Is the Jaguar really a 64-bit system? Here we go again!

Here is a letter I wrote Nintendose, their response, and my response:

In a recent article on your site you stated "Nintendo offered the public something that nobody else on the market had been able to offer: the very first true 64-bit home video game console." This statement is untrue. The first true 64-bit game console was the Atari Jaguar. Although many people have deemed the Jaguar a 32, 16, or 16/32/64-bit console, the fact is that as a complete system the Jaguar is 64-bits.

The Jaguar has five processors, of which two are 64-bits. According to Jez San of Argonaut Software the Jaguar also uses a 64-bit memory architecture. According to Jaguar designer John Mathieson, "Jaguar has a 64-bit memory interface to get a high bandwidth out of cheap DRAM.... Where the system needs to be 64 bit then it is 64 bit, so the Object Processor, which takes data from DRAM and builds the display is 64 bit; and the blitter, which does all the 3D rendering, screen clearing, and pixel shuffling, is 64 bit. Where the system does not need to be 64 bit, it isn't. There is no point in a 64 bit address space in a games console! 3D calculations and audio processing do not generally use 64-bit numbers, so there would be no advantage to 64 bit processors for this. Jaguar has the data shifting power of a 64 bit system, which is what matters for games, so can reasonably be considered a 64 bit system. But that doesn't mean it has to be 64 bits throughout."

-Heath Anderson

Darren: Well... That article was the History Of Nintendo, written by our Cameron Rail. I figured he should respond to this one, so here is what Cam had to say:

CAM: Regarding the N64 being the first true 64-bit game system released for home use, that's a correct statement. Yes, the Atari Jaguar was in stores well before the N64. However, it used a 16-bit CPU, a separate 32-bit RISC processor, and a 16-bit DSP to handle the system's processing chores. While 16+32+16 does add up to 64, those three processors combined do not add up to the power available in a single, true 64-bit model like that used in the N64.

Darren : *Sniff*.... couldn't have said it better myself.

My response:

In response to your response, I have to say I am insulted. No one in their right mind would add the bits of a system's processors.

The Jaguar has -five- not three processors. These five processors are contained on three chips. Two of the chips are proprietary designs, nicknamed "Tom" and "Jerry". The third chip is a standard Motorola 68000, and used as a coprocessor.

On the "Tom" chip there are three processors: the Graphics Processing Unit which has a 32-bit RISC architecture, the Object processor which has a 64-bit RISC architecture, and the Blitter which also has a 64-bit RISC architecture.

On the "Jerry" chip is the Digital Signal Processor which is 32-bits and has the same RISC core as the Graphics Processing Unit.

The Motorola 68000 is 16-bits.

I never claimed the Jaguar to be more powerful than the N64, but when it was released in 1993 nothing could touch it.