[vcf-midatlantic] Another T-Shirt Rescue (DEC Alpha)

Adam Michlin adam.michlin at vcfed.org
Sat Jan 29 16:03:00 UTC 2022

Ahh.. the eternal debate "What is vintage?".

I don't have an answer. I can tell you, entirely for practical
reasons, VCF MA has decided the cut off date for artifact acquisitions
is 1995. This doesn't mean they don't take anything after 1995, just
that the default for later than 1995 is no. It also doesn't mean
anything before 1995 is "vintage" and anything after is "not vintage".
There is just literally only so much space for storage and
prioritizing older artifacts as a default does seem both practical and

So, at least under that definition, VCF MA would gladly accept a
donation of an Alpha (I think they may have one... but the more the
merrier!) since it was introduced in November 1992.

Ultimately, each person has to decide what is or is not vintage for
themselves and debating our individual decisions might be fun, but
will never lead to OneTrueAnswer<tm>.

I'll also use this opportunity to address any concerns that I am
disparaging the Alpha. I still remember my computer architecture
professor in 1993 telling us that Intel only had a few years left
before RISC was going to win the processor wars. My university had
labs of SparcStations and Indigos (1s, at that) to prove it. I had
especially high hopes that the Alpha was going to become the processor
of the future. Of course, as we all know, Intel out RISC'd the RISC
machines and even had to be reminded (Itanium... booooo!) by AMD that
backwards compatibility (x86-64) is king.

Just imagine if DEC had added dynamic binary translation (or some
other technology) to run x86 binaries on Windows NT for Alpha. I can
complain forever about Apple, but they always understood the need for
backwards compatibility. 680x0 -> PowerPC, PowerPC -> x86, x86 -> ARM.
And, for reasons that will be obvious to some people, it is so much
easier to have a RISC chip run CISC than the other way around, so DEC
probably could have done it or at the very least done a better job
evangelizing companies to compile directly to Alpha.

So Alpha wasn't a failure as a product, but it also didn't set the
world on fire like I think it could have. It has also become somewhat
of a footnote in history much like my favorite processor ever, Sparc.
Sadly, I teach MIPS assembly these days, even though my heart will
always be with Sparc, because it is close enough and much more
practical in terms of platform independent simulators.

And, to head off the obvious question, I teach MIPS after 6502
assembly to my computer architecture and high school students because
starting assembly with x86 is JustCruel<tm>.

Best wishes,


On Sat, Jan 29, 2022 at 10:30 AM Brian Schenkenberger via
vcf-midatlantic <vcf-midatlantic at lists.vcfed.org> wrote:
> Jameel Akari via vcf-midatlantic <vcf-midatlantic at lists.vcfed.org>
> writes:
> >
> >
> >
> >> On Jan 28, 2022, at 4:41 PM, Adam Michlin via vcf-midatlantic =
> ><vcf-midatlantic at lists.vcfed.org> wrote: >=20 >=20 > Dean Notarnicola
> >was nice enough to scan it and Javier Rivera cleaned > it up for
> >reprinting. Neither Dean, myself, or I (or VCF) receives any > money
> >from the sale and yeah, we know DEC (now owned, I believe, by > HP)
> >might copyright strike us so get it while you can. >=20 >
> >https://www.8bittees.com/product/alpha-two-sided-tee/
> >
> >Just ordered one.  Thanks for making this possible.  Now I know what to
> >exhibit and what to wear. :)
> Are Alpha now *vintage*?

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