Answers to Jaguar Questions--CIS (Dec.18,1993)From: Atari SIG (xx004@cleveland.Freenet.Edu)
Date: 02/20/94-12:15:51 PM Z
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From: xx004@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Atari SIG) Subject: Answers to Jaguar Questions--CIS (Dec.18,1993) Date: Sun Feb 20 12:15:51 1994 :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: :: Volume 2 - Issue 22 ATARI EXPLORER ONLINE 18 December 1993 :: :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= //// Official Postings =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= //// Bill Rehbock <CIS: 75300,1606> from Atari asks and answers two common questions: o Q: How do I get specs on developing for the Jaguar? A: People interested in Jaguar software development should send a fax to 1-408-745-2088. Include: Company name, mailing address, phone number, fax number, and brief company/personal background relating to software development. Due to the high volume of inquires, we do prioritize the mailing of information kits according to background (SNES/Genesis/Computer) titles that you or your company may have been involved with, etc. Companies wishing to become licencees may sign-on and order preliminary development documentation and support for $299 USD, which can go toward the complete development system fee of $7500 USD. o Q: Can the Jaguar be networked to another computer? A: Yes, it can, but there naturally would have to be application- specific software running on both the PC and Jaguar. The Jaguar is equipped with (among other interfaces) a one megabyte per second serial interface (suitable for connection to cable, telephone, etc.) as well as a 9600 baud serial port that (with an appropriate low-cost interface) conforms to RS-232 standards. The 9600 baud port as shipped on Jaguar is set up for ComLynx multi console networking, just like the Atari Lynx. Bill's been peppered with other questions, like one about how much RAM comes with the CD-ROM add-on: o There is no developer that won't always ask for more memory or more performance (on any system) :-) The system has 2 megabytes of RAM in it so that the CD-ROM drive didn't have to have huge buffer space in it. Jaguar was designed with loads of flexibility, though, so if a developer wants to have extra ram in a cartridge, they _could_ do it if they wanted to. The cartridge port is accessible even while using the CD-ROM drive. One other point that I wanted to make was the fact that although there is no built-in operating system, we do supply to developers various sets of libraries to do the things that need to get done. Such as: a multi-channel polyphonic FM/Wavetable synth; JPEG decompression; video set up; drawing primitives; 3D rendering with gourad shading/texture mapping and camera manipulation; and others. Many of these come with complete source code so that they can be optimized for the specific use that the programmer is using in his/her game. It's much more flexible and obviously a performance-oriented way of doing things. Next, Bill drops some performance data on AvP and DOOM: o Jez San has only seen a very early version of Alien versus Predator which was a very slow (for Jaguar) 12 to 18 frames per second. It now runs (when you are playing the game as an Alien :-) at a full 30 frames per second. I promise that no one will be dissappointed with DOOM or AvP on Jaguar. The first time I saw DOOM, I said, "I've got to have it on Jaguar," and I proceeded to track down Jay Wilbur and the guys at id. I flew down to their office the day before I had to leave for our New York roll-out party to meet with id. I THEN got to see a real version and I was really blown away :-) It is an absolutely awsome game and I look forward to seeing it released during 1994. //// Don Thomas <CIS: 75300,1267> has taken a lot of time to respond to questions. First, here is an overall impression of Jaguar: o I think the first few games (Raiden, Dino Dudes, Cybermorph and Crescent Galaxy) are pretty hot... they'd certainly be shining stars on any lesser system assuming they could handle them. In my position at the office, I already witnessed fragments of what are on some of the forthcoming products. I hear the hallway chatter of engineers. I see unfinished graphics on souped-up power computers. I feel the thunder from 3-dimensional music compositions. I can tell you, that as hot as the first games are... YOU WILL laugh at them in even a year or less. Keep in mind that the Jaguar has integrated secrets which lie deeper than an impressive game macine. With expansion capabilities that include ComLynx and telephone, peripheral components such as the CD and VR appliances, connectability to full motion video and a variety of AV standards, the roar of the feline is none less than a preemptive purr. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, you ain't seen nothing yet! Next, when asked about the Jaguar showing up in mass market outlets: o Mass merchants... will often delay taking on cutting edge entertainment products for several reasons. One is that they demand siginicant quantities while the dedicated electronics chains are better equipped to deal with preorders. The dedicated electronics places are better at providing informed personnel to sell new items. It is common for explosive new electroinics items to prove themselves in specialty stores before the mass merchants take them on. In short... keep an eye out. You will definitely see expanded distribution as time wears on. And here's what Don had to say about the bad batch of RF switchboxes: o Atari has always planned to pack a reasonably nice RF box in the Jaguar systems. As we saw ourselves pressed against deadlines to meet Christmas '93 orders, we found that we could not take delivery on the originally planned ones in time, so we accepted a lesser quality, manual switch which we were told by the factory would work fine. For the record, there is nothing really terribly wrong with manual switch. Any real problems people experience is largely based on the specific AV setups people have. With today's technology, people have many more things connected to their TV's than they did 10 to 25 years ago, so there's a much greater chance for interference. As soon as we heard that some people were having unusually high interference on the manual switch, Atari pressed to speed up the availability of the better automatic switch. Still not having access to the first one planned, Atari ordered a temporary supply to tide us over from Radio Shack (Archer brand). I look at it like this... Atari packed some of the original Jaguars with factory tires. Most people know that RF connections are not as good as S-Video or composite connections and there is no perfection in an RF connection, still the Archer box is successful at screening out the majority of any interference that the other box seemed to let through. If anyone received the manual switch box and cares to send it to us, we'll swap it out. We'll need a serial number and other information. In regard to the other cables, I expect them real soon after January 1. Don tells how Atari processed the direct Jaguar orders: o I kept a growing list of prepaid orders whereby I was eventually told I could accept no more "guaranteed" by Christmas delivery dates. Unfortunatley the list grew too fast and we had to cut off the number we were selling direct with guarantees that deliveries would be by Christmas. At that point, the calls still kept coming in and we were unclear for a week or so whether just because we couldn't "guarantee" delivery by Christmas whether that meant we absolutely couldn't deliver by Christmas. As a result, I instructed my staff to tell everyone that we would do what we could. That cut off time to my staff was very clear. We processed credit cards before that date so we knew there'd be no credit hassles as soon as the product arrived. All those customers were told that their orders had to be prepaid for that reason. After that, we stopped processing credit cards for the specific reason that we were unsure that we could deliver as hoped. My staff was instructed to only say we would try and do our best since everyone wanted delivery by Christmas if possible. I am really sorry if there were any misunderstandings with your requests. If your credit card was not charged but there were hopes to ship in time, it is because we were in the "we hope we can" mode and before the "we know we can't mode". At this time we are sold out before year's end and if you weren't charged it is because I am unable to ship. We have a ton of what we call "pending orders". We are waiting word daily to see when we will get more units so we can call those customers, confirm the orders and follow-up accordingly. You might also wish to contact some of the chain stores and see if there's something they can do for you. We had several cancellations throughout all of this (they were immediately filled with the next in line) because consumers found stores to ship them a unit before we could. If you find one, just tell us you did so when we call to confirm your order. Don gives a disappointing answer when asked about direct orders from overseas: o I am not allowed to take orders from patrons outside of U.S. or Canada. There are several reasons for this, most boiling down to our COMPLETE inability to properly service any problems. There are other Atari subs that are responsible for sales in other countries. Having said that, some people make arrangements to have a friend in the U.S. do the purchasing and forward the item when received. Keep in mind that there may be physical differences. I know there are differences in the carts for PAL countries for instance. Atari U.S. does not have those delivered to Sunnyvale. Someone posted a negative message about the legal notices on Jaguar boxes prohibiting rental usage of purchased Jaguars. Don gave his opinion: o I cannot speak officially on behalf of Atari simply because I am not physcially a part of the decision making or implementation of the rental aspects of the Jaguar. So my comments are unofficial and they are subject to correction by more informed people... As I understand it, special license and arrangements will be required by those interested in purchasing the Jaguar and related products for rental. Atari has already designed special rental hard shell cases (I'm hoping I can get them for resale---they're real cool!). I do not know if there are any physical differences in units intended for resale, but I am definitely under the impression that we have every intention of catering to the rental market. To protect our rights, we are labeling the packages against rentals so we can address those needs independently on equitable terms. When you look at some of the peripheral things we do to protect our interests and make an extra buck, remember back to when people were asking how we planned to put out a 64-bit system for less than $250. Atari has always been pretty good keeping prices as low as possible, but we also want to make money. To do that, we will certainly want to sell and license our merchandise; not give it away. //// Mike Fulton, <CIS: 75300,1141> had this to say about the internal working of the Jaguar: o The Jaguar has 64-bit registers in the TOM chip, the data is worked on internally 64 bits at a time, and the system has a 64-bit data bus. It is true that there are some registers which are 32 bits, but the system as a whole is a 64-bit machine. To go back to the car engine metaphor for a moment, if you had a car with four engines, and one was a 4-cylinder, one was 6 cylinders, one was 8 cylinders, and one was a 12-cylinder, which would you refer to when you were talking about the car's horsepower? (To be perfectly honest, I don't think the car metaphor works real well, but I think you get my meaning.) //// John Mathieson <CIS: 100111,2631> - one of the designers of the Jaguar - speaks with authority on Jaguar hardware: o From my limited understanding of the 3D0 hardware, I believe that Jaguar out-performs it by a factor of two, broadly speaking. Of course, both systems have their strengths and weaknesses, but I believe Jaguar is much better suited to 3D animation compared to 3D0. Also, we (Atari) publish the full hardware specification (to signed-up developers), whereas 3DO force you through an OS. Games programmers tend to want direct access to the hardware and full control of the system. Jaguar can produce an interlaced display with 720 pixels across readily. In fact, the maximum resolution horizontally is around 1350 pixels, although you have to do some tricks to have more than 720 pixels horizontally. o As one of the Jaguar designers, I thought you might like to know why there is a 68K in Jaguar. (I did the GPU & DSP, and the blitter). In one of our cost reduction drives, we seriously considered no CPU, however I vigorously opposed this as the GPU and DSP are unfamiliar to programmers, were never meant for overall system control, and are only really fast out of their relatively small internal RAM blocks. The principle is that you get your RISC processor to do all the intensive but fairly simple low level parts of a 3D game, and you get a CISC processor to handle the high level, complex, but fairly un-intensive parts - e.g. game-play, view point control, collision detection, etc. Those complex addressing modes are great for rattling round structures. Its also important to have a manager in a multi-processor system, and the 68K performs this task well. Because the GPU and the DSP both out-perform the 68K so significantly, I joked that the 68K was "only there to read the joysticks". This joke seems to have spread a little far, so lets kill it now. o The answer to Jaguar's bus width is that it is 64 bits where it needs to be. The two highest data rate paths, which are those between the RAM and the object processor (display generator), and that between the blitter and RAM, are truly 64 bits. The blitter can generate Gouraud shaded pixels as fast as the DRAM can run in page mode (13 MHz for us), so it can do 52 Mpixels per second in Gouraud shaded 16 bit pixel mode. The display generator can load pixels into its internal buffers as fast as the RAM can supply it. The RISC processors manipulate 32 bit data as this is all the precision they need. They have 32 bit ALUs and 32 bit address generators. They can perform 64 bit transfers on the main bus if they need to, but not many data are this big. The graphics processor uses the blitter as a co-processor when it really needs to blast pixels. The instruction size is 16 bits as this allows a reasonable number of instructions plus two register/data fields in each instruction. The name of the game is bus saturation, if you can keep a 64 bit bus fully utilised, then your processing elements are as fast as they need to be. Well written Jaguar code can get close to this - you ain't seen nothing yet. By the way, the first time I saw Alien Versus Predator I did not believe Jaguar could do that. I look forward to many similar surprises. //// Jez San, the author of the ST classic Starglider, and currently with Argonaut Software <CIS: 72247,3661>, is one of the newest Jaguar developers. Here's what he's had to say about Atari's latest cat. o All this is leading to the question: Is the Jaguar a 64 bit machine? It is. No question about it. It has several parts that are 64 bits big and it has a 64 bit memory architecture, so it is a 64 bit system. Its also a pretty nifty system... I think its a very copmetitive system, and the power of the hardware is not even touched by the present batch of the first games. I feel that Atari are justified in calling their machine a 64 bit machine regardless of how many bits their cpu contains, since it is the overall system which is talked about, and not simply the cpus. Case in point, the TurboGrafx 16 is known as a 16 bit system, even though it has an 8 bit processor. Thats because the rest of the system is 16 bits and the aura that the meachine projects, by virtue of its superior graphics to 8 bit systems deemed that it should be called a 16 bit system.
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