Motorola advances PowerPC with 128-bit processing unit

Motorola advances PowerPC with 128-bit processing unit
Tom Foremski and Richard Ball Motorola has significantly enhanced the computational performance of its PowerPC microprocessor architecture. It has added a vector processing unit to the PowerPC providing powerful digital signal processing functions as part of what it calls its AltiVec technology. Motorola claims the 128-bit processing unit can handle 16 simultaneous operations each clock cycle, operating concurrently with the PowerPC’s existing integer and floating point units. “This puts Motorola back on the radar screen. AltiVec is a very significant technology with many applications, especially in communications such as in wireless communications, Internet telephony and graphics and video,” said Will Strauss, head of market research firm Forward Concepts. Motorola claims that PowerPC microprocessors with AltiVec will offer ten times the performance of standard PowerPC devices. “We’re talking about putting a 30-channel modem on a chip,” said Paul Clark, Motorola’s European marketing manager. “There’s lots of customers in the networking area that are going to jump at this.” The claim of a 30-channel modem on a chip is comparable to the performance of Texas Instruments’ C67x very long instruction word DSP. AltiVec has been compared with Intel’s MMX technology which boosts multimedia processing performance. “MMX isn’t even a shadow of this,” boasted Clark. Intel recently produced the first beta version for its MMX extensions to be found in the Katmai Pentium II microprocessor in early 1999. Strauss says that despite the improvements in MMX, Altivec will offer much higher performance. Apple Computer helped develop Altivec and plans to use the chips in a line of Macintosh systems aimed at digital video applications. The first AltiVec microprocessors will be manufactured with Motorola’s copper interconnect technology and will sample later this year.


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