From RWP Wiki
|Released||North America: September 26, 1996
Europe: March 1, 1997
Japan: June 23, 1996
|Discontinued||North America: 2002
|Predecessor||Super Nintendo Entertainment System|
The Nintendo 64, originally known as the Ultra 64, was released in the US by Nintendo in 1996. It was Nintendo's third game console, and the first one on the market with a fully 64-bit CPU. (The Atari Jaguar, though advertised as 64-bit, had a 16-bit main processor.)
The Nintendo 64 has the following hardware:
- MIPS R4300i 64-bit RISC CPU running at 93.75MHz (1.5X bus multiplier)
- RCP (Reality CoProcessor), a custom vector processor developed by Nintendo and SGI, running at 62.5MHz
- 4 megabytes of parity Rambus RDRAM (expandable to 8MB)
- Four digital controller ports using a serial protocol
The RCP is a powerful multimedia processor that handles the 3D rendering and sound output for the console. Its display capabilities are comprised of two parts: the RSP (Reality Signal Processor), a microcode-upgradable vector and audio processor, and the RDP (Reality Display Processor), the texture mapping unit and framebuffer device. A vector processor such as the RSP is one that can operate on many sets of data in one pass, which makes it ideal for crunching the linear equations that are used in 3D polygon setup.
The MIPS R4300i CPU has a 64-bit execution unit and a 32-bit data path. Thus, it is able to perform complex 64-bit calculations in full stride, while maintaining interface compatibility with 32-bit peripherals that are in mass production. According to an online magaizine, the N64 can execute 125 Dhrystone MIPS and is rated at 60 SPECint92 and 45 SPECfp92.
The N64 is an interesting machine because it is the most powerful console that is based on cartridge format. This could be a blessing or a big problem, depending on how you look at it. On one hand, it is free of the load times that plagued CD-ROM based consoles such as the PSX and Saturn. It is also extremely difficult to damage the media. However, ROM chips used in cartridges are quite a bit more expensive than CD-ROM discs. This caused the price of most N64 games to be in the $50 price range as opposed to the $30-50 range that Playstation and Saturn games sold for (the only notable game for ever being more than $50 was "Hey You Pikachu" due to the included voice hardware). It also limited the size of the cartridges; the average N64 cart was 128 megabits to 256 megabits (16-32MB), and the biggest N64 cartridges made were 512 megabits (64MB).
A common misconception of the N64 controller was that it was the first to have an analog-thumb stick. In reality, the N64 only popularized it. The Vectrex, created during the video game crash, was the first to ever have the feature.
Role with Rare Ltd.
Almost every game Rare released for the Nintendo 64 was met with critical acclaim, including GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark. Unfortuantly, some of Rare's less mainstream games, like Jet Force Gemini and Blast Corps were not very successful commercially, despite recognition from game critics. Most Nintendo fans would admit that the console survived its problems, because of Rare's output of excellent games, and many people bought the consoles just to play Rare games. Without these games, it is likely that Nintendo could not have kept the Nintendo 64 going, and would have had many long-term effects on the company as a whole.