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DEC Alpha

The DEC Alpha is a RISC microprocessor originally developed and fabbed by DEC. DEC used it in their own line of workstations and servers. Designed as a successor to the VAX line of computers, it supported the VMS operating system, as well as the DEC flavour of UNIX. Later open source operating systems also ran on the Alpha, notably certain BSD systems. Microsoft supported the processor in earlier versions of Windows NT.

The 64-bit processor was introduced in 1992 running at 200MHz. It was designed as a 64-bit architecture with superpipelining and superscalar design. At the time, DEC touted it as the world's fastest processor. In July 1996 it was clocked at 500 MHz (the 21164PC), in March 1998 at 666 MHz and in May 2000 at 731MHz (the 21264PC). 1GHz and faster pieces were announced in 2001 (the 21364PC or EV-7), and are available since 2003 at 1.1GHz and upwards. Around 500,000 Alpha based systems were sold to end-2000.

The production of Alpha chips was licensed to Samsung[?] Electronics Company. Following the purchase of Digital by Compaq a lot of the Alpha products were placed with API NetWorks, Inc. (previously Alpha Processor Inc.), a private company funded by Samsung and Compaq. In October 2001 Microway became the exclusive sales and service provider of API NetWorks' Alpha-based product line.

Compaq announced that computers using Alpha would be phased out by 2004 in favour of Intel's Itanium. Windows NT support was halted with NT4 SP6 following the Compaq takeover. HP, new owner of Compaq, announced to support the Alpha series for a few more years, including a new E79 chip, but this will be the end of the lifetime. The IA-64 is supposed to be the replacement of this series.

Ironically, in mid-2003, when the Alpha is about to be phased out, the fastest computer on America, and second fastest on the world, is a cluster of 4096 Alpha processors (http://www.top500.org/list/2002/11/).

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