Tom Murphy

CS teacher, parallel programing advocate, and computational science aficionado

San Francisco Bay Area
Higher Education
  1. evolving snow-crash-based metaverse,
  2. Contra Costa College
  1. various gigs,
  2. Engaged Encounter,
  3. Silicon Graphics Incorporated
  1. University of California at Berkeley
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Jack of some trades and master of none.

I continue to seek having fun in what I do: currently that is teaching and advancing Computational Science Education. I help lead weeklong Parallel Programming workshops across the US through the Shodor Foundation. We are also leading the SC07-09 Education Program, making it a year-round effort, complete with a student programming contest. Through the process we have designed, built, and refined an inexpensive, portable computational cluster ( LittleFe's current most interesting application is with the Navajo Nations "Internet to the Hogan" and DineWeb projects that will place a LittleFe in every one of the 110 Chapter Houses. I have also written some interesting articles surrounding HPC (google various combinations of murphy hpc gray peck joiner)

I really like empty nesting with my wife; hanging with my kids; and teaching my grandkids to howl.

Specialties: - Teaching CS and Math
- Coaching Robotics
- Designing computational computer clusters for education (
- Helping with a computational science oriented Linux cluster distro: BCCD (
- Driving Computational Science in US



evolving snow-crash-based metaverse
– Present (7 years)

It is hard to encapsulate the collaborations that are taking place in the evolving verse. SL is the current place where these meeting started for me, but OpenSimulator has allowed us to form ScienceSim.

Important connections and collaborations are spilling back and forth between rl and the verse. I kinda like it.

I am kinda sad that it will likely be known as the 3D Internet. The verse is much more colorful and evocative.

Teacher / CS Program Chair / Director of Contra Costa College HPC Regional Education/Training Center

Contra Costa College
– Present (13 years 2 months)

I teach Computer Science and Robotics. I am program chair of Computer Science. I am coach of the Middle College High School robotics team. I am director of the Contra Costa College High Performance Computing Regional Education and Training Center. I am also co-PI of the NSF grant which established this center. I created the 17 courses which make up our HPC curriculum where we teach folk to be PC cluster administrators.


various gigs
(28 years 5 months)

I have done a lot of theatrical acting in both community theater and with professional theatrical companies. I've done a little work shooting industrial movies. I was delighted to listen to Robin Williams for two days as an extra on "Patch Adams". I even made it onto the DVD. I've been in several independent films, two of which made it to "Oregon" and "Ashes to Ashes".

My favorite theatrical roles have been as Lewis Morris in 1776 and several years later as Rev Jonathan Witherspoon in 1776; Polonius in Hamlet; Charley Cowell in "Music Man"; and Bob Cratchit in "A Christmas Carol", with my real son playing Tiny Tim. Of special note was being Julius Goldschmidt in Barnum. I was sent to Circus School for several weeks and then experienced running away to the circus for a summer.

Teaching completes a similar thing in me, and I am reluctant to give up weeks of evenings with my wife for rehearsals. I am satisfied with what I have done and am contentedly retired from acting.

I thought I was done with theater, but the ache, every time we attended, thunderously grew. I was lucky enough to be Charlie Cowell ( this summer in Music Man at Woodminster, and was also Sam in Paint Your Wagon. It was just deeply and profoundly good to be back on the boards. Now retired again (for now)

Presenting Team, Coordinators

Engaged Encounter
(21 years 7 months)

Helped found Engaged Encounter in the Oakland Diocese where we were local coordinators for many of the early years. We also served a stint as coordinators of Northern California and Hawaii. We have spoken at conferences and created workshops to train-the-trainers and to train-the-trainers-of-trainers.

teacher and mechanic

Silicon Graphics Incorporated
(10 years)

Alternate (original) name for SGI

teacher and mechanic

(10 years)

~6 years teaching software development engineers how we did software engineering at SGI. ~6 years working with the Ratman creating the Developer Toolbox.


SGI (Silicon Graphics Computer Systems, Inc.)
(10 years)

First half of my stint was teaching SGI style S/W engineering. Last half was teamed with Dave Ratcliffe producing the Developer Toolbox

Presales Analyst

(1 year)

I was responsible for presales work in the Northwest: basically Bay Area and Seattle Area.

Programmer and Presales Analyst

Control Data Corporation
(12 years)

Presales Analyst

ETA Systems
(4 years 10 months)

I helped benchmark and do technical sales support for an amazing project in the history of computing. I was also unix specialist presenting at US and international user conferences.

Presenting Team

Marriage Encounter
(7 years)

With my wife, helped present Marriage Encounter Weekends.


Impell Corporation
(1 year 1 month)

EDS Nuclear morphed into Impell in the last year of my time with EDS. By this point, my main task was maintaining and extending their finite-element nuclear piping code.

Delivery Boy and Programmer

EDS Nuclear
(11 years)

I started out as delivery boy while still in high school. I was their first terminal operator. I taught myself FORTRAN to avoid boredom. I learned to do gravity, thermal, and seismic analysis of nuclear reactor piping (class II Boiler Pressure Vessel Piping to be exact.) I anded up maintaining and extending the companies flagship product, PIPESD, which did a finite element analysis of the model of the piping system.


Independent Coursework

  • Voice I (Amer Conservatory Theater)
  • Voice II (Amer Conservatory Theater)
  • Diction I (Amer Conservatory Theater)
  • Diction II (Amer Conservatory Theater)


  1. Spanish


Supercomputer based laboratories and the evolution of the personal computer based laboratory(Link)

American Journal of Physics
April 2008

The increase in availability of open source research quality simulation software coupled with a reduction in barriers to high performance computer hardware access and new methods for adding interactivity to server-side web services have created a rich environment for the development of supercomputer based laboratories to augment the many personal computer based activities currently in use in the physics classroom. An exemplary supercomputer based laboratory is presented using the N-body problem applied to galactic structure.


Teaching parallel computing to science faculty: best practices and common pitfalls(Link)

Proceedings of the eleventh ACM SIGPLAN symposium on Principles and practice of parallel programming

In 2002, we first brought High Performance Computing (HPC) methods to the college classroom as a way to enrich Computational Science education. Through the years, we have continued to facilitate college faculty in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines to stay current with HPC methodologies. We have accomplished this by designing and delivering faculty workshops, hosted in a variety of lab settings, as well as by developing tools supporting the technical infrastructure necessary for HPC education, all this without requiring access to traditional HPC computing platforms. In all, we have so far presented 16 professional development workshops for close to 400 predominantly undergraduate STEM faculty. This paper presents the result of internal formative evaluation by workshop instructors and the materials and tools developed during that process.

  • Tom Murphy,
  • David A. Joiner,
  • Paul Gray,
  • Charles Peck

High-Performance Computing Education(Link)

Computing in Science & Engineering
September 2008

Many successful efforts are currently addressing the critical shortage of a diverse, well-prepared high-performance computing (HPC) workforce. The guest editors' goal, with this issue, is to stimulate large-scale international discourse to accelerate the adoption of the educational tools, curriculum, and pedagogy that reflect the increasing role of computational methods in science and engineering. Such approaches are necessary to educate a larger and more diverse population of well-skilled, knowledgeable, and innovative people who will significantly advance scientific discovery in all fields of study, now and well into the future.


High-Performance Computing in Community Colleges?(Link)

IEEE Distributed Systems Online
April 2006

Contra Costa College's HPC program is vocational, preparing students to be Linux cluster administrators. It began with a US National Science Foundation-sponsored consortium of four community colleges tasked with developing an HPC technician curriculum reflective of the local community. The four colleges would then combine these programs to form a national curriculum

High-Performance Computing in High Schools?(Link)

IEEE Distributed Systems Online
August 2007

If high-performance computing in community colleges seems odd, HPC in high schools is even stranger. This article will help readers grok the nature of the author's version of high school HPC.

Something Wonderful this Way Comes(Link)

Computing in Science and Engineering
May 2006

The simplicity of ingredients would amaze even the three wyrd sisters, as would the resultant mixture's power and versatility: start with a little BSD "ports" and a smidgen of Gentoo's "emerge," and then blend in a pinch of Linux-from-scratch and a healthy dollop of crosstool. Upon forging the edaphic build environment known as GAR, erect a perfect educational storm, conjured from message-passing environments, visualization tools, profiling utilities, compilers, debuggers, high-performance file system support, and scripts that can automate tasks such as the networking of distributed systems. Suddenly, this illusion of computers, wires, and vibrant images coalesces into a pocket-sized mini-CD, which, upon bootup, transforms into a full-fledged parallel computing environment that can run in system memory without installation or modification to the system's hard drive. What we have here is a comprehensive framework for high-performance computing education, and that, my friends, is the opposite of a failure to communicate. This article will elaborate on what lies under the BCCD hood, some uses of the BCCD, and future directions.


Education, Outreach, and Training for High-Performance Computing(Link)

Computing in Science and Engineering
September 2008

Most current models for delivering HPC education, outreach, and training lack support for the next generation of HPC users. The authors present lessons learned in developing and disseminating HPC-enabled tools and curriculum, including their efforts at developing low-cost hardware, software, and curricular platforms for easy classroom and workshop deployment.


Preparing students for ubiquitous parallelism(Link)

SIGCSE '09 Proceedings of the 40th ACM technical symposium on Computer science education
March 2009

Current trends in microprocessor design are fundamentally changing the way that performance is extracted from computer systems. The previous programming model for sequential uniprocessor execution is being replaced quickly with a need to write software for tightly-coupled shared memory multiprocessor systems. Both academicians and business leaders have challenged programmers to update their skill sets and their tools to effectively tackle software development for these newer platforms

  • Tom Murphy,
  • Daniel Ernst,
  • Barry Wittman,
  • Brian Harvey,
  • Michael Wrinn

Multicore education: pieces of the parallel puzzle(Link)

SIGCSE '10 Proceedings of the 41st ACM technical symposium on Computer science education
March 2010

Although Moore's Law continues to hold at present, Moore's Dividend - where software developers could rely on increasingly faster CPUs to make their software faster - has expired [5]. Instead of manufacturing uni-core CPUs with faster clocks, hardware manufacturers are producing multi-core CPUs, and many-core CPUs (with 32 or more cores) have begun appearing. Traditional sequential applications will not take advantage of these new hardware capabilities, and thus will not run any faster. To gain performance on these new and future hardware platforms, applications must be designed and written in pieces that run simultaneously on different cores. Ideally, the performance of such parallel applications should scale as the number of available cores increases.

As computer science educators, it behooves us to prepare our students for this brave new parallel world. In this session, the panelists will discuss different aspects of doing so, including: " How do we integrate parallelism into the CS curriculum? What aspects of parallelism do we cover, and where?

" What available technologies (e.g., programming languages, libraries, etc.) facilitate parallel application development?

" What resources are available for CS faculty members to learn how to design and build parallel applications?

Each panelist will focus on one of these aspects of the problem.

  • Tom Murphy,
  • Joel C. Adams,
  • Daniel J. Ernst,
  • Ariel Ortiz

Ubiquitous Parallelism and the Classroom(Link)

November 2009

The oft-contended best simple statement is that we need ubiquitous parallelism in the classroom. Once upon a time, it was solely the lunatic fringe, programming esoteric architectures squirreled away in very special corners of the globe that cared about parallelism. In the near future, most electronic devices will have multiple cores which would benefit greatly from parallel programming. The low hanging fruit is, of course, the student's laptop, and aiding the student to make full use of that laptop.


Little-Fe: A Portable, Educational PC Cluster(Link)

October 2005

One of the principle challenges to computational science and high performance computing education is that many institutions do not have access to HPC platforms for demonstrations and laboratories. Paul Gray's Bootable Cluster CD (BCCD) project ( has made great strides in this area by making it possible to non-destructively, and with little effort, convert a computer lab of Windows or Macintosh computers into an ad-hoc cluster for educational use. Little-Fe takes that concept one step further by merging the BCCD with an inexpensive design for an 8 node portable computational cluster. The result is a machine that weighs less than 50 pounds, easily and safely travels via checked baggage on the airlines, and sets-up in 10 minutes wherever there is a 110V outlet and a wall to project an image on.


New Directions for Computational Science Education(Link)

August 2005

We could dedicate pages of text to a precise meaning of "High Performance Computing Education at the Undergraduate Level". In the end, just one word suffices a complete description of its current state: Broken. The June 2005 President's Information Technology Advisory Committee report "Computational Science: Ensuring America's Competitiveness" states "only a small fraction of the potential of computational science is being realized", and later in the report "The diverse technical skills and technologies underlying software, computing systems, and networks themselves constitute a critical U.S. infrastructure that we underappreciate and undervalue at our peril. Computational science is a foundation of that infrastructure." In another word: Broken.


A Case for Grass Roots Robotics(Link)

Robot Magazine
August 2006

On Creating Hierarchical, Interlinked FAQ Archives(Link)

Proceedings of Webnet '97
November 1997

Post-Processing of Bibliographic Citations from DOE/RECON, NASA/RECON, and DoD/DROLS(Link)

Defense Technical Information Center of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

An interactive, self-guided program for the joint post-processing of bibliographic citations from the federal information centers of the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is described. The program, presently installed on the Intelligent Gateway Processor of the Technology Information System (TIS/IGP) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, is under evaluation by the TIS user community from remote terminals by telephone dial-up over TYMNET, and the ARPA computer network. Users are individually authorized for access to specific information centers, and use standard commands for the downloading, compilation, and online review of citations in a common format. Previously reported post-processing capabilities have been expanded, permitting: (1) online citation review, categorization, and addition of new data elements; (2) disassembly and re-assembly of citations; (3) statistical analysis of data field contents; (4) cross-correlation of data field contents; and (5) concordance generation. Additionally, the new two-pass interpreter for the post-processing program permits: the transformation of abbreviated data field names into English names preferred by each agency, the statistical analysis of the density and completeness of data fields in selected sets of bibliographic citations, the elimination of redundant citations, and trend analysis.

  • Tom Murphy,
  • Bollinger William A.,
  • Hampel Viktor E.,
  • Harrison Isom

User Requirements for Post-Processing of Bibliographic Information

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
February 1984

LittleFe - The High Performance Computing Education Appliance

ACM Student Research Competition / SC13
November 2013

Many institutions have little to no access to parallel computing platforms for in-class computational science or parallel and distributed computing education. Key concepts, motivated by science, are taught more effectively and memorably on an actual parallel platform. LittleFe is a complete six node Beowulf style portable cluster. The entire package weighs less than 50 pounds, travels easily, and sets up in five minutes. LittleFe hardware includes multi--core processors and GPGPU capability, which enables support for shared and distributed memory parallelism, GPGPU parallelism, and hybrid models. By leveraging the Bootable Cluster CD project, LittleFe is an affordable, powerful, and ready-to-run computational science, parallel programming and distributed computing educational appliance.



  • High Performance...
  • Computer Science
  • Teaching
  • Software Engineering
  • University Teaching
  • Linux
  • Programming
  • Higher Education
  • Parallel Programming
  • Python
  • Curriculum Design
  • C
  • C++
  • Parallel Computing
  • Science
  • College Teaching
  • MPI
  • Lecturing
  • Perl
  • Public Speaking
  • Research
  • Java
  • Teaching Adults
  • Leadership Development
  • Acting
  • OpenMP
  • Workshop Development
  • Mathematical Programming
  • Critical Thinking
  • Scheme
  • Distributed Systems
  • Parallel Algorithms
  • Leadership
  • Mathematics Education
  • Curriculum Development
  • Community Outreach
  • Community Building
  • Technical Writing
  • Voice Acting
  • System Administration
  • Problem Solving
  • Pattern Matching
  • CUDA
  • Social Media
  • Workshop Delivery
  • Staff Development
  • Creative Writing
  • Stage Performance
  • Writing
  • See 34+  See less


Web-site delivery

United States 6096096
Issued August 1, 2000

A method and system for emulating on-line accessing of information in an off-line environment. In one embodiment, information initially configured to be displayed via an on-line connection is stored onto a plurality of portable storage media. The portable storage media is adapted to be used by an end-user in an off-line environment. Moreover, in the present embodiment, the information is arranged on the plurality of storage media such that off-line accessing of the information emulates on-line accessing of the information. That is, in the present invention, information is presented to an off-line end-user in a manner which emulates the manner in which the same information would have been presented to the end-user in an on-line environment. In one embodiment, the present invention stores Web site information onto the plurality of portable storage media. In so doing, an off-line end-user is able to access conventional Web site information in a manner which emulates typical on-line retrieval of the Web site information.



University of California at Berkeley

MA, Mathematics

St Ignatius High School

HS diploma, General Studies


Honors & Awards

Patent Awarded: "Web-site delivery" #6,096,096, August 1, 2000
I danced for joy when on Lughnasa this patent was awarded.

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