Purdue names supercomputer after creator of 'Intel Inside'

November 14, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - In two words and five musical notes, Dennis Carter helped make Intel microprocessors a familiar and trusted brand, not just among engineers but also among computer-buying consumers around the world. In turn, that helped spur the widespread adoption of personal computers and all that followed.

Now, at Purdue University, Intel processors are inside a new supercomputer named for Carter - the fastest supercomputer in any university-funded research computing center, according to rankings released this week.

Carter earned his master's degree in electrical engineering from Purdue in 1974, and Purdue has a tradition of naming its new supercomputers after computing pioneers with ties to the university. Carter - the computer - is the fifth of what Purdue calls its "starting five of supercomputing," five supercomputers that have all ranked among the top machines worldwide.

Carter, who is now retired and living in the San Francisco Bay area, is credited with creating and implementing the internationally recognized "Intel Inside" campaign. The effort developed brand awareness of the microprocessor as the key ingredient in a personal computer. It also put Intel's logo on the outside of the vast majority of the world's PCs and made its five-note jingle one of the most recognizable tunes on television, says Peter Sealey, now founder and chief executive officer of the Sausalito Group, a California firm specializing in marketing strategy.

"They had an incredibly powerful audio signature, which not many brands have," Sealey says.

"Intel just did a wonderful job. They took an otherwise commodity product and gave the consumer a recognized brand and a clear reason to buy," adds Sealey, former head of marketing for Coca-Cola and the person behind that company's memorable "Always Coca-Cola" campaign.

Intel's success was not limited to the U.S. market. From 1991, when Intel launched the campaign, to 1995, the number of European PC buyers aware of the "Intel Inside" logo grew from 24 percent to 95 percent, notes Stuart Whitwell, joint managing director of London-based Intangible Business, a global brand strategy, valuation and management firm.

Whitwell, who's written a case study of "Intel Inside," calls the campaign's results "stunning." He rates it at the head of his top five list of notable ingredient branding, with GORE-TEX, Dolby, Woolmark and other inside-products products that made big names for themselves outside - and do big business as a result.

As the market changed with the dawn of the PC era, Carter, who also was an instructor of electrical engineering technology while at Purdue, saw the need for Intel to begin talking to a broad audience beyond the design engineers who had been its traditional focus. He developed an innovative cooperative advertising program in which Intel shared the cost with computer manufacturers to promote its microprocessors as the "computer inside the computer." He also worked with Intel President Andy Grove to create the iconic Pentium brand name.

Economist Hugo Salgado, a professor at Universidad de Concepcion, Chile, and University of California, Santa Barbara, says Intel's branding and advertising not only contributed to the company's dominant position in the computer processor market and allowed it to obtain a price premium for its products, but also contributed to expanding consumer demand for personal computers in general. Salgado made those findings in research he did on the impact from Intel branding efforts for his doctoral dissertation at the University of California, Berkeley.

It was this impact on the personal computer industry that led to the recognition by Purdue, says Gerry McCartney, chief information officer, vice president for information technology at Purdue and the Olga Oesterle England Professor of Information Technology.

"Dennis Carter is one of the pioneers of personal computing, and Purdue is very pleased to have this opportunity to recognize him," McCartney says. "He saw what others did not see, and he not only brought benefit to Intel, but to the entire industry."

The Carter supercomputer will be used at Purdue to study nanotechnology, cancer detection, climate modeling, long-range weather forecasting, plus additional research areas. The machine includes more than 10,000 processing cores on not-yet-released Intel Xeon E5-family processors, thousands of times more power than the average personal computer.

Carter, like the other four Purdue supercomputers, was built through an innovative faculty cooperative in which researchers pool portions of their research funding to purchase the machines. This Community Cluster Program was recognized in 2010 with an international Campus Technology Innovators Award and has become a model used by other universities. The supercomputers are built and operated by Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP), the university's central information technology organization, and ITaP's research computing unit, the Rosen Center for Advanced Computing.

Writer: Greg Kline, science and technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue, 765-494-8167 (office), 765-426-8545 (cell), gkline@purdue.edu

Sources: Gerry McCartney, 765-496-2270, mccart@purdue.edu

                  Peter Sealey, 415-332-6551, peter@sausalitogroup.com

                  Stuart Whitwell, 011-44-20-7089-9236, stuart.whitwell@intangiblebusiness.com

                  Hugo Salgado, 011-56-41-220-4503

Note to Journalists: Dennis Carter is not available for interviews.