Monday, February 26, 2007

Are the bit Wars Over? And How many do the next gens have?


Do you guys remember when everything regarding video games consoles used to be measured in terms of bits? It was so big that companies named consoles over how many bits it had (i.e. Nintendo 64, or the failed Sega 32X).

It was the most rudimentary system to measure how good your machine was and how much it would progress. The best thing is that you always knew where the future was headed. As each generation passed the amount of bits would be doubled.

The NES had 8 the SNES had 16 the PlayStation and the Saturn had 32 the Nintendo 64 was way ahead of its game with the 64 bits and then the Dreamcast came along with 128 bits. What happened after that, remained a mystery to me until this very day.

Why is it that for the longest time it was such a big deal, that video game giants used it as marketing and branding, and then suddenly nobody seemed to care anymore? How many bits does the Wii, PS3 and XBOX 360 have?

Thanks to the guys at Insert Credit we got the following email from Sony. Apparently they were just as curious as I was and much more proactive so all credit goes to them.

"The PS3 is 128 bit, but it is more 128 bit than the others. The number of bits isn't really a very good measure anymore. To be honest, it hasn't been a good measure since PS1 days. That said...

Most single pieces of data fit in 32 or 64 bits. The benefit of 128 bits is that you can operate on 4 pieces of 32-bit data at the same time, which is called SIMD (Single Instruction, Multiple Data). This is only useful for data that needs the same operation on all 4 pieces, which is common in games for things such as 3D graphical transformations, physical simulation, collision detection, etc. 128-bits is the "sweet spot" of price and performance, so that is what everyone seems to have settled upon.

To get more power, people have instead now been moving to more processor cores. (PS3 has 8, Xbox 360 has 3, Wii has 1, PS2 had 1 + 2 special-purpose, Xbox had 1, etc).

For graphics, it is even trickier to explain. The biggest difference is that in the past, graphics chips were "fixed-function". Now, they are programmable. But people don't really talk about it in terms of bits; instead, they usually measure in terms of flops."

So there you have it, the bit wars are over and we were all concerned with things that did not really matter.

All the best,
Christian

P.S. Just to clarify everything (PS3 Xbox 360 and Wii) has 128 bits just like the Dreamcast(can't believe they stopped making consoles.)

1 comment:

Said said...

Thats Some Reals Stuff Christian. I remember being 11 & arguing with my friends about Bits & talking about how great they were not knowing any thing about them, except that more = better. The term "Bit" did get lost. This is a Dope article!