Alpha 164SX ("164SX" )
Click here for more pictures.
||DEC ALPHA "PCA56" 21164PC
|CACHE (2nd, 1st D/I)
||1 MB, 8 KB / 16 KB
||1 GB, 4 x 256 MB standard non-ECC PC133
DIMMs (PC100 required, total RAM max.
512 MB according to the manual, it might, however, support more
RAM using larger size PC100 or PC133 DIMMs)
|SYSTEM BUS WIDTH
||1 x SCSI-3 Wide (40 MB/s) SYM53C875 chip
|2 x EIDE (16.6 MB/s)
||32 bit PCI, 64 bit PCI and 16 bit ISA
II MGA-2164W chip, PCI, 8 MB Video RAM, 1600x1200 @70Hz max.
resolution for 24-plane
|HARD DISK DRIVE
||9.1 GB 10K RPM Western Digital U2W SCSI
||NEC IDE 24x (not in the pic above)
||10/100 Mbps TP 3COM 3C905B-TX PCI card
| Soundblaster AWE 64 ISA
||Windows NT 4.0 SP6a for ALPHA
Windows 2000 RC2 for ALPHA
||509 VAX MIPS
|POWER CONSUMPTION (MAX. / MEASURED)
|250 / 114 W
||Both *NIX and Windows run well on this
machine. No problems. I also tried to boot OpenVMS, it would fail, and
later I was informed that the 164SX mobo is
not OpenVMS compatible.
|ESTIMATED PRICE '97
History and other
I bought this machine's motherboard on Ebay in 2001. The 21164PC CPU
was very hard to find since it is a bit more rare than the ordinary
21164. I finally found a computer store (in Naarden, the Netherlands)
that had those in stock. Both these parts were new and unused. The
other parts were gathered from different places, I have used mostly
second hand PC parts. It was a bit
hard to identify which hardware to choose, so the machine would work
Tru64. Later I switched over to Linux on this machine because I got a
real AlphaStation 500 to run Tru64 on.
This sytem will support only one firmware ROM
image at a time, either SRM or AlphaBIOS. You'll have to flash
firmware again if you need to switch consoles. But, in the summer
of 2003, I discovered that it is in fact possible to do "live" dual
booting; just set the system on emergency floppy boot (flip
one of the dip-switches on the mobo). Then you can have two floppies,
one containing SRM and the other AlphaBIOS. Simply copy the ROM image
fwupdate.exe on the DOS formatted floppy. It's
not hassle-free but it seems to work.
In May 2006 I decided to install NT on this computer (again). The 164SX
was built to run Alpha-Windows so I think, from a historical
perspective, that is the correct usage. It performs like a Pentium II
running NT, however there aren't that many native
applications available for the Alpha/NT platform. There is a program
called FX!32 which makes it possible to run normal (but older) Windows
applications on Alpha/NT. The setup is somewhat similar to running
Rosetta on Mac OS X for Intel processors. Running an Intel binary on
top of FX!32 will of course be quite
slow, compared to running it on a normal Wintel box.
In September 2008 I got some Kingston DIMMs, so I decided to try them
in the 164SX. These are normal peecee PC133 DIMMs, 4 x 256 MB which as
expected sum up as 1 GB for the use with NT. Despite the notes in the
164SX official manual, that only 32 - 512 MB memory configurations are
supported, it seems to work normally with the larger size DIMMs. With
this amount of RAM NT 4.0 runs very smoothly.
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