[TUHS] Why did PDPs become so popular?

Jon Forrest nobozo at gmail.com
Sat Dec 30 09:35:27 AEST 2017



On 12/29/2017 3:04 AM, Kevin Bowling wrote:

> Alpha generally maintained integer/ALU and clockspeed leadership for
> most of the '90s
> http://www.cs.columbia.edu/~sedwards/classes/2012/3827-spring/advanced-arch-2011.pdf

I worked in the Computer Science Dept. at UC Berkeley in the 1990s
when Richard Sites, the chief architect of the Alpha, gave a talk
describing the Alpha. I remember him saying that there was nothing
out there from any other vendor that would be able to compete with
the Alpha for the next 10 years (I'm pretty sure he said 10 years but
it might have been longer).

Because I was the system manager for the Sequoia 2000 project, DEC's big
external research project after Project Athena, I got the first Alpha
delivered to UC Berkeley. I remember it being quite fast, although I
don't recall any specific benchmarks. The OS (OSF/1) was fairly
primitive as first and didn't even support multiple processor systems.
We were able to port Postgres to it fairly quickly in spite of various
issues related to the 64-bit Alpha architecture. In fact, the Postgres
group was using Alpha desktops when SQL was added to Postgres.

As nice as the Alphas were, I don't recall any compelling reason we
would have used them if we had to pay for them. In fact, at the same
time Mike Stonebraker and I wrote a grant proposal to Sun to get a
couple of SparcStation 10s to use to port Postgres to Solaris. The
SparcStations were just as nice to use as the Alphas.

DEC's later demise was quite sad to me, since before joining UC Berkeley
I had been a VAX/VMS person. DEC did a great job supporting Project
Sequoia 2000, and they were very generous with both their hardware and
money. Judging from Sites' presentation, they thought they were going
to win.

Jon Forrest



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