This project took me years to complete. It started in 98 when I saw this article: […]
This project took me years to complete. It started in 98 when I saw this article:
I instantly felt the urge to have an Alpha. Unfortunately, due to budget constraints I've ended up with a Pentium III in late 2000. But the strong feeling never left me. I've tried it for the first time in 2006. Unfortunately the board never allowed me to install NT - it failed during the file copy setup phase. Maybe because I've used the onboard IDE (Intel SIO) instead of using a SCSI HDD, maybe because it was damaged, I'll never find out because the board died some time after this - it would only boot the AlphaBIOS image via floppy and even then it failed with bugchecks most of the time.
I've bought a complete AlphaPC in 2008, with a SCSI controller and SCSI drive. I've installed NT and begun to experiment with graphics options. Unfortunately, I've learned the hard way that one should not change hardware on an ATX board without unplugging the power cord and one day it wouldn't start anymore after I've changed something. But what doesn't brake you makes you stronger and in 2009 I've bought 3 164LX boards to make sure I don't run out of them. The PC I present you today uses still the first one 😉
So, what's inside?
-Alpha 21164 533 MHz
-4x256 MB ECC RAM
-Symbios Logic C810 PCI SCSI Adapter
-9 GB Seagate ST39216N
-Plextor PX-40TS SCSI CD-ROM and TEAC (flashed to a Pioneer) IDE DVD
-Creative AWE64 Gold
It happily runs Windows NT but it's hard to find native software. I managed to get a copy of Excel 97 and Word 97 for Alpha, Visual C++ 6.0 for Alpha and even Corel Office for Alpha. There's also some shareware like WinAMP.
But the most important thing is of course Quake II. id released a native Alpha executable (official, but unsupported), probably the only commercial game released for AlphaNT ever. Quake II was the Alpha thing I've devoted most of my time. To be precise, finding the fastest 3D card for this board. I've started with a Permedia 2 which is one of the best options. I works both with NT and Linux. It maxed out at 13.7 FPS which is not great. I've tried a ELSA GLoria XL (3Dlabs Glint MX + Glint Delta), but its performance was worse - 11.6 FPS. Then I've tried a PowerStorm 4D60T (a rebadged Wildcat RealiZm I V25), it run Quake II at something like 14-15 FPS, but the guy wouldn't sell it, just lent me it. I've finally used a PowerStorm 4D51T (rebadged Intense3D PRO 2200) but it still would give me just 13.5 FPS. But I was still looking for more. I found a PowerStorm 300/350 (rebadged E&S REALimage 2100) AlphaNT driver, but the cards were prohibitively expensive. Until last month our friend Vlask received his. After exchanging some PMs I've traded my Wildcat 5000 for his PowerStorm 300. Last week I could finally check it. And the result... whooping 30.9 FPS. It's finally playable. It's gorgeous. I know the PowerStorm 350 exists, but its fill rate is same as PowerStorm 300's, just more RAM (32 MB instead of 16 MB) - it shouldn't matter for Quake II. I finally found peace 😉
Some photos: box-front.jpgbox-back.jpgalpha-bios.jpgmess.jpg