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AlphaServer ES40 Emulation

Emulating an AlphaServer ES40 for running Tru64 UNIX or OpenVMS

This article was originally written for CentOS. Building ES40 on OpenBSD requires some extra work; I'll port it soon and update this page in the near future. -- 31-OCT-2018

The ES40 Emulator is a portable AlphaServer ES40 emulator. In many ways it is not unlike the Bochs IA-32 emulator in that it is portable, and provides VGA support through a VGA BIOS and the use of SDL, X11 or Win32 API calls.

As well as emulating a DEC Alpha AXP EV68CB CPU, the ES40 Emulator also recreated the Typhoon Chipset, the Ali M1543C and additional devices that a functioning ES40 system would require.

We are going to build and configure ES40 on a UNIX-like system without X11 or SDL support as we will be treating it as a virtual server and ES40 doesn't support running DECWindows yet anyway (but feel free to configure DECWindows with XDM or X11 Forwarding later).


As per the instructions for building ES40, you will need to make sure the following are available:


Make sure libpcap, OpenSSL/LibreSSL and their respective development files are installed on your system.

First we need to install poco; if it is not available from your system package manager, compile from source:

[[email protected] ~]$ mkdir ES40 && cd ES40
[[email protected] ES40]$ wget poco-1.3.3p1.tar.gz
[[email protected] ES40]$ tar zxvf poco-1.3.3p1.tar.gz
[[email protected] ES40]$ cd poco-1.3.3p1
[[email protected] ES40]$ ./configure --omit=Data/ODBC,Data/MySQL
[[email protected] ES40]$ make
[[email protected] ES40]$ sudo make install

Create a new directory within ES40 called "es40-source" (or whatever you like) and place into this directory. Unzip the archive, then we will edit the Makefile to remove any debugging flags and GUI options (as we are going for a headless 'production' server).

[[email protected] ES40]$ mkdir es40-source
[[email protected] ES40]$ unzip -d es40-source/ && cd es40-source
[[email protected] es40-source]$ vi Makefile

Navigate down to the CTUNINGFLAGS section and replace 'generic' with your target CPU (this is optional)

# CTUNINGFLAGS - tuning options for the compiler
# Samples for g++ on x86:
#  -O3   -- optimize at level 3
#  -mtune=   -- cpu is one of:  generic, core2, athlon64, pentium4, etc
CTUNINGFLAGS = -O3 -mtune=generic

By default, ES40 will compile with "-g -DHIDE_COUNTER -DDEBUG_BACKTRACE" there are many other options which are listed below, but to help improve performance I will remove all debug flags. You may include any you like, but this is being set up as if it was a production-testing server.

# CDEBUGFLAGS - turn on debugging in ES40
# Supported flags:
#   -g                          Include information for gdb
#   -DHIDE_COUNTER          Do not show the cycle counter
#   -DDEBUG_VGA             Turn on VGA Debugging
#   -DDEBUG_SERIAL          Turn on Serial Debugging
#   -DDEBUG_IDE             Turn on all IDE Debugging.
#   -DDEBUG_IDE_   Turn on specific IDE debugging.  Options are:
#                               BUSMASTER, COMMAND, DMA, INTERRUPT, REG_COMMAND,
#                               REG_CONTROL, PACKET
#   -DDEBUG_UNKMEM          Turn on unknown memory access debugging
#   -DDEBUG_PCI             Turn on PCI Debugging
#   -DDEBUG_TB              Turn on Translation Buffer debugging
#   -DDEBUG_PORTACCESS  Turn on i/o port access debugging
#   -DDEBUG_SCSI            Turn on SCSI debugging
#   -DDEBUG_KBD             Turn on keyboard debugging
#   -DDEBUG_PIC             Turn on Programmable Interrupt Controller debugging
#   -DDEBUG_LPT         Turn on debugging for LPT Port
#   -DDEBUG_USB         Turn on debugging for USB controller
#   -DDEBUG_SYM         Turn on debugging for Sym53C810 controller
#   -DDEBUG_DMA         Turn on debugging for DMA controller
#   -DDEBUG_BACKTRACE   Turn on backtrace dump on SIGSEGV

I will comment out the flags at the CDEBUGFLAGS line.


Next we will remove support for SDL and X11 as we will use a virtual serial console connection over telnet.

# ES40 Options
# -DHAVE_SDL            Use the SDL Library for GUI
# -DHAVE_X11            Use X11 for GUI
# -DHAVE_PCAP           Use Networking via PCAP
# -DHAVE_NEW_FP     Use the new floating-point code (with traps,
#                   ut unfortunately, also with bugs)

Make the "OPTIONS" section look like the following:


Finally save the file and exit. Type 'make' to begin compilation.

[[email protected] es40-source]$ make

ES40 will now compile, don't worry about the warnings. Once it's complete, we will move the binary and default configuration file to a new directory:

[[email protected] es40-source]$ mkdir ../es40
[[email protected] es40-source]$ cp es40{,.cfg} ../es40/
[[email protected] es40-source]$ cd ../es40

We need to create 2 directories within here, one will store any disk images and ISOs - the other will contain our ES40 firmware and VGA bios binaries. We will also rename es40.cfg and create a new one from scratch. The default configuration appears to have been written on a Windows system as defined paths use backslashes. It will save you some time to use my config here, but you should read over the original so you are aware of all of the available options.

[[email protected] es40]$ mkdir img rom
[[email protected] es40]$ cd rom
[[email protected] rom]$ wget
[[email protected] rom]$ ### wget
[[email protected] rom]$ ### unzip cl67srmrom.exe
[[email protected] rom]$ wget

We now have the firmware and BIOS images available to us. Although we don't need the VGA BIOS, it's nice to have it there incase you decide to use it in the future. Now would be a good time to prepare your media. I already had ISO images of OpenVMS and Tru64 ready - you may also create images of your installation media by using 'dd'. Copy your ISO image(s) into the 'img' directory, then we can get started.

[[email protected] rom]$ cd ..
[[email protected] img]$ mv /root/OpenVMS.Alpha.8.3.iso img/
[[email protected] img]$ mv es40.cfg es40.cfg.bak

Using your favourite line/text editor, re-create es40.cfg and we will configure the emulator.

// We don't need this, included for reference.
// gui = sdl/X11/win32
// gui = X11
// {
//   keyboard.use_mapping = false;
// = "";
// }

sys0 = tsunami
    rom.srm = "rom/cl67srmrom.exe";
    rom.decompressed = "rom/decompressed.rom";
    // rom.flash = "rom/flash.rom";
    // rom.dpr = "rom/dpr.rom";

// Memory allocation:
// 26 = 64 MB
// 27 = 128MB
// 28 = 256 MB
// 29 = 512 MB
// 30 = 1GB
// 31 = 2GB

    memory.bits = 28;

 cpu0 = ev68cb
        // onchip-cache
        icache = false;

// System Internal PCI Devices: ali, ali_ide, ali_usb
pci0.7 = ali{
    // These aren't really required for our set-up.
    mouse.enabled = true;
    lpt.outfile = "lpt.out";
    vga_console = true;

pci0.15 = ali_ide
    disk0.0 = file
        file =          "img/disk0.img";
        serial_number = "VMS";
        rev_number    = "8.3";
        model_number  = "OpenVMS8.3";
        read_only     = false;
        cdrom         = false;
        autocreate_size = 1000M;

    disk1.0 = file
      file          = "img/OpenVMS.Alpha.8.3.iso";
      read_only     = true;
      cdrom         = true;


  pci0.19 = ali_usb {}

  pci0.4 = dec21143 {
    adapter = "eth0" // Change to your ethernet device

  serial0 = serial {
    port = 21264;

This is a good, simple configuration for your first Emulated ES40 system. You may increase "autocreate_size" to your liking as well as add, remove or modify any other options (refer to the documentation and the original config file). We are now ready to launch the emulator.

Starting the Emulator

[[email protected] es40]$ sudo ./es40 

   ||                             ES40  emulator                           ||
   ||                              Version 0.18                            ||
   ||                                                                      ||
   ||  Copyright (C) 2007-2008 by the ES40 Emulator Project                ||
   ||  Website:                       ||
   ||  E-mail : [email protected]                                         ||
   ||                                                                      ||
   ||  This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or       ||
   ||  modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License         ||
   ||  as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2      ||
   ||  of the License, or (at your option) any later version.              ||

sys0(tsunami): $Id: System.cpp,v 1.68 2008/03/04 19:05:21 iamcamiel Exp $
sys0(tsunami): $Id: DPR.cpp,v 1.16 2008/02/29 10:23:09 iamcamiel Exp $
sys0(tsunami): $Id: Flash.cpp,v 1.15 2007/12/30 15:10:22 iamcamiel Exp $
cpu0(ev68cb): $Id: AlphaCPU.cpp,v 1.71 2008/03/04 19:05:21 iamcamiel Exp $
pci0.7(ali): $Id: AliM1543C.cpp,v 1.60 2008/02/27 12:04:19 iamcamiel Exp $
kbc: $Id: Keyboard.cpp,v 1.4 2008/02/29 10:23:09 iamcamiel Exp $
dma: $Id: DMA.cpp,v 1.2 2008/02/26 15:43:47 iamcamiel Exp $
%IDE-I-INIT: New IDE emulator initialized.
pci0.15(ali_ide).disk0.0(file): Could not open file img/disk0.img!
pci0.15(ali_ide).disk0.0(file): writing 2000 1kB blocks:  99%
pci0.15(ali_ide).disk0.0(file): 2000 MB file img/disk0.img created.
pci0.15(ali_ide).disk0.0(file): Mounted file img/disk0.img, 4096000 512-byte blocks, 5120/16/50.
pci0.15(ali_ide).disk1.0(file): Mounted file img/OpenVMS.Alpha.8.3.iso, 270233 2048-byte blocks, 270233/1/1.
pci0.19(ali_usb): $Id: AliM1543C_usb.cpp,v 1.5 2008/02/27 12:04:20 iamcamiel Exp $

%NIC-Q-CHNIC: Choose a network adapter to connect to:
1. eth0
     (No description available)
2. lo
     (No description available)
%NIC-Q-NICNO: Enter the interface number (1-2): 1
pci0.4(dec21143): $Id: DEC21143.cpp,v 1.30 2008/03/02 09:42:52 iamcamiel Exp $
serial0(serial): Waiting for connection on port 21264.

At this point you will telnet to the IP bound to the interface you chose for the serial console to proceed.

cgxlap:~ int16h$ telnet
Escape character is '^]'.
This is serial port #-1489766912 on AlphaSim

Quickly look at the other terminal where you started ES40 and you will notice that the emulator has now resumed.

serial0(serial): $Id: Serial.cpp,v 1.39 2008/03/02 09:42:52 iamcamiel Exp $
%SYS-I-READROM: Reading original ROM image from rom/cl67srmrom.exe.
%SYS-I-DECOMP: Decompressing ROM image.
%SYS-I-ROMWRT: Writing decompressed rom to rom/decompressed.rom.
%SYM-I-PATCHROM: Patching ROM for speed.
%SYS-I-ROMLOADED: ROM Image loaded successfully!
flash: 2097156 bytes restored.
%FLS-I-RESTST: Flash state restored from flash.rom
dpr: 16384 bytes restored.
%DPR-I-RESTST: DPR state restored from dpr.rom
6232 | 000000000008bb9c

Our ROM image has been decompressed and patched, and the emulator has started properly. Now go back to your telnet serial console and wait for the system to initialise. Depending on your system, this may take a couple of minutes. It should be noted that this emulator is emulating an 847Mhz 64-Bit Alpha CPU as well as all the associated hardware... as you can imagine, accomplishing this on a 32-bit Intel system will put a lot of strain on the system and the emulated system itself will run slowly unless you have a high-spec machine. I'm running this on an old AMD Sempron 2800+ system with less than 1GB of RAM, I recommend at least an Intel Core2 Duo system.

After your (hopefully short) wait, you will see the following initialisation messages:

starting console on CPU 0
initialized idle PCB
initializing semaphores
initializing heap
initial heap 240c0
memory low limit = 1b0000 heap = 240c0, 17fc0
initializing driver structures
initializing idle process PID
initializing file system
initializing hardware
initializing timer data structures
lowering IPL
CPU 0 speed is 847 MHz
create dead_eater
create poll
create timer
create powerup
access NVRAM
Memory size 256 MB
testing memory
probe I/O subsystem
probing hose 1, PCI
probing hose 0, PCI
probing PCI-to-ISA bridge, bus 1
bus 0, slot 4 -- ewa -- DE500-BA Network Controller
bus 0, slot 15 -- dqa -- Acer Labs M1543C IDE
bus 0, slot 15 -- dqb -- Acer Labs M1543C IDE
starting drivers
entering idle loop
*** system serial number not set. use set sys_serial_num command.
Partition 0, Memory base: 000000000, size: 010000000
initializing GCT/FRU at 1c8000
Initializing ewa dqa dqb 
Memory Testing and Configuration Status
  Array       Size       Base Address    Intlv Mode
---------  ----------  ----------------  ----------
    0        256Mb     0000000000000000    4-Way

     256 MB of System Memory
Testing the System
Testing the Network
AlphaServer ES40 Console V7.3-1, built on Feb 27 2007 at 12:57:47

Huzzah! The virtual AlphaServer is now online and ready for you to boot your installation media. Let's have a look at available devices and boot from the ISO.

P00>>>sh dev
dqa0.              DQA0                    OpenVMS8 .3
dqb0.              DQB0         OpenVMS. Alpha.8.3.iso
dva0.0.0.1000.0            DVA0                               
ewa0.               EWA0              08-00-2B-E5-40-00

P00>>>boot DQB0
(boot dqb0. -flags 0)
block 0 of dqb0. is a valid boot block
reading 1226 blocks from dqb0.
bootstrap code read in
base = 200000, image_start = 0, image_bytes = 99400(627712)
initializing HWRPB at 2000
initializing page table at ff56000
initializing machine state
setting affinity to the primary CPU
jumping to bootstrap code

    OpenVMS (TM) Alpha Operating System, Version V8.3    
    ? Copyright 1976-2006 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P.

        Installing required known files...

    Configuring devices...
%EWA0, Auto-negotiation mode set by console
%EWA0, Link state: UP
%EWA0, Auto-negotiation (internal) starting
%EWA0, Full Duplex 100baseTX connection selected


    You can install or upgrade the OpenVMS ALPHA operating system
    or you can install or upgrade layered products that are included
    on the OpenVMS ALPHA distribution media (CD/DVD).

    You can also execute DCL commands and procedures to perform
    "standalone" tasks, such as backing up the system disk.

    Please choose one of the following:

        1)  Upgrade, install or reconfigure OpenVMS ALPHA Version V8.3
        2)  Display layered products that this procedure can install
        3)  Install or upgrade layered products
        4)  Show installed products
        5)  Reconfigure installed products
        6)  Remove installed products
        7)  Find, Install or Undo patches; Show or Delete Recovery Data
        8)  Execute DCL commands and procedures
        9)  Shut down this system

Enter CHOICE or ? for help: (1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9/?)

From here you can continue to install OpenVMS as normal. So far I have been able to install and run OpenVMS 8.3 Alpha and Tru64 UNIX. This is an excellent emulator, and although it isn't "finished" - I think it runs pretty well. It should be noted however that the network interface is a little buggy - In Tru64 I can configure it and ping the local IP, but I'm unable to send or receive traffic outside of there currently.

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