Nintendo 64 (N64)
The Nintendo 64, also Ultra 64 and N64, is a 64-bit video game console. Developed by the Japanese company Nintendo together with Silicon Graphics. It was released in 1996 (June 23 in Japan and September 29 in the US) and was the answer to the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn competitors. The clock frequency of the central processor is 93.75 MHz, the graphics one is 62.5 MHz. Equipped with 4.5 MB of RAM. The maximum resolution was 640×480 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 smoothing, MIP-mapping, etc. A cartridge up to 64 MB was chosen as a game medium.
Together with the console, Nintendo released the first 3D platform game Super Mario 64, which showed off 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for the Nintendo 64: not everyone was given programming features for it, in addition, many were frightened off by the outdated media format (both main competitors had already switched to CDs, which had a large capacity and were more convenient and cheaper).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 known as the Ultra 64) was complete and that the system would go on sale in April 1996. “After 19 months of intense development, we have achieved our two main goals for the Nintendo Ultra 64: to develop a chipset capable of delivering the world's best gaming experience, and to do so at a price that will not exceed $250 retail,” said Howard Lincoln (Howard Lincoln), then acting chairman of Nintendo Of America. “However, we have made a conscious decision not to rush to bring the Ultra 64 to market. Instead, we have decided to give our developers more time to so that they can get the most out of this system and create a new type of game.” This announcement was made three days before the start of the E3 gaming exhibition, at which a working prototype of the console was never shown.
The Nintendo 64 is a collaboration between Nintendo, Silicon Graphics and MIPS Technologies. The design for this system was originally proposed to Tom Kalinske (then CEO of Sega US) 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 combined the CPU and GPU. The creators of the chip considered it ideal for video game consoles. Sega's Japanese hardware team was sent to evaluate the chip's capabilities, and they found a number of flaws that MIPS then fixed. However, Sega Japan opposed SGI's proposal, apparently due in large part to disagreements between the company's Japanese and US divisions.
During the early stages of development, the Nintendo 64 was codenamed "Project Reality". The nickname originated from Nintendo's assumption that a console developed with SGI would be on par with the supercomputers of the day. In 1994, the console was given the name Nintendo Ultra 64 in the West. The console design was unveiled in late spring 1995.
The Nintendo 64 CPU is a NEC VR4300 based on MIPS R4300i, running at 93.75 MHz and connected to the rest of the parts via a 32-bit data bus. The VR4300 is a RISC processor with an integrated floating point module. This 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 took advantage of the 32-bit processing mode, since the higher precision of 64-bit data types was not usually required in 3D games. In addition, 64-bit data required twice the amount of memory, cache, and bandwidth, thereby reducing overall system performance.
The CPU has an internal level 1 cache of 24 KB, and no L2 cache. The processor is created on a 0.35-micron process technology and contains 4.6 million transistors. The chip has an aluminum heatsink for passive cooling.
Graphics and sound processing tasks are performed by a 64-bit SGI development co-processor called the "Reality Co-Processor" (RCP). The RCP is a 62.5 MHz chip, divided internally into two main components, the "Reality Drawing Processor" (RDP) and the "Reality Signal Processor" (RSP). The components communicate with each other via 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 microcode-programmable, allowing the processor's functionality to be greatly modified, if required, for different types of work, accuracy, and loading. RSP performs geometric transformations, cropping, lighting calculations, triangle processing, and has a throughput of approximately 100,000 polygons per second.
It is claimed that RSP can also be used to perform audio processing (although the CPU also copes with this task). It can play almost any audio format (this depends on the software codec), including uncompressed PCM, MP3, MIDI and music in various tracker formats. The RSP can process up to 100 PCM channels simultaneously - with 100% utilization of the audio processing system. 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 the bulk of the work of creating an image before displaying it on the screen. The Nintendo 64 has a maximum color depth of 16.7 million colors, of which 32,768 can be displayed simultaneously, and a resolution of 256×224 to 640×480.
Nintendo 64 controller
Although the Nintendo 64 had the ability to write game saves to a cartridge, the removable Controller Pak device connected to the game controller also allowed game saves to be written to games that supported this device. The Controller Pak was positioned as a device for sharing gaming achievements between console users. There was also a Rumble Pak that ran on two AA batteries. Rumble Pak gave the controller a vibration. The Rumble Pak was also bundled with the Star Fox 64 game. There was also an option to transfer the results of some games from the Game Boy Color - Transfer Pak. With Transfer Pak it was possible to transfer results from the following games: Perfect Dark, Pokémon Stadium, Pokémon Stadium 2, Mario Artist, Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, Super Robot Taisen 64, Transformers Beast Wars Metals 64.
The Voice Recognition Unit (VRU) is a microphone for the Nintendo 64 that plugs into the 4th controller port on the console. Used for Hey You, Pikachu! and Densha de Go! 64.
Memory Expansion Pak - an additional 4 MB of RAM that was important for games such as Perfect Dark (required to activate the story mode), Donkey Kong 64 (the Memory Expansion Pak was included with this game) and The Legend of Zelda: Majora's mask. The rest of the games mostly improved either the resolution or the frame rate.