Answers to Jaguar Questions--CIS (Dec.18,1993)

From: Atari SIG (xx004@cleveland.Freenet.Edu)
Date: 02/20/94-12:15:51 PM Z

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

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

   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

   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

   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

   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

   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

//// 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

//// 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

   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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