This is a Retrochallenge document describing one of my systems. Readership is public.

Image of Alpha Powered logo

In the 1990s Digital had developed the Alpha 64-bit CPU and VMS was ported to run on it (There's a big story there, but it isn't mine to tell). Microsoft developed Windows NT to support multiple CPU architectures, one of which was Alpha. For a while, the future looked promising. The horrible Intel X86 architecture could be consigned to the past, I thought, we'll all migrate to 64-bit systems very soon I thought…

Windows NT was developed as what I thought could become a "proper operating system" with the help of ex-Digital engineers, so in 1995 I obtained an AXP-150 PC (RELICS) and in 1998 I replaced it with an Alpha PC 164SX machine which I called ECHOES. This was a low end machine and I now wish I'd spent more and got an LX, which would run VMS too.


But the machine was fast enough by the standards of the time and I used it for image processing using an Alpha native program called Satori FilmFX 64. In those days, Adobe hadn't achieved the dominance it now has and in any case they had signalled that they would not be porting their software to Alpha. I just thought they were being short-sighted… In any case, I greatly preferred the architecture of Satori's software.

Satori has a Wikipedia entry and I was surprised to see that the web site still exists, with the domain registered until 2017. But you can soon see that there isn't any recent activity here.


To help people migrate to Alpha, a facility called FX!32 could run Intel architecture binaries. The system would profile the running application and translate the heavily used parts to native Alpha code so that, over time, the performance of the applications would steadily improve.

See the FX!32 Wikipedia entry for a bit more detail than I've given here.

Configuration and booting

In these days, my internet connectivity was via a serial connection to a modem, for which I had a second landline. ECHOES became my "bastion host". Not having NAT or a firewall I saw quite a bit of incoming malicious traffic but it never got very far. I did turn off NETBIOS over TCP/IP and ECHOES has stayed in that configuration to this day, so only another machine running NETBEUI can see its shares.

ECHOES's mass storage is on SCSI busses. There's one for the low speed devices such as a CD reader and another faster one for the main disks. I used to have the SCSI expansion cabinet attached to this machine, but that's now served by AMUSED.

Here's some of the the boot sequence of this machine (Click the image for the sequence):

Image of ECHOES boot screen

Early in the boot sequence
Alpha BIOS
System selection
NT 4.0 Build 1381
Login prompt
NT 4.0 desktop
FX!32 manager

Yes, 128MB, 533MHz. Yes, I used to use Visio for diagrams. I quite liked Visio.

I used to do some Psion software development on this machine and it ran the vintage 16-bit software quite fast under NTVDM. On an Alpha, NTVDM is implemented as a full emulation. I had occasion to use ECHOES recently to check on that configuration and thought I'd make this record of what it looks like.


This document is maintained by Pute. Comments should be addressed to PNJ at XQWV dot ORG dot UK.
  1. PNJ, 2016-01-28. Started.
  2. PNJ, 2016-01-29. Added more detail about Satori. Made some topic headings. Made minor changes to wording. Added some external references in the text.
  3. PNJ, 2016-01-31. Note that NTVDM is full emulation on an Alpha.

Any text you see at this point onwards is the result of the style sheet used by this document being inaccessible or corrupt. The document content above is usable but probably renders less elegantly than the author intended.