Beowulf Trivia Question.

Richard Fryer richard_fryer at
Sun Apr 1 16:15:10 EDT 2001

>From Jacek Radajewski & Douglas Eadline's excellent 'Beowulf HowTo' see the introduction:  (I hope that I don't need to ask for copyright approval for this extract)

"2.2 What is a Beowulf ? 
Famed was this Beowulf: far flew the boast of him, son of Scyld, in the Scandian lands. So becomes it a youth to quit him well with his father's friends, by fee and gift, that to aid him, aged, in after days, come warriors willing, should war draw nigh, liegemen loyal: by lauded deeds shall an earl have honor in every clan. Beowulf is the earliest surviving epic poem written in English. It is a story about a hero of great strength and courage who defeted a monster called Grendel. See History to find out more about the Beowulf hero. 

There are probably as many Beowulf definitions as there are people who build or use Beowulf Supercomputer facilities. Some claim that one can call their system Beowulf only if it is built in the same way as the NASA's original machine. Others go to the other extreme and call Beowulf any system of workstations running parallel code. My definition of Beowulf fits somewhere between the two views described above, and is based on many postings to the Beowulf mailing list: "

What this may not clearly identify clearly is the 'motivation' for calling these machines by this name.  The 'lore' I've hard is that the 'Grendel' monster that one wanted to {destroy - or avoid at least} was the then-typical 'supercomputer' - with it's (at least) monster-like appetite for ($, maintenance costs, downtime, programming investment).  On the other hand, the vendors of the day tended to identify their 'best' machines by names more like 'Thor' I think.  I wouldn't be surprised if the person who suggested the moniker visits here, though, so maybe we'll get the 'true' story.

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