What is Advanced Computing?

Brendan McGuigan

Advanced computing is a broad term used to describe either a specific type of high-end computer and the processes undertaken on it, or a set of skills used on personal computers. Both meanings are quite different, and there is no strict definition of the phrase, so that what one person means when they say advanced computing might be very different than what another person says. Generally, if a course is offered in this subject it is referring to advanced computer skills, while an agency that promotes advanced computing is likely talking about high-end computing.

Advanced computing can describe a specific set of skills used on personal computers.
Advanced computing can describe a specific set of skills used on personal computers.

High-performance computing, or HPC, is one meaning of advanced computing. In this sense, it refers to the use of supercomputers, or computer clusters functioning as a supercomputer, to undertake massive projects. Even though modern computers have a great deal of processing power, all but the most powerful still can take long periods of time to undertake the most complex functions. Generally, this type of computing is used for simulations, often in the field of engineering.

A local community college may offer an advanced computing class.
A local community college may offer an advanced computing class.

For example, an engineering group working on a new wing design might use advanced computing to simulate the fluid dynamics involved. With a strong enough simulation, they can therefore prototype new designs virtually, tweaking small changes until they find the ideal design, at which time they can actually start producing the product. Similarly, astrophysicists might use advanced computing to model something they believe takes place within stars. Or chemists and biologists might use advanced computer to compute new protein structures or map a genome.

A totally different use of this phrase refers to those computer skills that the majority of users don’t have. Many skills that fall under this subject would not actually be considered advanced by high-level computer users, but courses offered as regional occupancy programs or colleges will often use the phrase anyway.

For example, the majority of computer users do only a few things with their computer: write documents, send email, listen to music, browse the web, and play with photos. Within each of these things, they likely only know how to do the bare minimum they need to in order to get the result they desire. Advanced computing would teach a broader range of skills, and would go into more depth with each.

A class offered at a local community college that teaches students how to use Photoshop, for example, might be referred to as an advanced computing class. Similarly, a class that goes into depth on how to get the most of the Windows Operating System might also refer to itself that way. Interestingly, much more advanced skill sets, such as programming, or large-scale network configuration, would rarely, if ever, be referred to as advanced computer usage, as users of these skills would likely use a more specific term. An advanced computer user might sometimes also be referred to as a power user, indicating that they get more power out of their machine.

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