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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What does "h" indicate in computer benchmarks?

I was attending a class on Real-Time systems and our professor was discussing about various benchmarks that can possibly be used with computers and real-time systems. Many of you must at least have heard (if not knowing the detailed) of such synthetic benchmarks such as Whetstone, Dhrystone, Rhealstone, etc. These have been proposed in the early seventies and eighties and were initially very popularly used for evaluation purposes. 

However, my intention of blogging this post is not to talk or explain these different benchmarks. During our discussion, a friend Bhanu suddenly asked "Sir, what is the significance of "h" in these names"? Hmm...this apparently innocuous question got all of us thinking. Sir tried to explain the significance of the word "stone" embedded in these names. He said that just as some stones are used to determine the purity of gold, may be that has influenced the names.

After class, I looked up on the Internet for a possible reason. And the answer was not difficult to get. Whetstone was the earliest benchmark to be proposed. And the Whetstone compiler was developed at a laboratory in a place called Whetstone, Leicestershire, England. So that explains the name for Whetstone. Dhrystone was proposed as a benchmark for integer programming. So it was for something that was not a "float" - meaning its dry or rather, "dhry". As Wikipedia puts it, the name is a pun on the then-popular Whetstone benchmark. Rhealstone is for real-time systems.