Mendis, Bosboom, Wu: What takes coders months, CSAIL’s “Helium” can do in an hour

July 31, 2015


Last year, MIT computer scientists and Adobe engineers came together to try to solve a major problem that many companies face: bit-rot. A good example is Adobe’s successful Photoshop photo editor, which just celebrated its 25th birthday. Over the years Photoshop had accumulated heaps of code that had been optimized for what is now old hardware.

“For high-performance code used for image-processing, you have to optimize the heck out of the software,” says Saman Amarasinghe, a professor at MIT and researcher at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). “The downside is that the code becomes much less effective and much more difficult to understand.” This results in what Amarasinghe describes as “a billion-dollar problem”: companies like Adobe having to devote massive manpower to going back into the code every few years and, by hand, testing out a bunch of different strategies to try to patch it.

The paper was written by Charith Mendis, fellow graduate students Jeffrey Bosboom and Kevin Wu, research scientist Shoaib Kamil, postdoc Jonathan Ragan-Kelley PhD ’14, Amarasinghe, and researchers from Adobe and Google. Read the full article at MIT NEWS

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