The National Science Foundation’s cancellation of funding for the John von Neumann National Supercomputer Center has, as might be expected, drawn sharp criticism from supporters of the Princeton, N.J., facility. But here, the move is being watched as a leading indicator of where the program is headed.

Assuming the failure of a lastditch effort by the Princeton center to reverse NSF’s rejection of its request for $70 million over the next five years, NSF officials say that the equivalent amount of money could be put to several conceivable uses. Possibilities include, expansion of four remaining centers in the agency’s four-year-old supercomputing program, support for state-sponsored supercomputing centers, or the creation of a new center, possibly based on massively parallel supercomputers such as the revolutionary 65,000-processor Connection Machine.

While the agency looks forward, officials at the Von Neumann center are scrambling to survive. The center’s problems stem largely from the fact...

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