Compaq Sacrifices Alpha

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Summary and Conclusion

It is sad to see a superior technology fall victim to the shortcomings of its owner rather than any fault of its own. This is made worse when the inferior technology that succeeds it does so because of the business acumen and economic clout of its owner rather than through merit. This is now happening for 64-bit computing like it did 15 years ago in the 32-bit world. The interests of high end computer buyers and users everywhere are hurt in some small measure by Compaq’s announcement, even those who have never even seen an Alpha based system, let alone bought and used one, because of the accompanying reduction of choice and competition in the marketplace.

Intel’s Borg-like assimilation of Alpha technology is a significant development in the high-end 64-bit microprocessor and system world, even though the full effect won’t be felt by competitors for years to come. Perhaps resistance is futile over the long run, but no one should expect either IBM or Sun Microsystems to submit without a long and bruising fight. Short of a revolutionary new development in computing, IA64 may be the last clean sheet of paper ISA created for non-embedded applications for an indefinite period. The example set by the x86 suggests the 64-bit world will have to live with some mistakes for a long, long time.

References

[1] Shannon, T., “Shannon Knows Compaq”, Vol. 8, No. 24, June 25, 2001.

[2] Jain, A. et al, “A 1.2 GHz Alpha Microprocessor with 44.8 GB/s Chip Pin Bandwidth”, ISSCC 2001 Digest of Technical Papers, February 6, 2001, p. 240.

[3] Anderson, C.J. et al, “Physical Design of a Fourth-Generation POWER GHz Microprocessor”, ISSCC 2001 Digest of Technical Papers, February 6, 2001, p. 232.

[4] Curran, B. et al, “A 1.1 GHz First 64b Generation Z900 Microprocessor”, ISSCC 2001 Digest of Technical Papers, February 6, 2001, p. 238.

[5] Allen, D.H. et al, “Custom Circuit Design as a Driver of Microprocessor Performance”, IBM Journal of Research and Development, Vol. 44, No. 6, November 2000, pp. 799- 822.

[6] Jackson, T., “Inside Intel”, Penguin Putnam Inc., ISBN 0-452-27643-8, October 1998, pp. 192-199.


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