The Whetstone benchmark is a synthetic benchmark for evaluating the performance of computers. It was first written in Algol 60 in 1972 at the National Physical Laboratory in the United Kingdom and derived from statistics on program behaviour gathered on the KDF9 computer, using a modified version of its Whetstone Algol 60 compiler. The program's behavior replicated that of a typical KDF9 scientific program and was designed to defeat compiler optimizations that would have adversely affected the accuracy of this model. The Whetstone Compiler was built at the Atomic Power Division of the English Electric Company in Whetstone, Leicestershire, England, hence its name. The original Algol 60 program ran under the Whetstone compiler in July 2010, for the first time since the last KDF9 was shut down in 1980, but now executed by a KDF9 emulator.
The Fortran version, which became the first general purpose benchmark that set industry standards of computer system performance, was developed by Harold Curnow of HM Treasury Technical Support Unit (TSU – later part of Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency or CCTA). Further development was carried out by Roy Longbottom, also of TSU/CCTA, who became the official design authority.
The Whetstone benchmark originally measured computing power in units of kilo-Whetstone Instructions Per Second (kWIPS). This was later changed to Millions of Whetstone Instructions Per Second (MWIPS). The original results on numerous minicomputers, mainframes and supercomputers are available in Whetstone Benchmark History and Results. This also shows original system costs and year of manufacture. For comparison purposes, a summary of results on PCs is also provided, including a table showing the relative efficiency of various programming languages. Detailed results on PCs are also available, showing speeds of the different test functions.
Source code and pre-compiled versions for PCs in C/C++, Basic, Visual Basic, Fortran and Java are available in Roy Longbottom's PC Benchmark Collection (Free). Compiled codes include those to run via DOS, OS/2 plus 32 bit and 64 bit Windows.
- Curnow, H.J. and Wichman, B.A. "A Synthetic Benchmark" Computer Journal, Volume 19, Issue 1, February 1976., p. 43-49.
- Randell, B. and Russell, L.J. "Algol 60 Implementation" London: Academic Press, 1964. ISBN 0-12-578150-4.