Intel® Black Belt Software Developer Jim Dempsey: Parallel Programmer & Space Elevator Enthusiast

Jim Dempsey has been programming for all of his adult life and has watched the technological advances change and adapt through the years. He’s seen it all and continued to be innovative and relevant and shared his knowledge with the broader community as part of the Intel® Black Belt Software Developer program.

Tell us about your background.

I graduated from Ripon College with a BA in Physics in ’71. I learned to program on Digital Equipment Corporation* PDP-8/L, one of the first commercial minicomputers with 4K words and KSR33 teletype (10 ps paper tape, kb, and printer). I’ve been programming for 50 years!

What got you started in technology?

I remember hearing the chunk, chunk, chunk of a Teletype while walking the halls of the physics lab at college in 1967. Of all the courses in high school, I liked physics the best; it explained how things work. And with programming, the programmer explains how things work. So it makes sense.

As a Black Belt, how are you providing technical expertise and leadership in the developer community?

I contribute regularly to Intel® Developer Zone (IDZ) through articles, blog posts, and forum threads. I believe that the articles, and other information on IDZ, are a valuable resource for the community.

What projects are you working on now?

I am currently working on a road simulation program run on a heterogeneous cluster of Intel Xeon and Intel Xeon Phi x200 series. It’s an MPI application using OpenMP, written in C++ and Fortran. My role in the project has been to take the working model, thread it using OpenMP, then distribute it using MPI, and additionally optimizing data layout for vectorization as well as boosting performance of compute intensive loops.

Tell us about a technology challenge you’ve had to overcome in a project.

I’ve always had an interest in space elevators, which is an idea for a space transportation system that uses a tether cable from Earth extending into space. The tether system allows transport of vehicles and supplies without using rocket ships. Back in the early 2000’s I acquired a tether simulation program written in Fortran 77. I took on the challenge to update the program to Fortran 90, added OpenMP, added 3D animation graphics and made many optimizations. This screenshot is of a space elevator failing deployment scenario with 4 tethers employing different deployment attempts, one with loss of control. 

What trends do you see happening in technology in the near future?

Maybe I am cynical. I see a trend towards consolidation of computing services in “the cloud”, where a few big players will control access to services. This was the computational model back in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Don’t get me wrong on this, some applications are best run using this model. Unfortunately, this leads to lack in diversity, and thus stagnation in innovation. Additional issues are implications on intellectual property ownership, privacy, and service fee creep.

Want to learn more about the Intel® Black Belt Software Developer Program?

Get the full program overview, meet the Black Belts, and learn about the rewards & requirements. We also encourage you to read about our innovator updates and to check out Developer Mesh to learn more about various projects that our community of innovators are working on.

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