Transparency and Immersion in HPC

The development of the graphic user-interface is widely considered a major phenomenological contribution to the Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) by providing an intuitive framework for data storage and processing, encapsulated in the term "user friendly". Whilst for a very large number of everyday computational tasks this Windows-Icons-Menu-Pointer (WIMP) interface has been highly successful, the field of high performance computing (HPC) continues to use the command line interface.

The reasons for this illustrate an epistemological divide in the type of computation problems with an ontological foundation. In high performance computing, a deeper level of understanding of the complex processes is unavoidably requisite, where simplified and automated ignorance is inadequate for performance benefits that such architectures provide. Further, high performance computing is increasingly important in research as datasets for processing are growing faster than improvements in hardware or efficiency in software, and as a result, there is a correlation between research output with access and training to HPC systems.

Despite the necessity of command-line knowledge for HPC systems that does not mean that more transparent and immersive user experiences are not possible in this environment as continuing improvements to the shell environment illustrate and notably by free software and peer adoption. Shell environments such as fish (Friendly Interactive SHell) provide syntax highlighting, autosuggestions, and tab completions, with reduced configuration, all with the user experience in mind. Finally, further developments are illustrated for shell environments that have a stronger correlation to human languages with multilingual libraries.

Transparency and Immersion in HPC. Presentation to Human-Technology Relations Conference, University of Twente, The Netherlands, July 11-13, 2018