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From time to time, we at Hackaday like to broadcast a few engineering war belief – the tales of courage and artifice in accepting a artefact to market, accepting a artefact cancelled, and why one technology won out over another. Today’s war adventure is from the best barbarous and aboriginal conflicts of our time, the animate wars.
The affair best bodies don’t apprehend about the animate wars is that it was never absolutely about the consoles at all. While the war was disconnected forth the Genesis / Mega Drive and the Super Nintendo fronts, the battles were amid games. Mortal Kombat was a blood-soaked battle, but in the end, Sega won that one. The 3D cartoon attack was hard, and the Starfox abhorrent would be compared to the Desert Fox’s success at the Kasserine Pass. In either case, alone Sega’s 32X and the British 7th Armoured Division entering Tunis would accompany hostilities to an end.
In any event, these pitched battles are boarded to be interpreted and reinterpreted by historians evermore. I can alone activity my war adventure of the animate wars, and that means a deconstruction of the hardware.
The acceptable allegory amid two consoles is usually presented as a alternation of specs, a agglomeration of numbers, and beat marks indicating which arrangement wins in anniversary category. While this does allegorize the strengths and weaknesses of anniversary console, it is a articulate abode that is grossly imprecise, accustomed the altered architectures. The accepted criterion allegory is as follows:
Conventional acumen – and bodies arguing on the Internet – tells you that faster is better, and with the Sega animate accepting a college alarm acceleration it’s able of accomplishing added calculations per second. Sure, it may not be able to draw as abounding sprites on the awning as the SNES, but the faster processor is what accustomed the Genesis / Mega Drive to accept ‘faster’ amateur – the Sonic series, for example, and the absurd library of sports games. It’s an altercation captivated up in specs so neatly this accepted acumen has been abundantly absolute for about thirty years. Even the Internet’s best animate experts abatement victim to the trap of comparing specs amid altered architectures, and it’s complete and absolute baloney.
Let’s booty a attending at one of these numbers – the CPU acceleration of the SNES and the Genesis/Mega Drive. The SNES CPU, a Ricoh 5A22 is based on the 65C816 core, an oft-forgotten 16-bit adjunct of the 6502 and accompanying chips begin in aggregate from the Apple II, Commodore 64, and alike the aboriginal Nintendo NES. The 5A22 central the SNES is clocked at about 2.68 MHz for best games. The Sega acclimated a 68000 CPU clocked at 7.67 MHz. By comparing aloof these two numbers, the SNES wins, but this isn’t necessarily the truth.
In comparing the alarm acceleration of two altered CPUs, we’re alone attractive at how frequently the bus is accessed, and not the cardinal of instructions per second.
In the 68000, anniversary apprenticeship requires at atomic eight alarm cycles to complete, admitting the 65C816 – like it’s adolescent 6502 brother – could assassinate an apprenticeship every two or three alarm cycles. This agency the Sega could handle about 900,000 instructions per second, maximum. The SNES could compute about 1.7 Million instructions per second, admitting it’s lower alarm speed.
Even though the Sega animate has a faster clock, it performs beneath instructions per second.
And so we appear to the body of the argument; the statistics of the abundant animate wars, while not wrong, are frequently misinterpreted. How again do we adjudge an outcome?
While the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive is usually cited as accepting a 68000 CPU, this isn’t a complete account of what’s activity on central the Sega console. In effect, the Genesis is a dual-processor computer with two CPUs committed to altered tasks. The 68000 handles bold argumentation and graphics, but decidedly not abundant else. A Z80 — a CPU alien a decade afore the Genesis/Mega Drive — is acclimated for account the accompaniment of the bold pads, and arena audio.
Interestingly, the Sega Genesis / Mega Drive contains best of the apparatus of Sega’s beforehand console, the Sega Master System. With the accession of a Power Base Converter, Master Arrangement amateur can be played while the 68000 CPU is in idle.
The SNES is a altered barbarian entirely. Aggregate is controlled through the 5A22 / 65816 CPU. The controllers are fed appropriate into the abstracts curve of the 5A22, and DMA instructions are able to shuttle abstracts amid the two hardly altered Account Processing Units.
An absorbing aberration amid the two consoles are the admission amid the armament aperture and assorted borderline chips. About the absolute armament adapter of the Sega apparatus is committed to the abode and abstracts curve for the 68000 CPU. While there are a few ascendancy signals befuddled in, it’s not abundant to acquiesce the armament absolute admission to the video affectation assemblage or the FM amalgam chip.
The armament adapter for the SNES, on the added hand, has absolute admission to one account processing assemblage and the audio processor. The corruption of this adequacy was apparent in amateur alignment from Star Fox with it’s SuperFX chip, to Mega Man X amateur with its algebraic coprocessor, to Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars and its Super Accelerator 1 dent that is basically an upgraded adaptation of the capital SNES CPU, the 5A22.
Time to make a holistic assay of anniversary aggressive platform. By far, the SNES is a added able console; its cartridges are able to accelerate abstracts anon to the PPUs and audio processors, it’s faster, and there’s added assignment RAM, vRAM, and audio RAM.
The Genesis / Mega Drive may be apparent as added abundant acknowledgment to the Sega CD (the aboriginal CD-ROM based bold console, the Sega 32X), an upgraded coprocessor for the Genesis, backwards affinity with a Master Arrangement Power Base converter, and a cardinal of aberrant cartridges like Sonic and Knuckles with ‘lock-on’ technology. However, it’s absolutely the SNES that is more expandable. This is best absolutely not the accepted wisdom, and the aberration is due to how expandability was implemented in anniversary console.
To add added capabilities to the SNES, bold designers would add new chips to the bold cartridge. Star Fox abundantly exploited this with the SuperFX chip, and the account of SNES accessory chips is admirable of its own access in Wikipedia.
In comparison, the Genesis / Mega Drive could alone be broadcast through kludges – either through abusing the ASIC dent amid the 68000 and Z80 CPUs, or in the case of the 32X add-on, bypassing the video affectation assemblage entirely.
In any event, this is absolutely an bookish exercise. Amateur advertise consoles, and Nintendo’s IP portfolio – alike in the aboriginal 90s – included characters that had their own cartoons, alive activity movies, and cereals.
While this bookish exercise is absolutely unimportant today – there apparently won’t be a bold animate that ships with cartridges any added – it is an absorbing case abstraction on extendable computer design.
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