Mason Helps Develop New Computer Language

Posted: February 21, 2001 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Emily Yaghmour

George Mason is helping to lead the effort in the development of a new parallel computer programming language. Unlike other parallel languages, this new language, called Unified Parallel C or UPC, is both easy to use and efficient.

Unified Parallel C, an extension of the frequently used C language, is designed for massively parallel computers–or supercomputers that use large numbers of processors. Massively parallel computers break down tasks and assign mini-tasks to each processor so that the processors can work in concert to solve a problem more rapidly than a single processor could. Experimental evidence has shown that for many applications, UPC is at least as efficient as its counterparts and much easier to program in. The fact that programmers find it easier to use is an important advantage because it means they can develop applications much faster, which saves money.

The university’s role in the project is fourfold: to work with other project partners to develop the language and create a grammar for it, to assess performance of the language and the ways it can be used, to develop tests to ensure that UPC language compilers or translators comply with the rules of the language, and to provide instruction in using UPC.

George Mason is working with the Institute for Defense Analysis and the National Security Agency (NSA) to lead more than a dozen organizations and companies, including Compaq, Cray, and IBM, in the development of the language. The university became involved in the project in 1999, when the NSA invited local universities to submit proposals to assist with the development of the language. Tarek El-Ghazawi, a professor in the School of Computational Sciences, submitted his proposal and won a $250,000 grant. His work is funded through the end of the year.

For more information about Unified Parallel C, visit

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