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A simple, tunable, synthetic benchmark with a performance directly related to applications would be of great benefit to the scientific computing community. We present a novel approach to developing such a benchmark. The initial focus of this project is on the data access performance of scientific applications. First, a hardware independent characterization of code performance in terms of address streams is developed. The parameters chosen to characterize a single address stream are related to regularity, size, and spatial and temporal locality. These parameters are then used to implement a synthetic benchmark program that mimics the performance of a corresponding code. To test the validity of our approach we performed experiments using five test kernels on six different platforms. The performance of most of our test kernels can be approximated by a single synthetic address stream. However, in some cases, overlapping two address streams is necessary to achieve a good approximation.