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Alpha: The History in Facts and Comments
Alpha Powered Dig my grave both long and narrow
Make my coffin neat and strong 

(from an old American song)

Paul V. Bolotoff
Release date: 14th of April 2005
Last modify date: 22nd of April 2007

in Russian


At the moment of writing (April of 2005), Alpha systems were offered still, mostly through Hewlett-Packard and Microway. The latter even listed relatively inexpensive workstations based upon 21164A and AlphaPC 164LX for Linux (2000 USD for a regularly configured one). Many retired, but still working workstations and servers as well as their parts were offered through different kinds of online flea markets like eBay. Most of those systems were sold with Windows NT when new. Some of them cannot accept neither Digital UNIX nor OpenVMS. In a matter of fact, if a particular system has no SRM console available, it isn't possible for it to run NetBSD / OpenBSD / FreeBSD. There is a trick to install and run Linux under ARC / AlphaBIOS though. If you have some intention to purchase an Alpha system, make sure you know enough about it before giving money unless you feel having a lack of problems.
Accordingly to the statistics, DEC and Compaq have sold about 800 thousand Alpha workstations and servers until June of 2001. It isn't known how many systems have been assembled and sold by others, but estimated to be over 500 thousand.
Many people say that the Alpha architecture has died on its own. Hope after passing through this article you will have no doubts that it has been buried. Alive. Because it has been more profitable to do so.
All Alpha hardware have been removed from Hewlett-Packard's price-lists in October of 2006. Well, it has been expected.
There were many cases in history when a poorly crafted product prevailed over a better one. Maybe, the first product cost much less than the second one. It could be also possible that the second product was promoted passively too much. Incomparable licence fees might be another reason. Everything could be possible. Some would admit that marketing boys and girls promoting some goods and understanding well their poor functionality, exert themselves to the utmost extent while realising clearly that their next salary could be the last paid off otherwise.
Life goes on...

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Additional information

Here are Alpha-related press-releases and announcements by DEC, Compaq, Samsung asf. They have been used while writing this article, so the author assumes they may be interesting to the readers. In fact, they are history now, thus hard-to-find elsewhere. The documents are listed in chronological order. If anyone has additional ones, the author would appreciate getting their copies.
1. Alpha Architecture Technical Summary. (25-February-1992)
2. Digital Workstations Set New Mark for Speed, Price/Performance in Open Client/Server Computing (21-July-1994)
3. Transcript of HOTCHIPS VI Presentation of the 21164 Microprocessor (18-August-1994)
4. Digital Again Extends Performance Leadership with New Generation of Alpha AXP Microprocesors (7-September-1994)
5. Digital Microprocessor Posts World Record (7-September-1994)
6. Digital's New Alpha 21066A Chip with PCI Puts More Speed into Embedded Applications, Desktop PCs (14-November-1994)
7. Digital Extends Alpha Performance Lead with Speed Upgrades to Alpha Microprocessors (2-November-1995)
8. Newest Alpha Microprocessor Hits 500MHz, Alpha Tops for Windows NT Visual Computing (8-July-1996)
9. The 21264: A Superscalar Alpha Processor with Out-of-Order Execution (24-October-1996)
10. Alpha Is Launched into the Volume Windows NT PC Market with Low Cost 21164PC Microprocessor (17-March-1997)
11. Alpha 21164 Microprocessor Streaks to 500MHz, Sets New Industry Performance (31-March-1997)
12. Digital and Intel Announce Long-Term Agreement to Expand Relationship; Move to Settle Litigation (27-October-1997)
13. Compaq to Acquire Digital for $9.6 Billion (26-January-1998)
14. Alpha Roadmap Shows New Destinations for `98 (26-January-1998)
15. Digital to Break 1,000MHz Barrier with High-Powered New Generation of Alpha Architecture (2-February-1998)
16. Digital to Grant Samsung Architectural License for Alpha Technology (9-February-1998)
17. Samsung Introduces Alpha 21264, World's Fastest Microprocessor — Sets Standards for 64-bit Visual and Enterprise Computing (6-April-1998)
18. Samsung Targets High Performance Entry-Level Windows NT Servers; New Low-Cost Platforms Based on 500MHz to 633MHz Alpha Processors (6-April-1998)
19. Digital and Intel Complete Sale of Digital Semiconductor Manufacturing Operations (18-May-1998)
20. Alpha Processor, Inc. Debuts to Drive 64-Bit Alpha in High-Volume NT Markets (16-June-1998)
21. Samsung Electronics Develops World's First Next-Generation Wafer Processing Technology (14-September-1998)
22. Samsung Electronics Develops 0.18um Process Technology for 1GHz CPU (23-October-1998)
23. Compaq, API, and Samsung Set Long-Term Growth Strategy for Alpha (13-December-1999)
24. Compaq and Intel to Accelerate Enterprise Server Roadmaps (25-June-2001)
25. Compaq Unveils the AlphaServer ES45, Industry's Most Powerful Mid-Range Server (16-October-2001)
26. Microway Named Master Distributor and Exclusive Service Provider for API NetWorks' Alpha-Based Product Line (24-October-2001)
27. HP Introduces Most Powerful Generation of AlphaServer Systems (20-January-2003)
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