As the detail and sophistication of scenery increases so will the demands on computer hardware. Fortunately, chip manufacturers are investing in 3D-hardware technology. Affordable PCs to handle near photo-realistic landscapes are just around the corner. Here are some key technologies to watch.
The new Voodoo3 chip set has been developed offering cheap 3D-hardware support at about twice the speed of two expensive Voodoo2 cards doubled up with SLI. The graphics cards should be start to appear in the second quarter of 1999. More about Voodoo3...
3DNow and Katmai
Hardware support for 3D graphics will soon be built into new processors; the result should be vast improvements in 3D graphics speed and quality. AMD and Cyrix have agreed on a standard instruction set called 3DNow where as Intel are going it alone with their own version called Katmai. Both will be supported by DirectX.
More about 3DNow... More about Katmai...
Processors 600MHz - 800MHz - 1GHz
Super fast and cheap PC's are just around the corner as chip manufactures switch to 0.18 and even 0.13 micron technologies. While Intel will bring out Xeon and Merced chips Cyrix will be integrating more PC components onto single chips - watch this space.
1999 Launch of PIII, code-named Tanner, with Katmai-enhanced graphics (starting at 500Mhz Slot 1).
2000 Tanner's 0.18 micron successor, Cascades, will boast on-chip L2 cache. Later, IA64 will debut with Merced.
2001 The 32-bit Foster, with a new core, will clock 1GHz.
McKinley will lift IA64 performance beyond Merced and the 32-bit line.
Beyond 2001 The 64-bit dynasty will split into 0.13-micron high and low-end versions, codenamed Maddison and Deerfield respectively.
'Cyrix says its M3 chip will have a new core called Jalapeno, with streamlined memory access and hard-wired 3D. It will launch at 600MHz in late 1999.' PCW -Jan 1 1999
'AMD is challenging Intel at the power PC level. Its Sharptooth K6-III is pitched against the Katmai PIII. In 1999, its K7 will aim higher, using the same 200MHz EV6 bus (maybe the same motherboard) as Digital's Alpha.' PCW -Jan 1 1999
Also due is a Socket 7 500MHz WinChip 4 from IDT with a new architecture. IDT says yet another design will launch a year later. New Intel neighbour, Rise, has also joined the cloner ranks with a low-end x86 design.
'COMPUTER chips that use light rather than electrons to process data are a step closer. Miami based Nanovation Technologies says it has completed tests on a chip that uses light and nothing more. The chip is more than 100 times faster than existing chips, 1,000 times smaller and doesn't get as hot'
Connected - Telegraph 31-12-98
'Leading Japanese chip makers Toshiba Corp and Fujitsu Ltd on Thursday announced plans to jointly develop and launch one-gigabit dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) chips by the end of March 2002. The two firms said a joint team of some 100 researchers will be assembled at Toshiba's development centre to focus on ultra high-density 0.13-micron process technology, device technologies, product design and prototype fabrication for the next-generation 1-gigabit chips.' - Zdnet news 3/12/98
Digital Versitile Disc is already replacing CD-ROM in new PCs. DVD-ROM drives are relatively cheap and offer an amazing ~17GB of storage - as opposed to CDROM's ~0.68GB, this is coupled with vastly increased access times and transfer rates removing the need to copy data to hard disc. As well as providing MPG2 encoded movies, DVD offers flight sim developers the ability to create much more detailed scenery over larger areas. So far I know of no commercial scenery on DVD though any information would be welcome.
Soon Cable and G-Lite/ASDL modems (that use existing telephone lines) will be available offering ~1.4mbps tranfer rates as opposed to the current fastest modems at 56kbps. No more waiting hours to download scenery.
'ADSL, which delivers 2Mbit/sec down a standard phone line, has arrived for a few lucky Londoners - and it could be coming to your door soon. None-one yet knows how much it is going to cost but in the long-run it could be free, financed by adverts and transaction revenues. The arrival of ADSL, which will surely push cable companies into deploying fast cable modems, is more than a mere speed-up for web surfers. It is always on, making practical a whole raft of web features that until now have been little more than technology demonstrations waiting for an infrastructure that can support them. PCW newsman Clive Akass is now wired up to ADSL, courtesy of Virgin Net, and he gives his first impressions in the next edition. They can be summed up in two words: absolute delight.'
PCW January 15th - 1999