Alpha Gets a Gig

New York, NY -- There are some milestones in the PC industry that make you just stop what you are doing and take notice. You probably remember your first 10MB hard drive, your first 1MB RAM upgrade, or Bill Gate's first $1 trillion. So I observed a moment of silence just before I left PC Expo last week when I stopped by the booth of Alpha Processor, Inc. (API), of Concord, Massachusetts, and witnessed the first demonstration of a gigahertz microprocessor running on one of the company's motherboards. Systems based on the gigahertz chip are due out next summer. API assembled its system using an Alpha CPU manufactured by its partner Samsung Electronics at its fabrication facilities in Kiheung, Korea. Samsung is one of the license holders for Alpha chip fabrication that came out of Compaq's acquisition of Digital Equipment last year. Gigahertz processors are nothing new-—freon-cooled systems, the equivalent of overclocking the chip, have already run at gigahertz speeds. But that solution is a little like cheating, and it's expensive. I liken it to watering the lawn during a drought in the middle of the night and hoping that the neighbors don't notice. An API chip runs at room temperature with a simple fan wafting over it. The system runs the Alpha chip using the company's Alpha Slot B packaging technology in a dual-processor system known as the UP2000. At the moment, API sells 750MHz 21264 chips, the world’s fastest commercially available 64-bit processor. The 750MHz system will be available in a month, with an anticipated price of $6611 (for a UP2000 motherboard, a 750MHz processor, and 8MB of L2 Cache). API's systems hold Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC) records for performance at their introduction. Unlike API and Samsung, Intel won't be able to produce systems with microprocessors running at gigahertz speeds for at least a year, and probably more like a year and a half. Alpha is the little processor that should! Keep in mind that until Merced ships, Intel will continue producing only 32-bit processors. The Alpha is a 64-bit processor and is positioned to take full advantage of the next generation of Microsoft Windows 2000 for the data center. So Alpha has an advantage that should make people notice--that is, if the products Alpha delivers are priced right. API's previous motherboards were priced as follows: KP21264-600CN (600MHz), $5500; KP21264-575CN (575MHz), $3800; KP21264-450CN (450MHz), $2200. For more information about Alpha Processor's systems, visit the company's Web site at

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