THIS ISSUE'S FIRST HIDDEN ARTICLE
- or -
QUESTIONS ABOUT JAGUAR'S 64-BIT TECHNOLOGY
(WHICH IS A HIDDEN ARTICLE BECAUSE THIS WAS TAKEN FROM
ATARI EXPLORER ONLINE AND OTHER INTERNET SOURCES)
1. What does 64-bit mean?
"64-bit" refers to the amount of data Jaguar can process at one
time. Because Jaguar processes data 64 bits at a time - versus 8,
16 and 32 bits for other video game systems - Jaguar delivers
unprecedented animation speed, true-color graphics and stereo CD-
quality sound. Jaguar is the world's first 64-bit interactive
multimedia home entertainment system.
2. What are the main differences players will notice when using
64-bit systems as compared to conventional machines and newer 32-
The biggest difference players will notice is an enormous
increase in the overall speed and smoothness of objects in motion
in their video games. Game players will be able to manipulate and
respond to game action much more quickly and objects will travel
at high animation speed. In addition, players will notice a
significant improvement in the appearance of their video games;
colors will be brighter and more numerous, graphics will appear
clearer and extremely realistic, 3D objects will feature multi-
textured surfaces, special effects will be much more
sophisticated and games will include true-to-life lighting and
shadows. Game realism will also be enhanced by sound effects
generated in CD-quality audio.
3. How does Jaguar achieve its 64-bit processing power?
Jaguar achieves its processing power through an advanced
architecture that features a 64-bit data bus. This bus acts like
a 64-lane freeway, permitting data "traffic" to flow 64-bits at a
time. Five processors work together to move data through the bus
o The Atari-proprietary 64-bit Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)
with RISC technology - responsible for delivering Jaguar's
complex 3D graphics at high animation speed
o The Atari-developed 32-bit Digital Signal Processor -
delivers Jaguar's CD and stereo sound capabilities
o The Object Processor - provides an advanced video
o The Blitter Graphics Accelerator - rapidly manipulates and
o The 68000 16-bit processor - manages secondary processing
4. If Jaguar includes a 16-bit processor, how can it be a true
Jaguar is a true 64-bit system because it moves data through a
64-bit data bus. While it includes a 16-bit processor, this
processor plays only a minor role in system performance. This
processor acts as a necessary, but less important stage hand -
managing minor processing functions, including reading joystick
commands and distributing workloads to system components.
5. In video game systems, what is the relationship between
processing speed and video graphics?
The processing speed of a video game platform has a direct
relationship to the quality of video graphics it is capable of
generating. When graphics are complex and include many colors,
the system needs more power to maintain high-quality animation
speeds from cartridge to screen without degradation.
Atari Jaguar's 64-bit processing speed allows the system to
display more than 16 million colors with an animation speed
greater than 850 million pixels per second. This means Jaguar's
3D graphics are very realistic, with bright colors and fast
This performance is significantly better than that of 32-bit
machines, which display 16.7 million colors, but are only able to
move 64 million pixels per second. In other words, 32-bit systems
have just as much traffic as Jaguar, but they are trying to
squeeze the same number of colors onto a 32-lane highway instead
of a 64-lane freeway. This can result in grainier graphics, fewer
colors used and slower animation speed.
6. How has Atari been able to leapfrog 32-bit systems?
Atari Corporation has been able to leapfrog 32-bit systems
because the company made a commitment to meet the needs of the
industry by making a quantum leap to the 64-bit architecture.
Atari backed this commitment with resources, including the
world's finest engineers and the industry's most experienced
management team. This combination of vision, dedication and
talent allowed Atari to build Jaguar's proprietary 64-bit
hardware and deliver Jaguar to customers while the company's
competitors were still struggling to develop and market less
7. How is Atari able to offer advanced 64-bit technology at such
a competitive price?
Jaguar retails for $249 (bundled with one video game), when much
less powerful systems are selling for $700 and up. Atari is able
to offer the world's most advanced video game system to consumers
at such an affordable price because:
o Atari hires and retains the world's best engineers. This
allowed Atari to reduce Jaguar's time-to-market by ensuring
the development cycle was efficient and the design was high
o Atari is the sole investor in Jaguar and thus, operating
overhead is much lower than it is for competitive systems in
which multiple investors receive a portion of the profits.
o Atari founded the video game industry and was able to apply
more than 20 years of expertise to the cost-efficient
development of Jaguar.
8. How do developers benefit from Jaguar's 64-bit processing
With Jaguar, developers enjoy unsurpassed ease in creating real-
time 3D worlds. Because developing games for Jaguar is easier and
less time consuming than it is for conventional platforms,
developers are able to spend much more time on the creative
process. Creatively, Jaguar's 64-bit processing power gives
developers the flexibility to create revolutionary video games
that are much richer in color, animation, texture and sound than
traditional game systems.
9. What will be the industry standard for interactive multimedia
Atari's Jaguar has moved ahead of the competition to set the
industry standard for interactive multimedia performance.
Jaguar's 64-bit technology gives players the features and
functionality they need today while also supplying the power and
components, such as virtual reality and CD-ROM, to ensure they
can move successfully into the future. It will be years before
players and developers exhaust Jaguar's potential and competitive
systems catch up to Jaguar in terms of price and performance.
10. What lies ahead for Jaguar users?
Jaguar's advanced 64-bit technology will allow users to expand
the system's capabilities by adding peripherals without
decreasing system performance. For example, in 1994, users can
look forward to the release of Jaguar's CD-ROM peripheral. Atari
also plans to develop and market a Jaguar virtual reality helmet.
11. What are the specifications of the Jaguar?
A. Physical dimensions:
Size: 9.5" x 10" x 2"
Controls: Power on/off
Display: Resolution up to 800 x 576 pixels (1300+ with
24-bit "True Color" display with 16,777,216 colors
Multiple-resolution, multiple-color depth objects
(monochrome, 2-bit, 4-bit, 8-bit, 16-bit, 24-bit)
can be used simultaneously
Ports: Cartridge slot/expansion port (32 bits)
RF video output
Video edge connector (video/audio output)
(supports NTSC and PAL; provides S-Video,
Composite, RGB outputs, accessible by optional
Two controller ports
Digital Signal Processor port (includes high-speed
synchronous serial input/output)
Controllers: Eight-directional joypad
Size 6.25" x 5" x 1.6", cord 7 feet
Three fire buttons (A, B, C)
Pause and Option buttons
12-key keypad (accepts game-specific overlays)
The Jaguar has five processors, which are contained in three
chips. Two of the chips are proprietary designs, nicknamed "Tom"
and "Jerry". The third chip is a standard Motorola 68000 used as
a coprocessor. Tom and Jerry are built using an 0.5 micron
- 750,000 transistors, 208 pins
- Graphics Processing Unit (processor #1)
- 32-bit RISC architecture (32/64 processor)
- 64 registers of 32 bits wide
- Has access to all 64 bits of the system bus
- Can read 64 bits of data in one instruction
- Rated at 26.6 MIPS (million instructions per second)
- Runs at 26.6 MHz
- 4K bytes of zero wait-state internal SRAM
- Performs a wide range of high-speed graphic effects
- Object processor (processor #2)
- 64-bit RISC architecture
- Programmable processor that can act as a variety of
different video architectures, such as a sprite engine, a
pixel-mapped display, a character-mapped system, and
- Blitter (processor #3)
- 64 bits
- Performs high-speed logical operations
- Hardware support for Z-buffering and Goudraud shading
- DRAM memory controller
- 64 bits
- Accesses the DRAM directly
- 600,000 transistors, 144 pins
- Digital Signal Processor (processor #4)
- 32 bits (32-bit registers)
- Rated at 26.6 MIPS (million instructions per second)
- Runs at 26.6 MHz
- Same RISC core as the Graphics Processing Unit
- 8K bytes of zero wait-state internal SRAM
- CD-quality sound (16-bit stereo)
- Number of sound channels limited by software
- Full stereo capabilities
- Wavetable synthesis, FM synthesis, FM Sample synthesis,
and AM synthesis
- A clock control block, incorporating timers, and a UART
- Joystick control
- Motorola 68000 (processor #5)
- Rated at 13.3MHz
- General purpose control processor
Communication is performed with a high speed 64-bit data bus,
rated at 106.4 megabytes/second. The 68000 is only able to
access 16 bits of this bus at a time.
The Jaguar contains two megabytes (16 megabits) of fast page-
mode DRAM. Game cartridges can support up to six megabytes (48
megabits) of uncompressed or compressed information. The Jaguar
uses 24-bit addressing, and is reportedly capable of accessing
data as follows:
Six megabytes cartridge ROM
Eight megabytes DRAM
Two megabytes miscellaneous/expansion
Compressed cartridge data can be uncompressed in real-time, and
can store the equivalent to almost 50 megabytes (400 megabits).
Compression is performed with JagPEG, an enhanced JPEG image
Other Jaguar features:
- Support for ComLynx I/O for communications with the Atari
Lynx hand-held game system and networked multiconsole
games (on DSP port, accessible by optional add-on
- The two controller ports can be expanded to support "dozens"
- Digital and analog interfaces
- Keyboards, mice, and light guns are possible
- Expansion port allows connection to cable TV and other
- Digital Signal Processor port allows connection to modems
and digital audio peripherals (such as DAT players)
- One megabyte per second serial interface
- 9600 baud, RS-232 serial port (accessible with optional
12. What kind of special effects can the Jaguar do?
The Jaguar is capable of doing the following visual effects:
- High-speed scrolling (Object Processor).
- Texture mapping on two- and three-dimensional objects
- Morphing one object into another object (Tom).
- Scaling, rotation, distortion, and skewing of sprites and
images (Object Processor).
- Lighting and shading from single and multiple light sources
(Tom and Blitter).
- Transparency (Object Processor).
- "Rendering" up to 850 million one-bit pixels/second (35
million 24-bit pixels/second, 26 million 32-bit
pixels/second), or 50 million Goroud shaded pixels/second.
"Rendering" is believed to mean transferring a pixel from
a frame buffer to the screen.
- Sprites of "unlimited" size and quantity. Realistically,
sprites can be over 1,000 pixels wide/tall, and the number
of sprites allowed is limited by processor cycles instead
of a fixed value in hardware (Object processor).
- Programmable screen resolutions, from 160 to 800 pixels per
line. The resolution can be increased even further with
additional hardware up to a reported 1350 pixels per line.
13. An interesting bit of stuff quoted from AEO. Read it and
quote it elsewhere
John Carmack <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Technical Director
at Id Software, answers why Id chose to port DOOM to the Jaguar.
We have a few reasons for not developing on the 3DO, but
development machine bigotry isn't one of them. I used an apple
IIGS for snes development (I am never, EVER, going to work with
nintendo again), and I am suffering with an atari falcon for
Jaguar work until I can port the tools to NEXTSTEP. I wouldn't
turn away a mac based environment.
The biggest reason is that I doubt that 3DO is going to become a
huge success. $750 is way out of line for a pure entertainment
machine. Was the NEO-GEO a success two years ago? We bought one,
but we don't know anoyone else that did. I doubt there will be
all that many units sold.
To make matters worse, there are over one hundred third party
licensees suposedly developing on 3DO. If there were only a
couple companies developing for it, they might make money. I
predict there is going to be some serious lossage going on in the
3DO developer community.
The other major argument is somewhat philosphical. I don't like
what people expect out of CD games. Does anyone think that the
cheeseball dialog in crash and burn is a GOOD addition? It turns
my stomach. People expect CD games to have tons of digitized
speech and video, and the 3DO is going to be strongly associated
with it. The joke here is that if we ever do a CD version of
DOOM, you are going to get the game and "The Making of DOOM" a
one hour feature film. Companies spend hundreds of thousands of
dollars putting all this media into their games, and it often
actually detracts from it. We don't want to be part of this
I would rather cut down to the essentials and fit on a cartridge
than uselessly bulk up on a CD. I have a minimallist sense of
aesthetics in game design.
Many developers are planning on waiting out the eary 32 bit
hardware wars, but I want to do a cool product even if it doesn't
make tons of money. Sandy (our map designer) semi-derisively
calls DOOM jaguar my "reward" for writing DOOM pc. "Good job, you
can go play with your new toys." :-)
Our initial appraisal of the Jaguar was "nice system, but Atari
probably can't make it a success". But when I got the technical
documentation, I was VERY impressed. This is the system I want to
see become a standard platform.
I was slated to do a cut down version of DOOM for the super
nintendo SFX chip, but I kept thinking about how cool a jaguar
version of DOOM would be, and nintendo kept rejecting
wolfenstein-snes for b*****t reasons (a golden cross bonus item
might offend christians. right.).
We finaly decided that we didn't want to be a part of the
chicken-and-the-egg problem of new systems not attracting
customers because developers haven't written for the platform
because there are no customers. The jag is cool, I think it has a
shot at success, and I am going to put my time where my mouth is.
Why the jag is cooler than the 3DO (from my point of view): It
only costs $250. The bulk of its processing power is user
programmable. The 3DO has a capable main processor (a couple
times better than the weak 68k in the jag), but most of its power
is in custom hardware that has narrow functionality for affine
transformations. The jag has some stupid hardware for z buffering
and gouraud shading, but I can just ignore it and tell the two
27mhz risc chips to do EXACTLY what I want. A 64 bit bus with
multiple independant processors may not be the easiest thing to
optimize for, but there is a LOT of potential.
There will probably be a version of DOOM for 3DO. We are talking
with a few companies about licensing out the port. It would be
kind of fun to do it here, but I am eager to get to work on the
next generation game engine that will make DOOM look puny...
AND THAT'S IT.
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.