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600-MHz Alpha chip shipped

Digital ships its 600-MHz processor and will supply all the necessary building blocks to make computers based on this chip.

Digital Equipment(DEC) has begun shipments of a 600-MHz Alpha processor and will supply all the necessary building blocks to make computers based on this chip.

Digital's 21164 600-MHz Alpha processor, the fastest on the market, is now shipping in limited quantities, the company said. The chip is targeted at high-end workstation and server computers.

Digital is also providing the necessary hardware to build superfast 600-MHz systems based on a new motherboard. A motherboard is the main circuit board in a computer and holds most of the core electronics.

The AlphaPC 164LX motherboard allows vendors to build Windows NT systems that can use standard industry hardware found on systems based on Intel processors. This includes high-speed "synchronous" DRAM memory and PCI add-in cards.

Almost all Intel-based computers use a PCI "bus" architecture. A bus is a conduit for transfering data in a computer.

The new board accommodates Alpha 21164 processors operating at speeds from 400 MHz to 600 MHz and level-3 cache memory. The motherboards will be available this summer.

Applications available on the Digital Alpha architecture include those for computer-aided design, financial analysis, and Internet servers.

Personal workstations from Digital based on the Alpha 21164 600-MHz processor are also planned for delivery "in the near future," the company said.

The chip delivers estimated performance ratings of 18 and 27, based on the widely-used SPECint95 and SPECfp95 standards, respectively. The first rating is often used as a benchmark for business uses, while the latter is used for scientific and engineering applications.

By comparison, the 200-MHz Pentium Pro, currently Intel's fastest processor, has ratings of 8.09 and a 6.70, respectively.