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When some optical processing systems firms proposed to the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Navy some years ago that they could beat the ILLIAC-IV-that venerable supercomputer, which until recently was the world's largest by at least a factor of 100, it sounded too good to be true. But they were right, and they did not even have to try hard. The problem was a two-dimensional (2-D) processing task of generating ambiguity surfaces to test whether two received signals came from a common origin, with unknown time and Doppler shifts. The ILLIAC, going all out as an in-line processor for the Acoustic Research Center near San Francisco, California, could just make a handful of such surfaces per second; the optical processors made hundreds, literally sucking their digital inputs dry.
Jacques E. Ludman,
P. Denzil Stilwell,
"Guest Editorial: Two-Dimensional Optical Signal Processing," Optical Engineering 21(5), 215803 (1 October 1982). http://dx.doi.org/10.1117/12.7972985