In the 21st century, most co-processors used for arithmetic operations have become redundant, as the computer's CPU has become strong enough to reduce the need for one. However, co-processors in other forms exist in everyday computers, although for other functions. Often, gaming computers have these, existing as your graphics processing unit (GPU) and/or sound card. But how does this relate to supercomputing? Well, gamers know that they'll need a high-end graphics card to reach better performance, as the GPU has more processing capability.
|The Tesla K20 GPU co-processor|
While these co-processors are quite powerful, they still require their backbone - traditional CPUs. Most HPC (High Performance Computing) CPUs use the x86 architecture, whereas NVIDIA's Tesla GPU co-processors use their CUDA architecture. This means that applications and instructions need to be programmed in two separate languages in order to use the power of the co-processors.
|The Xeon Phi co-processor family|
Sources: NVIDIA, Intel