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Behind the names

Are you curious about the names of PDC's supercomputer systems?


Dardel is the new HPE Cray XE supercomputer at PDC. The system is named in honour of the Swedish author, Thora Dardel , and her first husband, Nils Dardel , who was a Swedish painter. The front panels of the Dardel system feature four paintings by Nils Dardel: “The Dying Dandy”  oil painting (which is one of Nils’ most famous works), a section of the famously expensive “Waterfall” painting and a section of “Crime of Passion” (another of Nils’ well known works), plus a portrait of Thora. The background text on the blue panels is from Thora's book about Nils (which is known as “En bok om Nils Dardel” in Swedish).

The Dardel system consists of two partitions - one based on CPUs and one that uses graphics processing units (GPUs) - split over two rows. Although the majority of supercomputer systems at PDC have been named after Swedish authors, PDC's earlier GPU-based system was named after the Swedish artist, Anders Zorn. Consequently, it seemed highly appropriate to name the new system after the Dardels, as Thora was an author and Nils was a painter. Although Thora and Nils divorced after 13 years of marriage, they remained good friends until Nils' early death from a heart condition.

Interestingly, Nils painted “The Dying Dandy” in 1918 at the time of the great influenza epidemic that lasted until 1920. A century later in 2020, the world once more found itself in the grip of a deadly pandemic, so the choice of this painting also serves as a salute to the courage of the medical and care personnel who worked so hard to care for those infected during the COVID19 pandemic and also to the sorrow of those who lost their loved ones to the recent pandemic. It is also a reminder of the contributions supercomputers make in the fight against illness - for example, they are being used to model how viruses actually infect people on a molecular level, which makes it possible to develop new types of vaccines.

PDC thanks the Moderna Museet  (Modern Art Museum) in Stockholm, and Prallan Allsten, for providing the high-resolution photo of “The Dying Dandy” that is used on the front panels of the system. If you are curious, you can see The Dying Dandy” at the Moderna Museet. The painting of Thora is owned by a private collector.

Beskow and Tegner

Beskow is a CRAY XC40 supercomputer that was PDC's flagship system from 2014- 2021. Tegner is the pre- and post-processing system for Beskow.

The main system is named after Elsa Beskow  who is one of the most well-known authors and illustrators of children's books in Sweden. The pre- and post-processing system is named after Alice Tegnér . Alice was a Swedish music teacher, poet and composer, who was recognized as the foremost composer of Swedish children's songs during the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. Elsa and Alice worked together to create many charming song books for children, with Alice composing the music and Elsa illustrating the books. Both Alice and Elsa lived in Djursholm in Stockholm and now, almost a century later, the systems Tegner and Beskow are cooperating in a similar manner, albeit a little farther south at PDC in Norra Djurgården.

The three main images on the Beskow supercomputer are paintings by Elsa Beskow.

The panels on Beskow feature illustrations by Elsa Beskow from “Children of the Forest” (Tomtebobarnen) on the left, “The Land of Long Ago” (Resan till Landet Längesen) on the right, and the centre panel is from “Mother's Little Ollie” (Mors lilla Olle) which was a collaboration between Elsa and Alice Tegnér.


Milner was a Cray XC30 system at PDC that was used for neuroscience research starting in 2014. This system was sponsored by a grant from the the Swedish Research Council (VR) that was awarded to a consortium of researchers from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, the Karolinska Institute and the International Neuroinformatics Coordination Facility (INCF). They named the system in recognition of significant work in neuropsychology that was done by Brenda Milner  and her then husband Peter in the 1950s.

image of Milner supercomputer system


Lindgren was PDC's flagship supercomputing system before Beskow. The system was named after the prolific and wonderfully talented Swedish author Astrid Lindgren , who wrote many delightful children's books, including the Pippi Longstocking stories.

image of Lindgren supercomputer system


Zorn was a system based on graphics processing units (GPUs) that was installed at PDC in 2012. It was named in honour of Anders Zorn , who was one of Sweden's foremost artists and was a skilled painter, sculptor and etcher.

GPU computing at PDC started in 2010 with an initial small installation, that was supported by a grant from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation (which was awarded to one of KTH’s research groups involved in the development of advanced simulation programs). The Swedish National Infrastructure for Computing (SNIC) also picked up on the GPU trend and started a large-scale evaluation of GPU technology. That provided an opportunity for PDC to triple the computational power of the initial system, and thus the Zorn cluster was born.


Key was the first system at PDC to contain graphics processing units (GPUs). Although the system mainly consisted of central processing units (CPUs), it also had two GPUs. The system was named after the Swedish author Ellen Key  and began operating at PDC in 2011.


The first system at PDC was a Connection Machine (CM) that was installed in late 1989. It was named after the famous Swedish composer and poet from the 1700s Carl Michael Bellman , as his initials were “CM” just like the Connection Machine. Bellman's music is still popular in Sweden - one of his most famous songs is “ Gubben Noak ”. Thus, a tradition of naming PDC's systems after Swedish people who were famous for their creations in the arts was born.