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HP

End In Sight For Alpha 430

minektur writes "news.com has an article stating that DEC ... I mean Compaq .... Uh, I mean HP has decided to EOL the once mighty Alpha architecture. Let's all take a moment of silence." I was lucky enough to have access to a 533 MHz Alpha back when the fastest Pentiums were only around 200 MHz, and the Alpha architecture earned a special place in my heart. It will be missed.
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End In Sight For Alpha

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  • A true shame... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kakos ( 610660 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @03:20AM (#4825267)
    The Alpha was always one of the better processors. It was fast and powerful and way ahead of its time. It is a shame that a truly great processor was killed by the economy and mergers galore. It will be missed.
    • Re:A true shame... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jericho4.0 ( 565125 )
      I'm gonna tag along on yr post, since it seems to be to the point.

      The Alpha rocked. Nuff said. I'm sorry it's EOL. And I'm sorry there are so many posts who think that little intel boxen are so much better.

      Alpha gets added to the list of failed, technicaly better products. The Amiga, Beta video, the Newton, etc.

      • Re:A true shame... (Score:5, Informative)

        by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @08:24AM (#4826032) Journal
        Alpha gets added to the list of failed, technicaly better products.

        No kidding. I really can't imagine why it is being dropped. I'd think HP would keep it around just so IBM doesn't take over the top spots for supercomputers.

        Right now, the Alpha is firmly holding spots 2, 3, 6, 7, 18, 47, 57, 58, 59, 63, 79, 109, 110, 117, 118, 144, 179, 217, 245, 246, 337, 340, and 355 on the list of the 500 fastest supercomputers. [top500.org]

        Sure, they can replace those slower systems with their other systems, but what about the 4 Alphas in the top 10 spots? What does HP have that can rival them in performance, while still keeping the prices down? I'd say if they kept the Alpha, rather than their own processors, they'd have a chance at finally gaining ground on the hi-end Unix server market where IBM and Sun dominate.

        But, there's always hope for Alpha fans. Intel bought the technology, so if their new 64-bit processor (which shatters compatibility anyhow) doesn't perform well enough, they could just start making Alphas and call them their own.

        AFAIK, there's nothing stopping Samsung (or anyone else involved) from continuing to build Alpha processors... Maybe API will try to keep the Alpha alive. It's been a good product for them for some time.

        Or perhaps some other party might pick up the torch. Sun would be a good candidate, since they're in a tight competition with IBM, and the Alpha seems to be the only thing to top IBM's Power3 (and is doing so with half the number of processors!!!).

        Come on HP. The Alpha has just as loyal a following as Apple... It's a big mistake not to start improving it and seeing what it can really do for you.
        • Re:A true shame... (Score:3, Informative)

          by Xner ( 96363 )
          Also spots 39 and 40, since the Cray T3E is basically a very fast toroidal interconnect and Alpha processors.
        • Re:A true shame... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by leandrod ( 17766 ) <(l) (at) (dutras.org)> on Friday December 06, 2002 @11:19AM (#4827076) Homepage Journal
          >
          I really can't imagine why it is being dropped.

          Because HP is already committed to IPF (IA-64, Itanium) and thinks it will become better than what Alpha could be. That's the official story. The unofficial is that they gave up competing on products a long time ago, and now just want to do services. Presumably that's a mixture of dumb MBAs who repeat the "services are key" mantra without understanding you must have a product to service, and if you didn't manufactured it, its manufacturer is more likely to service it than you; and of realising that people want Wintel or Lintel "just because they are used to it", and because of volume driving down prices.

          In other words, the RISC market was too fragmented, and instead of coordinating the RISCs by phasing out PA-RISC and going all the way Alpha they decided to instead try to sell Intel on their VLIW, and thus IPF was born. To be fair, the first blunder was Digital's when they failed to win Apple and Novell as Alpha users, then consequently to make Alpha a volume architecture with several licensees, OEMs, foundries, notebook versions and all that you need to go heads on against a monopoly.

          >
          I'd think HP would keep it around just so IBM doesn't take over the top spots for supercomputers.

          First, they do believe in IPF, or so it seems.

          Second, is being in the top 500 supercomputers list important at all? I guess they'd rather be lucrative. I think the way they chose to be lucrative is mistaken, but that's probably their rationale.

          >
          I'd say if they kept the Alpha, rather than their own processors, they'd have a chance at finally gaining ground on the hi-end Unix server market where IBM and Sun dominate.

          Actually the PA-RISC has a nice position. Telcos tend to use predominantly the SuperDomes, due to HP's relationship with Amdocs. PA-RISCs are actually nice systems, and HP builds some nice systems around them. HP-UX isn't GNU/Linux or Solaris, but still it's Unix, so you can't throw it away. Too bad for them that Unisys will sell IPF machines that will be as nice as HP's, and so will other vendors, and some of them will have GNU/Linux or Unix to run on them.

          >
          But, there's always hope for Alpha fans.

          There isn't, see below.

          >
          Intel bought the technology, so if their new 64-bit processor (which shatters compatibility anyhow) doesn't perform well enough, they could just start making Alphas and call them their own.

          I doubt. Intel bought the patents and the documents, but most engineers left. Intel has lousy employee relationship, so they wouldn't be able to reproduce the in-house expertise Digital, Silicon Graphics, HP (before merge) had and that IBM, Sun now have. Also, they are already forcing customers to change the architecture. Would they risk it again, knowing each change in architecture is a chance of jumping ship to someone else with a better story to tell, like IBM or Sun?

          >
          AFAIK, there's nothing stopping Samsung (or anyone else involved) from continuing to build Alpha processors...

          First, there is no one else involved, only Samsung.

          Second, Samsung can't compete. It does not have neither the focus, nor the ISVs, nor the customers, nor the applications, nor the systems, nor nothing needed to compete. Sun & IBM do, HP, Digital and Silicon Graphics had.

          >
          Maybe API will try to keep the Alpha alive. It's been a good product for them for some time.

          I doubt. Technically yes, but where are the volumes, the customers, the profits? Anyway they already jumped ship. They are now SiPackets, former API Networks, selling the HyperTransport stuff to AMD and the like.

          >
          Or perhaps some other party might pick up the torch.

          Forget it. Licenses are not available for the asking, even if you had loads of money. And you would have to get the engineers, and find the customers. Do you think anyone would, after the .com bubble?

          >
          Sun would be a good candidate, since they're in a tight competition with IBM, and the Alpha seems to be the only thing to top IBM's Power3

          Sun has already stated SPARC for them is binary compatibility and a viable future, not performance only. Their going Alpha would hurt more than help. They hope to get UltraSPARC to be competitive with POWER and IPF, and that's it.

          >
          The Alpha has just as loyal a following as Apple...

          There is a difference. There was never MS Office running on the Alpha, only MS Word and Excel, and these are gone now. There was never an Alpha notebook. Alphas and Macs were never in the same price bracket.

        • "I'd think HP would keep it around just so IBM doesn't take over the top spots for supercomputers."

          After studying a number of processors indepthly and doing a research project with the Alpha, I came to the realization that the Alpha engineers were truly the best in the world. (My next favorites were the highly-scalable SPARC by Sun, and the PowerPC, another very smart RISC processor by IBM, Motorola, and Apple.) I had also read a book about the pains the Alpha engineers went through to design a processor so far ahead of its time. For some reason, however, DEC couldn't stay afloat and the company exchanged hands a number of times, and, presummably, lost a lot of their engineers. Compaq inherits the company, and merges with HP. Funny thing is HP was already in bed with Intel and helped design the 64-bit Itanium. Now, even though Alpha had gone 64-bit since around 1995, it doesn't make sense for HP to compete with Intel using the Alpha, after all its efforts to help Intel create the Itanium and monopolize the 64-bit market.

          When something like this happens, there is always guaranteed to be a fall guy. Before you know it, Alpha, the most outstanding processor in the world, is history.
        • Re:A true shame... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by binaryDigit ( 557647 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @11:42AM (#4827279)
          Intel bought the technology, so if their new 64-bit processor (which shatters compatibility anyhow) doesn't perform well enough, they could just start making Alphas and call them their own.

          I thought that Intel bought the manufacturing arm and licensed some patented technologies (whatever DEC sued Intel over to begin with) and the right to manufacture Alphas, but not the whole intellectual rights to the Alpha architecture itself (which Compaq got)? So while Intel could certainly churn out Alphas, they could only churn out existing versions and not create new ones?

          Or perhaps some other party might pick up the torch. Sun would be a good candidate, since they're in a tight competition with IBM, and the Alpha seems to be the only thing to top IBM's Power3 (and is doing so with half the number of processors!!!).

          Egads, Sun would never abandon Sparc. They have spent billions on just simply developing the name in the marketplace, and to suddenly switch gears and drop Sparc to sell Alpha would be suicide. Most people who purchase Sun don't do it because their stuff is faster than anyone elses (because in general they are not), they buy it for the stability of the hardware and OS. Sun has been able to thrive even they've always been in the role of the lessor performer. Note that there aren't too many Sun's in the Top500, Sun just isn't that interested in that market.

          Come on HP. The Alpha has just as loyal a following as Apple... It's a big mistake not to start improving it and seeing what it can really do for you.

          No, it's a big mistake to try to sell computers using three different architectures (four if you count the overlap between PA-RISC and Itanium). It makes no sense at all to keep Alpha around (as much as I like Alpha). They've already bought into Itanium and PARISC still has legs while they wait for Itanium to mature. Now they can surely integrate more concepts from Alpha into future chips, but Alpha as an independent entity has no useful purpose in the HP landscape.

          Maybe Transmeta will buy the rights and finally get a little oomph into those chips of theirs.
    • Re:A true shame... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @06:56AM (#4825809)
      The Alpha was always one of the better processors. It was fast and powerful and way ahead of its time. It is a shame that a truly great processor was killed by the economy and mergers galore. It will be missed.

      What killed it was DEC, whose management were naive enough to believe that great products sell themselves and there's very little need for marketing. Unfortunately for them, engineers don't make purchasing decisions. VMS on Alpha 5 years ago was 10 years ahead of where Solaris on UltraSPARC is now - seriously, in terms of reliability and scalability. VMScluster was a joy to use, and the Alpha gave superb performance for anything involving floating point. They should have owned the high-end workstation market (along with SGI) if technology was all that mattered, but Sun were smart enough to spend lavishly on their marketing, and it paid off massively for them.

      If it hadn't been for that, Compaq would never have bought DEC, and would instead be back competing against Dell where they belong. The management of DEC have a lot to answer for - technology and engineering cannot exist in a vaccuum despite what Slashbots think, it goes hand in hand with marketing and sales.
      • Another cause... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by r_j_prahad ( 309298 )
        ... was DEC's adoption of exclusionary tactics. Smack dab in the middle of the interoperability wars that bestowed fleeting fame on AT&T UNIX, DEC decided to build walls around every product they made. OSF/1 may have been a superior O/S but it wasn't SVR4 and it wasn't FIPS compliant, and for a while we couldn't purchase it. And a just a little while later, it didn't matter.

        Ken Olsen was spot on with his snake oil pronouncement, but it helped kill the company.
  • by Raul654 ( 453029 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @03:20AM (#4825272) Homepage
    I think this goes to show that it's not just about building a better mousetrap. You have to build a better mousetrap and then show everyone that it's SO much better than what is out there that it is worth the transition costs. It's something they teach in engineering 101, and it's the same problem microsoft has been bumping into for years now (and basically arm-twisting everyone to upgrade)
    • by darkov ( 261309 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @05:10AM (#4825562)
      I think this goes to show that it's not just about building a better mousetrap.

      No, this is a case of money and influence over technology. Good technology. Bad politics. You could build a processor that executes instructions before they're fetched from memory and the Pentium would still be a best seller.

      They're really nothing good about the death of the Alpha.
      • by uncleFester ( 29998 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @08:37AM (#4826088) Homepage Journal
        No, this is a case of money and influence over technology.

        No, I think this is a case of poor marketing. It's a superior product, so much so the competetion even bought into it [theinquirer.net].. but the product was saddled with two companies who couldn't market the product. Digital was notoriously poor in marketing, and when Compaq bought them it was merely a product-rounding move. Compaq, after all, made their money in Intel-based crap and Capellas never really pushed the Alpha as the strong superior product it was.

        The Alpha was a decent hardware/OS setup: I ran a number of them at my last job, supporting boxen using Oracle. The boxes were solid computers (even for older 4100-series machines!), Tru64 was fairly solid (only a tricky NFS glitch on one machine spotted a perfect record with them) and the 1 1/2 years I spent with Dec/Compaq/Tru64 was suprisingly excellent. It's a shame the companies involved pretty much killed them due to stupidity.
    • by g4dget ( 579145 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @06:21AM (#4825719)
      The Alpha was one of the best 64bit processors out there, years before the Itanium. It should have been highly successful. It failed for two reasons: one was that Alpha-based systems were priced out of the market, and the other was that it is hard (though not impossible) to compete against Intel.

      A better strategy for Alpha might have been to do whatever was necessary to price it not much higher than a corresponding Pentium-based system at the time and get lots of market share and software support quickly. But this would have required deep pockets over several years, and pretty much only Intel can afford to do that.

      Now, of course, we are getting a worse mouse trap: Itanium is just a horrendous architecture. It should never have seen the light of day. But Intel will manage to push it on us, whether we want it or not, because pretty much all the alternatives are effectively gone. Only AMD's 64bit chip holds out some promise because you can switch to it without changing over your entire hardware and software infrastructure.

  • by SirDaShadow ( 603846 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @03:22AM (#4825279)
    AMD sure had it right with its decision of making the Athlon Architecture based on the Alpha...to the point that it outlived the Alpha itself...
    • Were they? Both the Alpha and the Athlon seem to have run into a speed wall whereas the apparent long term bumpability of the P4 is mind boggling.
      • by kc8apf ( 89233 ) <(ten.fpa8ck) (ta) (fpa8ck)> on Friday December 06, 2002 @03:52AM (#4825376) Homepage
        The speed increases on the p4 is due to the use of a 22 stage pipeline. The Athlon and Alpha do not have nearly that long a pipeline and as such do not scale in Mhz as easily, but they get more work done per clock, hence why a slower Athlon is on par with a p4.
        • This is true, but hyperthreading seems to have great potential for fixing the weaknesses inherent in having such a long pipeline. Few apps have specifically been optimized for it yet, but even so it provides a small to large increase in productivity depending on how many threads you have going at once and how much each app is optimized for hyperthreading or dual processors. The benchmarks posted at places like Anandtech and Tom's Hardware demonstrate this, even at this early stage.

          Add to that the fact that Intel is pushing for developers to compile using optimizations for hyperthreading and dual processors, and to make apps more multithreaded, and you get an even greater likelihood of performance increases in the future. The cost of that long pipeline is clearly being lowered, and P4 with hyperthreading can get more done per clock cycle than the P4 without.

          I was one of the people who laughed at Intel when the P4 was released in its original incarnation, believing the Athlon's Alpha-like brute force would continue to trounce the comparatively puny NetBurst architecture at every turn. But in the end, the larger cache, faster FSB, and now Hyperthreading ability of the newer P4, seem to be adding up to be just as valuable as the P4's GHz scalability.

          All I can say is, brute force doesn't seem to cut it any more. Intel is finally improving the little things, and not just clockspeed. The fact that next year Intel is planning to move to an 800MHz effective FSB with matching dual-channel 400MHz DDR memory just goes to show that. Who ever would have thought? :-)
          • by darkov ( 261309 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @05:17AM (#4825581)
            Few apps have specifically been optimized for it yet...make apps more multithreaded

            This is a reccurring story in the development of parrallelism. It would be great in any form if people just developed for it, but even multithreading is quite tricky to implement compared to a single stream execution environment. And in most apps you just can't get the fine-grained parrallelism that would yield really good speed improvements.

            This is a software problem, and no amount of hardware will make a significant difference.
          • I hate to agree with you, but the P4 _is_ looking very good right now...HT is just waiting to be expoited by software.

            IBM's Power4's look good too, though. Long term trends will shift away from Intel solutions (IMHO).It remains to be seen what the better choice is. The market decides in the end, and that isn't always the best choice.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 06, 2002 @04:16AM (#4825437)
      AMD sure had it right with its decision of making the Athlon Architecture based on the Alpha...to the point that it outlived the Alpha itself...

      They only licensed the bus architecture. Nothing else...
  • The processor on which I discovered for the first time what super-scalar execution meant <sniff>...

    Also the processor which for some odd reason doesn't support rotate (or was it shift?) operations =)... <sniff still>.

    Maybe it's time I actually went out and bought one now, they'll soon be like vintage Cadillacs.

    On another note, HP has got some major huevos man, making such a drastic shift in technology requires it.
    I sure hope Itaniums happen. 256 integer registers makes me drool.... DROOOOOL
  • Alpha is the Omega (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BJH ( 11355 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @03:36AM (#4825319)
    Screw Itanium. An architecture that requires a highly-tuned compiler to optimize software well enough that it doesn't stutter from huge branch prediction misses is not a worthy successor to the Alpha. Excellent firmware, elegant architecture, good speed/MHz ratio...

    I own three Alphas (a Personal Workstation 600, an Alphastation 255, and a homebuilt machine using a PC64+ motherboard), and they're great machines to use. I'm currently on the lookout for an ES40 - when I see one for below a couple of thousand dollars, I'm going to snap it up.
    • I agree with what you are saying. I think the Itanium will be very damaging to the evolution of software: it will be much harder to create new compilers for that architecture. C/C++, Java, and .NET will become even more dominant as fewer and fewer smaller compiler efforts can compete.
  • by Newer Guy ( 520108 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @03:38AM (#4825323)
    Then you'll see it for 29.95 on Pricewatch..and not need a fan. I can see it now.. the VIA/Cyrix Alpha DLC!
  • by Wolfier ( 94144 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @03:38AM (#4825324)
    Distributed computing is going to be the trend...if I can stack together a few cheap chips to rival a single high performance chip, what would I do?

    Given the exponential relationship of price to performance (i.e. a marginal performance increase will cost you a LOT more) associated with processors, I'll take the cheaper approach.

    Granted, many apps don't fully use distributed processing power, but the ones that need most CPU probably do.
    • Granted, many apps don't fully use distributed processing power, but the ones that need most CPU probably do.

      Even after considering the extra money spent to develop an app to scale well with parallel processing, the savings from using multiple "cheap" processors compared to one expensive high performance processor will still make it worth it. Not only that, but then you have an app that you can scale up as needed (assuming it was designed well) without having to purchase a whole new set of hardware, but rather just by adding a couple more processors to your current cluster.
      • Ok, I've been wanting to ask this question on slashdot for sometime, and this is as good a time as any. Just how much of the Joe sixpack user's stuff is parallelize-able? Can you effeciently farm out quake/UT/Morrowind/Maple/Matlab/etc to multiple processors? (ok, maple and matlab may not be what joe user wants, but you get the idea)
        • "Can you effeciently farm out quake/UT/Morrowind/Maple/Matlab/etc to multiple processors?"

          The answer is yes... sortof...

          Quake/UT are 3d First Person Shooter games. This means that as far as the client side goes (Joe sixpack's computer) there is no immediate advantage. Most processing power is done on rendering in real time, which can't be done on more than one host (however, its still possible to do it on more than one video card, or multiple CPU systems in SMP mode).

          However, on the Quake/UT server side, everything changes. Most of the multiplayer games are limited by 1) network bandwidth and 2) cpu power when it comes to scaling (limits usually around ~32 users). Battlefield 1942 (kindof like RTCW) is an excellent example of a game that could dramatically imporve by distributed computing. For one thing, that game's server is dramatically CPU limited. You can't get more than ~32 clients(out of a 64 person max) out of a server with acceptable results, even on a 100Mbit switched LAN. However, if you could distribute out the server, have maybe 2, 3, 20 servers, each in charge of 1/2, 1/3, 1/20th of the users in the game (sortof like IRC chat) then you could successfully scale to any # of users without having any CPU scaling issues. I think everquest might have a hint of this type of technology.

          I don't know the answer about things like Maple or Matlab, but I'm pretty sure they could at least take advantage of distributed computing a little. (again, depends on how you use it)
        • I'd say a lot of joe sixpack's software can be parallelized to some extent. But as very few consumers have multi-cpu computers, and win9x and xp home don't support SMP, the extra hassle of writing multithreaded programs is just not worth it. Perhaps when hyperthreading becomes more common, developers will start to use multiple threads. Perhaps xp home support it, I don't know.
          • Re:Tell me this (Score:2, Informative)

            by vofka ( 572268 )
            win9x and xp home don't support SMP

            Windows XP Home does not support more than one Physical CPU, however it does support Hyperthreading (ie. more than one logical CPU). Though this is not true SMP, using SMP techniques for coding and compiling applications can yield performance increases on HT capable CPU's - and since the latest desktop P4 has HT enabled, Joe Public will soon be able to take advantage of Multiprocessor aware apps, even on XP Home.
    • by anonymous cupboard ( 446159 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @04:27AM (#4825461)
      Um, the Alpha was ideal for that. Dick Sites, the main architect used to work for Cray and he used a lot of ideas to make Alphas work well together. You want 16 processors, it will do it and do it well.
      • Architecture-wise.

        Making a distributed framework were easier on the Alphas than the Intels....but most the time you only do it once - you can say it is a one time overhead. ...and once somebody builds a cluster for the Intel, the "ideal" thing advantage is pretty much gone - if you choose to use a cheap Linux cluster framework (e.g. beowulf!) and don't insist on reinventing the wheel.

        Alpha processors were more expensive, and suffers from most of the disadvantages a less popular product generally suffers (less support, less programmers, etc) compared to Intel and AMD.

        That's why when the x86's finally catches up with parallelization, Alpha is destined to go away...
    • Distributed computing is going to be the trend...if I can stack together a few cheap chips to rival a single high performance chip, what would I do?

      Well, Be thought the same thing, and look what happened to them. Turned out one processor per person was enough after all, for the vast majority of users. Or should I say one general-purpose processor per person, a modern graphics card is more powerful than the CPU for its specialized task. And don't forget you won't just have to buy more processors, but the motherboard to support them - compare the prices of single, dual and quad hardware.

      Granted, many apps don't fully use distributed processing power, but the ones that need most CPU probably do.

      I think you are confused between distributed computing and SMP. They are different design approaches to different problems. A task that executes well (quickly + cheaply) on one won't necessarily execute well on another, even if the CPUs on both are identical.
      • Well, Be thought the same thing, and look what happened to them. Turned out one processor per person was enough after all, for the vast majority of users.
        Well, I think Be failed for some really different reasons. Just like you can't say, "hey, Mozart is a music genius and see what happened to him - he's dead!"


        For PC, yes, one CPU per person is enough - I'd extend that further - one person doesn't even need one CPU. If you think this way, then it's pretty clear why we stack processors together - use 10 CPU configuration to serve 30 users on dumb terminals! Isn't that cheap? I think so...that's what a lot of people do when they're short of $$$.



        I think you are confused between distributed computing and SMP. They are different design approaches to different problems. A task that executes well (quickly + cheaply) on one won't necessarily execute well on another, even if the CPUs on both are identical.


        No, I'm not confused - just putting them together in order to avoid confusion for the people who read it ;) - I've written programs for both. I can say, they're different designs for a similar problem - to use parallel processing power somehow. Writing apps using SMP is easy nowadays if you use a good OS - actually if you use threads a good OS would do the jobs for you although not as ideally as you would do on your own.

        On the other hand, multiple CPU on a cluster let's say, is more difficult. There is, I think, 1 or 2 good OS that would help you do the job, but it's not trivial and require participation on your part. For example, LAM/MPI, a very common and 'easy' approach, is still requires pretty explicit communication code in your programs.

    • if I can stack together a few cheap chips to
      rival a single high performance chip, what would I do?


      You'd probably fly to work on a unicorn, and eat sunshine and moonbeams for lunch, because you'd be in Fantasy Land.

      (Given today's existing products and sufficiently meaningful values for 'a few', 'cheap', 'rival', and 'high performance', that is)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 06, 2002 @03:38AM (#4825326)
    The Alpha chipset was fortold in the aincient scriptures, "I am the ALPHA" God mentioned more than once. This is where it gets interesting -- "And The OMEGA", God added. All of the core prophets prosthesized of Gods eventual metamorpheses to "OMEGA". It is widely believed now by computer industry analysts that they were referring to the coming release of the first Microsoft created CPU and chipset, named "OMEGA".
    Bill Gates said at NorCON '02 that Microsofts products in the next five years would become the cornerstone of peoples mental and physical existences, again, he is referring to "OMEGA".

  • Alpha licensees (Score:3, Informative)

    by velco ( 521660 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @03:40AM (#4825333)
    IIRC, Samsung develops Alpha processors, I guess the rumours for Alpha's death are greatly exaggerrated.
    • Re:Alpha licensees (Score:2, Informative)

      by Nexx ( 75873 )
      IIRC, they quit doing so a while ago, as their Alpha stuff didn't sell.

      I hate the 20s reply-send delay. It's highly annoying :p
  • Perhaps this is part of the "inter-industry conspiracy." And the alpha doesn't even have analog outputs... what will they kill next?
  • by merc_sa ( 35777 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @03:48AM (#4825359)
    the high end server market is notorious for being slow to adopt change. Now HP is trying to get rid
    of not one but TWO legacy architecture in favor of the unproven itanium.. Though both PA-RISC and
    Alpha were niche players, they were highly regarded in their market. Maybe I'm just being a cynic, but
    somehow I got a feeling Carly is pulling a SGI and migrating to a platform because everybody ELSE
    thought it was a good idea..

    Though I'm a big Sun box fan, I still have to give the proper respect for those two well regarded
    chips. RIP PA-RISC, Alpha..
    • by joib ( 70841 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @05:11AM (#4825565)
      Looks like HP is changing from an engineering company to a bunch of vacuum cleaner salesmen, like say, Dell. They spun off their measurement systems stuff (Agilent), killing PA-RISC and alpha, what do they have left? Reselling Intel boxes and perhaps some consulting.

      On the other hand, chip development costs seem to grow exponentially, so keeping on developing two high-end architectures for a very small market doesn't really make sense economically.
      • ... what do they have left? Reselling Intel boxes and perhaps some consulting.

        P R I N T E R S .

        And scanners, digital cameras, PDAs, etc..

        Dropping two proven workstation/server architectures in favor of an unproven processor from a consumer-grade processor manufacturer doesn't sound too wise to me, but HP has advantages in the PC market.

        When I was out of work and desperate for money I took a job selling computers retail at a large office store. I was surprised at how some people wanted their PC, scanner, camera, PDA, printer and other accessories to have the same brand name on them. They really think it helps them all work together, and they may be right: one company to call if you're having trouble printing your digital photo through your PC and printer. That means a lot to a non-geek.

        And I presume the PC add-ons have higher profit margins that the PCs themselves.
    • by uncleFester ( 29998 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @08:22AM (#4826022) Homepage Journal
      HP has been 'getting rid' of PA-RISC for ages. I remember attending an seminar on the virtues of Merced in the 1996-1997 timeperiod. At that time they planned phased out PA-RISC CPUs and were going to do PA emulation on Itanium by 2000 at the latest, to allow older HPUX installations to make a smooth transition.

      In other words.. they'be been singing this song for at least 5 years and the Merced/cKinley delays have royally screwed their plans. They did have other plans on the horizon (though at the time I believe the roadmap only went to the 8500 or 8600 chips.. the 8700+ processors were probably a mad scramble when they realized it was going to be even longer.
  • I was lucky enough to have access to a 533 MHz Alpha

    That's funny. I'm still using two of those (dual procs) to run calculations. They really do rock.
  • Alpha? (Score:5, Funny)

    by JanusFury ( 452699 ) <kevin@gadd.gmail@com> on Friday December 06, 2002 @03:49AM (#4825363) Homepage Journal
    Alpha's dead? I thought BSD was dead.
  • by jsse ( 254124 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @03:57AM (#4825392) Homepage Journal
    Imagine telling this to a geek just back from a 15-year coma:

    "HP finally decides to retire Alpha..."
    "HP bought Alpha?!"
    "Yeah, after they merged with Compaq, which bought DEC..."
    "Compaq bought DEC????!!!!!"
    • Good idea. I'll use the diversion to steal his VAXen. I've been looking for a good heating system for this winter.
    • by RajivSLK ( 398494 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @04:41AM (#4825497)
      A geek who who awoke from a 15 year comma would probably be put in a lab and studied.

      "Dr. you say this geek has no knowledge of 'Slashdot'? Truely amazing..."

      They would probably put throw him into a basement in the depths of IBM to write legacy code for 15 year old applications. Unaware of recent advents such as 'the web', 'slashdot' and 'massive internet pr0n archives' he would be the most productive geek ever.
    • by TummyX ( 84871 )
      Great. You'd put him into another 15-year coma.
  • Does this mean they're going to port OpenVMS to x86 or something else, or are they going to EOL that, too? I think I had heard some rumors somewhere of a VMS/x86 port.
    • Re:OpenVMS for x86? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 06, 2002 @04:13AM (#4825432)
      Does this mean they're going to port OpenVMS to x86 or something else, or are they going to EOL that, too?

      VMS Engineers are well along in the port to Itaniac. The port will be relatively easy because of the portability built into VMS during the VAX->Alpha port and the fact that the memory management in Itaniac looks a lot like the VAX. This according to a VMS Engineer who spoke at a conference I attended in Nashua NH (where the VMS engineers are).

      I think I had heard some rumors somewhere of a VMS/x86 port.

      Won't this silly rumor ever die????

  • Wow... I remember the GIGANTIC PC Computing headline circa mid-1997 proclaiming "Windows at 500Mhz". It seemed so earth-shattering back then... half a gigahertz. :-P

    Maybe now that DEC/Compaq/HP is EOLing them, we'll see some really cheap ones start popping up on eBay once PHBs decide they don't want unsupported boxen. I wouldn't mind adding one of these to my collection. Would make a pretty nice linux workstation.

  • by cballowe ( 318307 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @04:04AM (#4825419) Homepage
    I know they had the megahertz win in the early days against intel, but man I love my alphas. The architecture of the entire system that DEC built around them is just so nice. Maybe it's because I haven't played with any E10K or better hardware from Sun or whatever HP has to compete on that level, but I wouldn't give up my Compaq GS series hardware for anything. Not to mention Tru64 and TruCluster -- I swear Tru64 has the best man pages of any Unix - free or commercial. I often find myself going to the Tru64 pages for info on various standard syscalls.

    I don't think it's a wise move for HP -- I wish Compaq had known what they were buying when they bought Digital.
    • If alphas were so nice how come nobody bought them!

      Reason one. Loosey IO bandwith on alpha hardware. This made them useless for standard commercial processing or database work and confined them in the scientific number crunching niche at a time when research money was tight.

      Reason two. Loosey operating systems. ULTRIX was immature and buggy, VMS was VMS (some people love it, not sure why), and NT ......

      Reason three. It was a memory hog. With a "int" set to 64 bits as standard and each machine instruction taking up a lot of room (256 bits I think) you needed tons of real memory to run "Hello World", remember memory was expensive then.

      • by pesc ( 147035 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @05:15AM (#4825575)
        Loosey operating systems. ULTRIX was immature and buggy

        AFAIK, Alphas never ran Ultrix. They ran OSF/1 (later renamed Tru64). The first true 64-bit OS released 10 years ago which still beat newer attempts in good, clean 64-bit design (including, for example, HP-UX).

        VMS was VMS (some people love it, not sure why)
        They run it because of the reliability and clustering capabilities. Which VMS had 15 years ago and no UNIX yet has emulated...

        It was a memory hog. With a "int" set to 64 bits as standard
        No, an int was 32 bits. A long (and void*) were 64 bits, just as it SHOULD be.

        See LP64 [opengroup.org]

        and each machine instruction taking up a lot of room (256 bits I think)
        Have you ever used an Alpha? Each instruction is 32 bits long.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Memory bandwidth varied, depending on the model. There were some with decent bandwidth, if you paid for it. Just like if you pay for it with, say, Sun. The cheaper Alphas were pretty badly crippled with both a slow bus and small L2, though...

        Ultrix was also MIPS. And only MIPS. It ran on the DEC RISCStations, etc. but was never ported to the Alpha. Unix on the Alpha was OSF/1, Digital Unix or Tru64, depending on week, direction of wind, etc. And it's very different from the MACH-based Tru64/whatever-its-called-this-week.

        Ultrix itself was an odd mish-mash of SysV and BSD. It wasn't actually all that bad.

        As for VMS, people love it because it's rock-solid, very secure and has excellent documentation both online and in dead-tree format. It makes unix look like a toy OS in many respects, quite frankly. And I don't particularly like it - too bloody verbose - but I can certainly see why it's popular in certain circles.

        As for the instruction size, it was fixed at 32bits. A far cry from 256 bits. Int being 64bits makes sense on a 64bit processor. And it's not like you can't define your own types if it really bothers you...

        As for nobody buying them... um... there's a hell of a lot of them out there. I own one. I've used many. They were just another victim of the desktop PC getting powerful enough to handle work that until then had been the realm of very expensive workstations. So were SGI. So were Sun, to a lesser degree.

        Digital bet their shirt on 64bit computing being their big selling point, but only those who actually needed it were willing to pay the premiums. And very few need it.
      • Sorry, but people didn't buy Alphas for those reasons. They didn't buy Alphas because DEC couldn't sell the devil a glass of ice water.

        We still have a DEC Alpha 2100 here. Bought it in 1994. Aside from hardware maintenance, the thing never goes down. We've upgraded the hard drives and the memory, but otherwise, we've left it alone. It accomplishes the job we want it to do.

        OpenVMS is stable. You can't break it. When DEC built something, they built it to run pretty near forever. That may have been their problem: no built-in obsolescence.

        I'll say about the Alpha what I said a while back about Unix to a bunch of pseudo-geeks on a credit union list: If you've never used it, you wouldn't understand, and we can't explain it to you. If you want reliability, you use something that can do the job. Alphas and OpenVMS did the job.

        Of course, now maybe our data processing company will get off the stick and at least do some research about offering a Unix-based platform.

  • Are they going to produce one of their Unixes for Itanium or try to convice people to move to Windows? Some of us have to produce software that actually works (ie industrial and civil control software) and NT just ain't gonna cut it.


    Well, I guess we can all move to Linux or Solaris.

    • HP-UX already runs on Itanium, they sell IA-64 HPUX boxes.
    • Both Alpha and PA-RISC were fast and powerful - I thought that PA-RISC was quicker than a similarly spec'd Sun.

      Unfortunately it had a poor excuse for an mmap implementation which made it useless for a lot of multi-user server applications (Apache being an example that springs to mind).

      Hopefully HP will port HPUX to Itanium now, and we might have a Unix distro from HP that actually works.
  • My XL 300 (Score:3, Funny)

    by IcarusMoth ( 631872 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @04:16AM (#4825436)
    I'm going to go and have a nice cry with my XLT 300, after finally getting linux to run on it. I love my Alpha I got mine used from a company called Great lakes computing, I know they still sell them. I got mine for $750 like 5 years ago, and with Debian on it, It Rocks Hard!! Now If you must excuse me, I need to get some kleenex "OH Hal, I have some bad news"
  • Alpha and Linux (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Koos Baster ( 625091 ) <ghostbusters@NosPam.xs4all.nl> on Friday December 06, 2002 @04:38AM (#4825488)
    So, why do they favour Itanium over proven hardware like PA-RISC and Alpha? Simple: software. Alpha's epitaph was written the day Microsoft decided to stop NT development for Alpha's. Without commercial software, what's good hardware worth?

    My answer would be: A LOT! A few years ago I bought a (once expensive) 266MHz Alpha for about $300, without any software. It took a while to get Red Hat 6 running, but the machine really rocks! As most of us know, Linux per se does *not* require x86 hardware. I guess you could even go through the trouble of getting Wine to run Win32 binaries under Bochs, if performance is not your primary issue. However, in my daily usage I hardly ever need anything outside Linux. In those cases - when someone sends me a Word document - I use and old Toshiba laptop, running Mandrake.

    So why is x86 hardware the de facto standard Linux hardware? Good: price/performance ratio. Why is x86 relatively cheap? Large sales volumes. Why so? Windows won't run on anything else. Why do people buy Windows? Because everyone does.

    It's just the everlasting circle that won't be broken anytime soon. Not by better hardware (Alpha, PowerPC, MIPS, StrongARM) and not by better software (Linux, BSDs other Unices). It's so depressing...

    --
    Programming is like sex... make one mistake, and support it the rest of your life
    • by Chaset ( 552418 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @05:38AM (#4825613) Homepage Journal
      Depressing is right. Can you imagine what kind of chips we'd be seeing if Intel's ungodly amount of financial and engineering resources were being poured into something like the Alpha rather than kludging and hacking the x86 generation after generation?

      It is one of my peeves that CPU architectural superiority means little in a world where x86 is the "default", and the negative feedback loop (Intel is cheap -> people buy it -> Intel is cheaper) seems to have no end in sight.

      That and the fact that Intel can use its x86 cash cow to keep funding the Itanium whether or not it has any real merit. Not saying that it doesn't (EPIC IS a cool idea), but in a level playing field, do you think they can get away with just throwing so many transistors at the problem?

      As various promising architectures die off (Alpha, PA-RISC, who's next? POWER?), in the end, was the computing community better served by the dominance of one architecture designed for the lowest common denominator? It's all speculation, sure, but I think not.
    • I have Mips, Alpha, and Sparc hardware being extemely useful. These platforms are so much better than intel hardware it's not even funny.

      Get 'em while the're cheap, kids!

    • Re:Alpha and Linux (Score:3, Informative)

      by captaineo ( 87164 )
      Don't forget Digital's groundbreaking FX32 emulation software. FX32 allowed you to run x86 Windows software on Alpha NT. The cool part was that after running for a while in slow software emulation, FX32 went back through the x86 code and translated the hotspots into native Alpha code. It was not unusual for translated x86 applications to run faster under FX32 than they did on contemporary x86 machines!

      (FX32 was a major help for the visual effects industry, where Alphas were really popular at one point - 3D apps like Lightwave were available in native Alpha versions, but all the support tools, like Photoshop, were not...)
  • by turgid ( 580780 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @04:39AM (#4825491) Journal
    HP will live to regret this. They're retiring a mature, stable, established and best-of-breed architecture (Alpha) for an unproven, late, incompatible, expensive, clumsy one (itanium). Their competitors must be laughing all the way to the bank. Just what is HP doing? Why do large corporations make such crazy decisions?
    • They're retiring a mature, stable, established and best-of-breed architecture (Alpha)

      That nobody uses or cares about...

      for an unproven, late, incompatible, expensive, clumsy one (itanium).

      Late? yes.

      Incompatible? With what? IBM 360s?

      Expensive? Not any more than the alpha when it came out.

      Clumsy? On the contrary, the Itanium design is top notch.
  • Epidemics (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ektanoor ( 9949 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @05:37AM (#4825610) Journal
    It seems that HP caught compaqague. A terrible and deadly virus that destroys all the brain zones related to innovation, risk, calculation and self-estimation. Earlier we saw several companies being caught by this epidemics, the most notable, DEC, where the virus spread with such furor that in a question of months a once well-known company turned into another department in the corner of the company.

    The fact that HP dropped a lot of its support for open source, closed the production of the Alpha architecture and seems to scale down other important sectors are a clear show that the desease got deeply into the corporation ranks. Soon we probably will see turning from blue to red and naming itself Compaq.
  • A shame (Score:3, Funny)

    by bryan1945 ( 301828 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @05:39AM (#4825616) Journal
    the Beta never got released...
  • by xirtam_work ( 560625 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @05:53AM (#4825642)
    Now is the time for HP to show that it's not just going to waste all the time and effort everyone put into the Alpha.

    The now have the opporunitity to publish all information regarding the Alpha to the community so that anyone who wants to can continue to provide support. Or, if anyone wanted to, produce their own Alpha based chips.

    By allowing the continued use of the Alpha they could extend the life of these systems instead of killing them off in favour of newer systems. I know that they probably will not want to, but hey, it's a nice guesture to make.

    I seem to recall something about "open" processors before, such as an open sparc or something, so this wouldn't be the first time it was done, just the first time that a big corporation allowed it to be done with their 'redundant' interlectual property. I also think that this would be good for preservation purposes and to have more information about micro-processors of our era for future generations. Just look at the mess that NASA have been in before when older components obsolete.

  • CPU clock speed... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 06, 2002 @05:55AM (#4825644)
    What does a 533 MHz Alpha have to do with a 200 MHz Pentium? You are comparing clock speed of totally different architectures. What one can do in one clock step can be much more (or much less) than what the other can. I'm not saying that Pentium are, or where, faster than Alphas. I've heard that they were really good but, you can't compare CPU performance just by comparing the clock speed. Actually I have a couple of questions. The Alphas are RISC CPUs so, what clock speed do they have to run at to top the Pentium at 3GHz? Will it "fry" the computer?
    • It's ironic that you mention this, but if you look at SPEC scores, the 500 and 533 Mhz Alpha chips have the highest SPEC/Mhz ration of any CPU for which results have been submitted to SPEC.

      Look at the archived results on the SPEC website [spec.org]. (You'll have to do the arithmetic yourself, they only provide scores, not scores/Mhz.)

  • by ites ( 600337 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @07:27AM (#4825875) Journal
    The Alpha was never a Windows machine, obvious from the start. We did several projects on NT/Alpha and the sheer difficulty of getting software for the CPU meant it could never compete with Intel. In the Unix market, the combination of Alpha/Digital Unix was very reliable, and we still support some customers who use this, but frankly we can run the same applications on Linux/Intel and it's unclear what advantages the Alpha boxes give. Lastly, the Alpha/OpenVMS combination gave the best results, because OpenVMS is a really solid OS that makes excellent use of the Alpha. We also support a customer (a large tour operator) who uses this configuration: Alpha/OpenVMS/RDB/ACMS.

    DEC's strength was always engineering, not marketing, but they were killed by the commoditization of IT due to the twin forces of IT marketing giants (Compaq, Microsoft, Oracle) and open software (mainly Linux). It's clear today that any advantages the Alpha and/or OpenVMS give are completely wiped out by the cheapness of mass produced solutions.

    HP is not taking a big risk betting on Itanium because the CPU is almost entirely irrelevant in today's market. My notebook runs 2-3 times faster than the front-end Alpha's used by our tour operator client, and it's only the lack of decent software such as the multithreading ACMS clients we wrote (able to handle 500+ terminals on a modest Alpha) that prevents us using Linux instead, on whatever box happens to be lying around. (And yes, we'll do a port of ACMS and the multithreaded clients so that our client can switch away from his Alpha/OpenVMS clusters).

    Anyhow, the demise of Digital and all their technology was clear from the day Dave Custer and his team went to work for Microsoft on NT.

  • What if they had... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sig ( 9968 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @09:07AM (#4826247) Homepage
    It kind of makes you wonder what would have happened if DEC had accepted Apple's offer to base PowerMacs on the alpha. Back when Apple was getting ready to leave the venerable M68040 series of chips, it approached DEC and said it wanted to make a deal with them to produce alphas for Macs. The CEO of DEC said no, because he wanted to focus the companies efforts on extending the life of VAX/VMS for one more generation, and getting involved with Apple would be a distraction. Of course, he was fired shortly there after for being a knucklehead, but by then it was too late. Apple had teamed up with Motorola and IBM to develop the PowerPC architecture. Still, you gotta wonder what would have happened if he had had a clue and played with Apple.
  • My Alpha (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LighthouseJ ( 453757 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @09:08AM (#4826252)
    I'm glad I got my Alpha when I had the chance, a 21066 chip on a Digital AXPpci 33 motherboard. Sure, it's not one of the fastest ones out there, but I paid $150 for it and it works fine with RH 6.something.

    One of these days, I want to snatch up one of several Alpha's on eBay and they have some really nice ones for not much money at all.

    For example at this auction [ebay.com], with 5 hours left (at the time I'm writing this) you can get a dual 533MHz Alpha with everything you need for $520, install an OS and you're ready to go. I'd only want to exchange the 6 4.3GB drives for bigger capacities.
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @09:26AM (#4826337) Homepage Journal
    Didn't Compaq say they were going to stop Alpha production something like 5 years ago? I seem to recall some other company (Not AMD -- Samsung maybe?) licensing the archetecture. Maybe HP will have more luck killing it off...

    It's a pity DEC was even worse at marketing than IBM is. My assembly language book from college talks about how DEC introduced their 16 bit machine in 1976 and how a 32 bit machine may be created one day in the near future but that they'd be prohibitively expensive and never gain widespread popularity due to the price. DEC was comfortably ahead of everyone else for high performance mini-and-desktop computing, and they blew it. Their software always stuck me as very well thought out and easy to work with. There was only one problem -- all the managers were buying IBM. Oh well...

  • HP (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Quill_28 ( 553921 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @09:52AM (#4826494) Journal
    Quote from former HP employee I know:

    "HP will be a printer company in two years"

  • by Hiroto. S ( 631919 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @10:03AM (#4826555) Journal
    I think it was back in 1992, I was working for a company called Applicon (or Schlumberger CAD/CAM division) and we were major reseller of Digital hardware with our CAD/CAM software. Due to that relashonship, we had early access to Alpha platform and I did trial porting of our 3D graphics library to the platform.

    I mean it was really early. The environment was that we cross compiled/linked the image on a VAX, copy the image to dual mounted disk, dismount the disk, boot Alpha and mount the disk and run the image. No debugger. When the image crashed, I got register dump. Not even stack trace. Network to the box was Digital's LAT (Local Area Transport), so I used Xlib over that transport.

    I think I spend a couple weeks there. In 2nd week, we got debugger, version X.0001 or something. When I finally got our library to start running some simple rendering test, the picture didn't look right. A squre cube looked very distorted. Run a quick test of trigonometry functions. Hmmm, sin() returning value bigger than 1.0 didn't look right. Was told that I was a first one to excersize floating point on their chip. It was fixed shortly and we got nice pictures drawn.

    I was told that we were the first external customer to run code on Alpha. And of course, we were doing all that work on the only ture operating systerm on Alpha: VMS [compaq.com] :-)

    Another interesting but far less practical project I got involved later was to try out Digital's binary translator which translated DECstation (MIPS) Ultrix's binary image into Digital Unix (or was it still OSF/1) Alpha binary image. It was pretty impressive. It took our image, which was more than 40M on Ultrix (about 6million lines of PL/I, C and Fortran), and created image more than 80M of size. It was still maintaining whole MIPS image inside it because it has to interpret the MIPS binary in some complicated situation. I think it was for something like exception handling which our PL/I code heavily used. After they fixed the last problem regarding this exception handling, the translated image actually passed through our basic regression test suite. I was not involved but there was also VAX/VMS to Alpha/VMS binary translator, which we played with too. If I remember correctly, some VMS softwares on early Alpha/VMS were actually binary translated images. We never shipped anything using those translators (it is pretty much impossible to debug the translated image), but it was a interesting excersize.

    Hiroto

  • by swordgeek ( 112599 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @10:53AM (#4826904) Journal
    This is only to be expected, and I was actually expecting it to be announced about six months ago.

    Carly Fiorina has made it clear that HP is no longer a technology company, but a sales company. They are no longer willing to take risks, they are no longer willing to develop new ideas and different architectures, and very ironcally, they are no longer willing to invent. If you need proof, just look at their nearly-dead calculator division.

    The Alpha is dead. RPN is nearly dead. The spirits of Hewlett and Packard are dead, and Carly is going to make a very successful printer sales company by killing them. Unfortunately.
  • by Indy1 ( 99447 ) <spamtrap@fuckedregime.com> on Friday December 06, 2002 @04:20PM (#4828580) Homepage
    Old HP - "Invent."

    New HP - "Merge, layoff, go out of business."

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