Whetstone, a venerable benchmark

All about the famous benchmark, the history of it and before it, and tabulated results too:
Whetstone Benchmark History and Results

In 1971 Roy Wickens, one of the founding members of TSU, abandoned producing a portable benchmark using real programs as it was becoming too expensive. He asked Harold Curnow to produce modular synthetic benchmark suites. Harold produced the COPRXX suite for COBOL and a scientific program based on Brian Wichmann’s work. The first Whetstone benchmark, known as HJC11 (later ALPR12), was written in Algol 60 and completed in November 1972. The Fortran codes (HJC12 and HJC12D) were published in April 1973 as FOPR12 and FOPR13. The first results published were for IBM and ICL mainframes in 1973.

Link within to the original paper “A synthetic benchmark”. (I don’t think I knew that it was a British effort)

(via a reference to the BBC Micro’s 0.0031 MWIPS rating)


Hmm. Didn’t realise there was BASIC versions of it - I did a quick look but never found any - will look harder!



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An interesting blog post here describing the backstory and design intent of Whetstone

Extensive quote:

While rooting around for Whetstone result data, I discovered the book Algol 60 Compilation and Assessment by Brian Wichmann […] I had never heard of this book as Knuth’s An Empirical Study of Fortran Programs has sucked up all the oxygen in this niche.

As expected, this 1973 book has a very 1960s model of cpu/compiler behavior…


Creating a representative usage-based benchmark requires detailed runtime data on what the chosen representative programs are doing. Brian modified the Whetstone Algol interpreter to count how many times each virtual machine op-code was executed (see the report Some Statistics from ALGOL Programs for more information).

The modified Algol interpreter was installed on the KDF9 at the National Physical Laboratory and Oxford University, in the late 1960s. Data from 949 programs was collected; the average number of operations per program was 152,000.