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Apple Power Mac G5 memory  with 64-bit processor

Buy more memory for Apple Power Mac G5

Apple Power Mac G5 memory with 64-bit processor.

The new Power Mac G5 is here. It's the world's fastest computer and the first with a 64-bit processor. At its heart are two revolutionary PowerPC G5 processors, running at speeds up to 2GHz. And since these are 64-bit processors , they can access up to 8GB of memory in the Power Mac G5, which is the double the 4-gigabyte memory ceiling of every other PC in the world. The G5 processors also have the world's fastest frontside bus, running at 1 gigahertz, which gets data to the processor almost twice as fast as the fastest PC running at 533-megahertz. This Power Mac G5 with maximum memory will work at its optimum performance value.

Why do 64 bits matter?

The arrival of 64-bit desktop processors signifies a new era of computing initially for professionals who are bumping up against the memory limits of existing PC's. Soon afterward the new chips will affect everyday computer users, for whom a new generation of media machines should offer remarkable improvements in audio and visual effects.

Microprocessors are generally defined by the number of pieces of information they can manipulate at once. A 32-bit microprocessor, for example, can move, add, subtract or multiply numbers that are 32 zeros and ones long. A 64-bit processor is capable of handling binary numbers consisting of a string of 64 zeros and ones.

It is the length of the information string that determines the amount of random-access memory, or RAM, a processor can make use of during a task. The more RAM per task, the greater the computing power.

Thirty-two bit processors are limited to a theoretical maximum of handling 4 billion bytes of RAM per task. (A byte equals eight bits.) But by the magic of exponential math, a 64-bit processor can theoretically handle 16 quintillion (or 16 billion billion) bytes of RAM. For all current practical purposes, that is an infinite amount.

Until recently, such numbers were largely meaningless, because of the cost of a RAM chip (technically known as a D-RAM, or dynamic random access memory, chip). But now that the cost of a billion bytes, or a gigabyte, of RAM has fallen below $400 (from thousands of dollars several years ago), it becomes economically feasible to have personal computers that are not bound by the four-gigabyte limit of 32-bit chips.

"Memory has become cheap enough that it doesn't matter for professional PC users," said Steven P. Jobs, Apple's chief executive and co-founder. "The killer app is breaking through the four-gigabyte barrier."

People who recall the shift from 8-bit to 16-bit computing in the early 1980's, and the shift from 16-bit to 32-bit processors in the late 80's, say the move to 64 bits will again make the personal computer a significantly different kind of information tool.

"The graphics performance offered by 64-bit computing will be a big step up," said Richard Doherty, a computer designer who is president of Envisioneering, a consulting firm in Seaford, N.Y. "It will put a tremendous amount of power into the hands of scientific researchers and engineers first, and to a secondary degree to some artists who want to express themselves in three-dimensional design."

Sixty-four bit computing has already long been the norm in scientific and corporate computing and more recently in video game machines. The question of how much RAM is needed by PC users has long been a subject of debate in the personal computer industry. As PC's have evolved from 8 to 16 and then to 32 bits, hardware engineers and software designers have at first scratched their heads over what users might do with all of that RAM.

Now it is becoming increasingly clear that if bigger chunks of computer memory are available and affordable, users will gobble them up.

Hollywood digital animation studios already require at least two gigabytes of RAM to render a single frame in a movie like Pixar's "Monsters, Inc." Adding even more realism will require expanding the amount of data in images, and their RAM demands, exponentially.

And for graphics software like Adobe Photoshop, 64-bit processing is expected to greatly enhance the computer's ability to move large image files in the computer's memory. Adobe, in fact, is planning to make software available on Tuesday that it says will improve Photoshop's performance on Apple's G5 computers by 75 to 200 percent, depending on the operation.

For all kinds of databases, meanwhile, retrieving information can be remarkably faster in the 64-bit world, because vast amounts of data can reside in RAM, where it is more directly accessible than if it must be stored on disk.

source: NY Times technology section published 8/18/03 by John Markoff

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