Nintendo 64 - Nintendo's video game console (N64)




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Nintendo 64 (N64)

Nintendo 64, also Ultra 64 and N64 is a 64-bit game console. Developed by the Japanese company Nintendo in conjunction with Silicon Graphics. It was released in 1996 (June 23 in Japan and September 29 in the US) and was a response to the consoles of competitors Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn. The clock speed of the central processor is 93.75 MHz, the graphic one is 62.5 MHz. Equipped with 4.5 MB of RAM. The maximum resolution was 640x480 at 24-bit color depth. Thanks to the participation of Silicon Graphics, this console has a lot of innovations related to three-dimensional graphics: texture anti-aliasing, MIP-mapping, etc. The cartridge up to 64 MB was chosen as a game medium.

Along with the console, Nintendo released the first 3D platformer Super Mario 64, which showcased its innovations in all its glory. This gave the initial impetus. However, at first there were very few games for the Nintendo 64: not everyone was given the programming features for it, in addition, many were frightened off by the outdated media format (both main competitors had already switched to CDs, which had a large capacity and were more convenient and cheaper). Nintendo itself was not ready to fully provide its console with game projects. But by 1998, the situation had improved, and the N64 took second place in the game console market after the PlayStation (the Saturn project could already be considered a failure at that time).

On May 5, 1995, Nintendo announced that the development of the new Nintendo 64 game console (then called the Ultra 64) was fully completed and that the system would go on sale in April 1996. “After 19 months of hard development, we have achieved two of our biggest challenges for the Nintendo Ultra 64: designing a chipset capable of delivering the world's best video game experience, and doing so at a price that will not exceed $ 250 retail,” said Howard Lincoln. (Howard Lincoln), then Acting Chairman of Nintendo Of America. “However, we made a conscious decision not to rush to market the Ultra 64. Instead, we decided to give our developers extra time to get the most out of the system and create a new kind of game.” This announcement was made three days before the start of the E3 gaming show, at which a working prototype of the console was never shown.

Nintendo 64 is a collaboration between Nintendo, Silicon Graphics and MIPS Technologies. The design of this system was originally proposed to Tom Kalinsky (then CEO of Sega's US division) by James Clark (founder of Silicon Graphics). Prior to this, SGI acquired MIPS Technologies and the two companies worked together to create a low-cost chip that combines the CPU and GPU. The chip's creators considered it to be ideal for game consoles. A Japanese hardware team at Sega was dispatched to assess the chip's capabilities and found a number of flaws that MIPS then fixed. However, Sega's Japanese division opposed SGI's proposal, apparently due in large part to disagreements between the company's Japanese and American divisions.

In the early stages of development, the Nintendo 64 was codenamed "Project Reality". This nickname was born from Nintendo's assumption that the console, developed with SGI, would be on par with the then supercomputers. In 1994, the console was given the name Nintendo Ultra 64 in the West. The console design was unveiled in late spring 1995.

Hardware

The Nintendo 64 CPU is a NEC VR4300 based on MIPS R4300i, clocked at 93.75 MHz and connected to the rest of the unit via a 32-bit data bus. The VR4300 is a RISC processor with an integrated floating point module. It is a 64-bit processor: 64-bit registers, 64-bit instruction set, and 64-bit internal data buses. But the cheaper NEC VR4300 CPU used in the console has 32-bit buses, while the MIPS variant has 64-bit buses. Many games have taken advantage of the 32-bit processing mode, since the higher precision of 64-bit data types in 3D games was usually not required. In addition, 64-bit data required twice the amount of memory, cache, and bandwidth, reducing overall system performance.

The CPU has an internal 24KB level 1 cache, and does not have a L2 cache. The processor is built on a 0.35-micron technical process and contains 4.6 million transistors. The chip has an aluminum heatsink for passive cooling.

The graphics and sound processing tasks are performed by SGI's 64-bit Reality Co-Processor (RCP). The RCP is a 62.5 MHz chip, internally divided into two main components - the "Reality Drawing Processor" (RDP) and the "Reality Signal Processor" (RSP). The components communicate with each other over a 128-bit bus with a bandwidth of 1.0 GB / s. The RSP is an 8-bit integer vector processor based on the MIPS R4000. It is programmable in microcode, which allows for significant changes in the functionality of the processor, if required, for different types of work, accuracy and load. RSP performs geometric transformations, clipping, lighting calculations, triangle processing, and has a throughput of approximately 100,000 polygons per second.

It is argued that RSP can also be used to perform audio processing (although the CPU can do this as well). It can play almost any audio format (it depends on the software codec), including uncompressed PCM, MP3, MIDI and music in various tracker formats. The RSP can handle up to 100 PCM channels simultaneously - with 100% system utilization for audio processing. The maximum sampling rate is 48 kHz for 16-bit audio. However, the volume restrictions imposed by the cartridge limited the volume, and therefore the sound quality.

RDP is a system rasterizer that does most of the work of creating an image before displaying it on the screen. Nintendo 64 has a maximum color depth of 16.7 million colors, of which 32,768 can be displayed simultaneously, and a resolution from 256 × 224 to 640 × 480.

Nintendo 64 Controller

Although the Nintendo 64 introduced the ability to write game saves to a cartridge, a removable Controller Pak plugged into a game controller also allowed game saves to be written to games that supported the device. The Controller Pak was marketed as a device for sharing game achievements between console users. There was also a Rumble Pak powered by two AA batteries. The Rumble Pak gave the controller a vibration. The Rumble Pak was also shipped with Star Fox 64. There was also an option to transfer the results of some games from the Game Boy Color console - Transfer Pak. With Transfer Pak it was possible to transfer results from games: Perfect Dark, Pokémon Stadium, Pokémon Stadium 2, Mario Artist, Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, Super Robot Taisen 64, Transformers Beast Wars Metals 64.

Voice Recognition Unit (VRU) is a microphone for Nintendo 64 that plugs into the 4th port of the controller on the console. Used for games Hey You, Pikachu! and Densha de Go! 64.

Memory Expansion Pak - an additional 4 megabytes of RAM, which were important for games such as: Perfect Dark (required to activate the story mode), Donkey Kong 64 (along with this game, there was also a Memory Expansion Pak) and The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. The rest of the games mostly improved either resolution or frame rate.