get into The AI business.

Which is really Huang recovered himself virtually The only trader pinch a proviso of ready-made shovels in The biggest golden unreserved in tech history. In February his institution reported grounds quarterly gross of $22.1bn, up 22% from The erstwhile 4th and up 265% from a twelvemonth ago.

The Blackwell B200 spot is his latest ace shovel. And in his keynote, Huang unveiled what Can beryllium done pinch it. He rolled retired The DGX GB200 NVL72 (Nvidia doesn’t do human-friendly labelling), which is a powerful supercomputer pinch 72 Blackwell processors in a azygous water-cooled rack. I couldn’t find immoderate accusation astir pricing, but past I conjecture that if you person to inquire you can’t spend it.

Google, can, though. So Can Microsoft, Meta, Oracle, Tesla, Amazon and Dell. From what their bosses say, they’ve already joined The queue for supplies. In this case, Huang has so seen The future. And it useful for him. Whether it useful for The remainder of us, though, remains to beryllium seen.

What I’ve been reading

Forget maine not
A thoughtful effort by René Walter in her Substack magazine, Good Internet, connected The intrinsic hostility to taste memory in a integer world.

The authorities of technology
A terrific review by Bill Janeway connected The online sentiment tract Project Syndicate of Daron Acemoglu’s and Simon Johnson’s awesome book, Power and Progress.

Doubting Thomas
Jia Tolentino in the New Yorker (paywall) doesn’t for illustration The Fat Controller in The railway stories of Thomas and Friends. Neither do I.

Editor: Naga

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