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First ever 64-bit model of Home windows rediscovered • The Register

First ever 64-bit model of Home windows rediscovered • The Register

2023-05-19 05:35:34

A 64-bit check construct of Home windows 2000 Skilled for the DEC Alpha processor has been rediscovered – shortly after the invention of a C compiler that might generate binaries for it.

Earlier this month, intrepid code archaeologists rediscovered a C compiler, based mostly on DEC’s C compiler for Alpha from the Nineties, that might generate 64-bit “Win64” binaries for 64-bit Home windows on Alpha. Though this was an fascinating discover, it was only a curiosity, as a result of there was no identified 64-bit Alpha model of Home windows on the market in folks’s palms. Any individual someplace had their reminiscence jogged by this, and now that working system has turned up.

That is fascinating as a result of it pushes the historical past of 64-bit Home windows again a few years, and it is a product that, as The Reg reported approach again in 1999, Microsoft denied would ever exist.

The construct’s existence has been identified about for years, particularly ever since celebrated Microsoft blogger Raymond “Old New Thing” Chen mentioned it in TechNet journal in 2016. The enjoyable half is {that a} copy has been found, shared on-line, and even put in and, by way of some impressed hackery, bought working simply this week.

The primary desktop model of Home windows to formally assist 64-bit processors out of the field was Home windows Vista in 2006. Nonetheless, for those who had been actually eager, it was doable to acquire Home windows XP Skilled X64 Version – in actual fact, based mostly on the Home windows Server 2003 codebase slightly than XP per se – someday earlier.

These, although, had been geared toward 64-bit x86 computer systems. Earlier than AMD’s Sledgehammer vary of processors, announced in 2000 and on sale in 2003, the one official 64-bit Home windows had been server variations for Intel’s ill-fated Itanium processor household, which The Register was already referring to as Itanic again in 1999. A preview 64-bit version of Home windows 2000 Server for Itanium was launched to Technet subscribers in 2001. All the opposite non-Intel variations of Home windows 2000 had been discontinued earlier than the product was launched, though 32-bit beta variations working on Alpha, MIPS, and PowerPC had been noticed within the wild. At launch, Home windows 2000 was x86-32 solely.

The brand new discovery reveals that there was already a 64-bit model of Home windows – and a desktop version, at that – over a 12 months earlier than even preview builds had been formally, publicly launched, which implies that there is a goal for the newly uncovered compiler.

No, this is not of any specific use to anybody in 2023, however it’s fascinating all the identical. Provided that the Alpha CPU shipped approach again in 1992, and NT shipped with a 32-bit Alpha model the next 12 months, it is of notice that it took so lengthy – approaching a decade – for Win64 to turn into obtainable even in check variations.

If this has made you surprise no matter turned of Alpha, one eventual fallout of the 1998 Compaq/DEC acquisition, adopted by the 2001 HP/Compaq acquisition, is that Intel ended up owning Alpha.

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Clearly, the primary pure 64-bit RISC chip could not be allowed to compete with both x86 or Itanium. Nothing else may, which maybe explains why Intel flogged its Arm line to Marvell in 2006. ®


All proper, sure, we all know: if you are going to be pedantic, Home windows 11 and every part earlier than it are Home windows NT underneath the hood. “Home windows 2000” was simply the branding that the Microsoft advertising and marketing division got here up with. Should you sort ver on the command immediate, Home windows 2000 identifies itself as Model 5.0. The Reg FOSS desk cynically suspects that the Home windows 2000 moniker was deliberately chosen for its similarity to the unloved DOS-based Home windows Millennium Version in order that prospects would confuse them and purchase the product geared toward lower-end programs.

And sure, we additionally know that Home windows NT supported the Alpha chip from the very first model, NT 3.1, approach again in 1993. Nonetheless, all releases of Home windows NT, from NT 3.1 to Home windows 2000 at launch, had been 32-bit, so the Alpha model of NT was by no means in a position to make use of the 64-bit Alpha chip to its full potential.

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