Alpha Microsystems

Alpha Microsystems

Alpha Microsystems is a computer company founded in 1977 by Dick Wilcox and Bob Hitchcock. The first Alpha Micro computer was the S-100 AM-100, based upon the WD16 microprocessor chipset from Western Digital. Later computers starting with the AM-100/L and the AM-1000 were based on the Motorola 68000 and succeeding processors, though Alpha Micro swapped several addressing lines to create byte-ordering compatibility with their earlier processor.

The company's primary claim to fame is selling inexpensive minicomputers that provided multi-user power using a proprietary operating system called AMOS (Alpha Micro Operating System). The operating system had major similarities to the operating system of the DEC PDP-11. This may not be coincidental; legend has it that the founders based their operating system on "borrowed" source code from DEC, and DEC, perceiving the same, unsuccessfully tried to sue Alpha Micro over the similarities in 1984.ref|AMUS1

As Motorola stopped developing their 68000 product, Alpha Micro started to move to the x86 CPU family, used in common PCs. This was initially done with the Falcon cards, allowing standard DOS and later Windows-based PCs to run AMOS applications on the 68000-series CPU on the Falcon card. The work done on AMPC became the foundation for AMOS 8.x, which runs natively on x86, but includes a 68K emulator to run older software in a method similar to the Power Macintosh.

For application development, AMOS used a proprietary BASIC-like language called AlphaBASIC (though several other languages were available). Older versions interpreted a tokenized executable file. Later versions translate the tokenized executable into x86 code for performance.

In the past, Alpha Micro bundled their operating system and tools such as BASIC and their ISAM implementation as part of the hardware sale, also providing patches and OS upgrades for free or at minimal cost. Gradually, Alpha Micro has transitioned to charging for their software as hardware becomes more of a commodity item.

Alpha Microsystems also offers tools that allow traditional multi-user systems, like AMOS and others such as UNIX, Linux, HP and large IBM mainframes, to take advantage of the Microsoft .NET and its graphical user interface.

The Alpha Micro computer has never achieved mainstream name recognition, though it has been traditionally popular in certain vertical markets, particularly medical offices and dental offices.


# Moore, Steve (6/1984). "Here come the clones." "AMUS.LOG", p67.

External links

* [ Alpha Microsystems website]
* [ Alpha Microsystems Document Archive]
* [ Marcus Bennett's AM Documentation Store]
* An [ emulator] for the WD16 based system is available.
* [ The Alpha Micro Phun Machine] , running on an AMOS-based Eagle 300 system.

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