In the complex world of computing, a major new technological development in a particular area tends to gain acceptance and then reign supreme, sometimes for many years or decades until something more advanced comes along. It’s rare indeed for any technology to fade away only to reappear, stronger, and make another major contribution.

But that’s precisely what is happening with vector processing, which once ruled the highest echelons of performance— supercomputers—and is now solving some of the most critical problems facing the industry. And rather than remaining in the rarefied air of supercomputers, it’s moving into the mainstream computer hierarchy, all the way to board level. To understand why this is happening now and how it is being achieved, a brief review of processor history is in order.