A teraflop is a computing term used to define the number of floating point operations a computer processor can perform per second. Used to measure computing performance, floating-point operations per second or FLOPS determine how many floating point mathematical operations can be handled by a computer's processor. The largest computers in the world use chips that work in Teraflops, trillions of operations per second. The teraflop computers are typically found in research facilities both educational and military.
While the number of FLOPS a computer can handle is only part of the equation in determining the computer speed and things like disk input/output (i/o) and memory usage can play an important role, the improvement in the number of flops and advancements in processing power and technology certainly keep things interesting.
In May of 2008, the United States military engineered a super computer that could perform one quadrillion calculations per second. It is as of this writing the only known computer capable of petaflop processing speeds.
With the research being done by the military and educational institutions around the country, all types of computer chips can benefit from this research. For example, graphics chips have especially come a long way and process many more FLOPS than the typical CPU.
In terms of the power of a personal computer, the more calculations per second a system can handle, the more operations the user of that system can perform. There will be other limitations, the Operating system size and hardware usage will affect performance and the amount of applications being used at one time will affect performance, but advances in chip performance showcased in the super computers of today will definitely affect the desktop PCs being released in the future.
To provide an idea of how fast a teraflop microchip operates, an average calculator, which performs a single operation, has a chip speed of about 10 Flops. This is fast enough for the human interacting with the calculator to see its operation as instantaneous. It is almost as if a teraflop would have a calculation finished for 2.2 + 2.3 before the operator even realized the equals key had been pressed.