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Casual MacRumors visitors may not realize that we have a very active PowerPC forum where users discuss issues related to PowerPC Macs that have not been produced since 2006. Threads range from hardware upgrades and software options to nostalgia:

IMG_4113.jpg
Photo by AphoticD


Apple's recently announced transition to Apple Silicon (Arm) based Macs raised some interesting questions about future support for these old machines.

In particular, MacRumors forum member Wowfunhappy asked about ongoing support for Universal binaries in the upcoming Arm-based macOS, and whether or not a four-way universal binary was possible:
During their 2020 WWDC keynote, Apple announced the reintroduction of Universal Binaries, for developers to create apps that work on both Intel and Arm Macs during the transition.

But Universal Binaries never really went away the first time! You can run PPC-Intel apps on Mojave, and I assume also Catalina. Also, many Intel-only apps are still "universal," in that they contain versions for both i386 (32bit Intel) and x86_64 (64bit Intel).

Thus, I am intensely curious: would it be possible for a developer to create a single universal binary that works natively on all four architectures: PPC, i386, x86_64, and ARM?
The answer, it appears, is yes. The TenFourFox developer blogged about the possibility, confirming that it is indeed possible:
A question I got repeatedly the last couple days was, now that AARM (Apple ARM) is a thing, is the ultimate ARM-Intel-PowerPC Universal Binary possible? You bet it is! In fact, Apple already documents that you could have a five-way binary, i.e., ARM64, 32-bit PowerPC, 64-bit PowerPC, i386 and x86_64. Just build them separately and lipo them together
TenFourFox is a Firefox port for PowerPC Macs running OS X 10.4 or 10.5. It provides those users with modern browser support. The developer actually points out that each architecture can even have its own subtype, meaning that ultimately a so-called "Super Duper Universal Binary" could have support for 17 different instruction sets, which could run on any machine from PowerPC to future Arm-based Mac with full support for all processor subtypes.

Article Link: Arm-Intel-PowerPC Universal Binaries Are Possible
 
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JosephAW

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May 14, 2012
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Technically iOS 9 introduced something similar where iOS app downloads only include resources for your device. That's why app purchases transferred to desktops via iTunes went away because the app on your iPhone was different between various iOS devices.

You could still download the larger apps in iTunes after that until March of this year when Apple nixed that as well.
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These super binaries for x86, PPC, ARM and all their various chipsets would be large downloads.
 
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casperes1996

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Jan 26, 2014
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Technically iOS 9 introduced something similar where iOS app downloads only include resources for your device. That's why app purchases transferred to desktops via iTunes went away because the app on your iPhone was different between various iOS devices.

You could still download the larger apps in iTunes after that until March of this year when Apple nixed that as well.
[automerge]1594500866[/automerge]
These super binaries for x86, PPC, ARM and all their various chipsets would be large downloads.

Not necessarily that large. The instructions are not at all a very large part of a program. Resource files would not need to change between the architectures, and that's what takes up the most space. And when downloaded from the App Store, App Thinning can still be utilised. Everywhere else, developers can offer separate downloads in addition to or instead of a universal binary, though the advantage of a universal binary is that it means websites won't ask your grandma or friend who doesn't care about tech whether she or he wants x86, x86_64, ARM64, PPC, and if x86_64 is picked whether an AVX version is wanted, one without AVX or one that dynamically checks for AVX at runtime
 
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jdiamond

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Dec 17, 2008
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This is great, but the main issue is X-Code: Will the compiler still create a PowerPC target to put in the fat binary? Will the compiler still allow you to use the different MacOS libraries that are needed on the older OSes that run on different targets? I *wish* Apple would support it. Maybe users can? Make available the older APIs that go with the older OSes that go with the older processors? OTOH, I suppose Apple could in theory compile the latest OS and all the APIs for all these targets.
 
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firewood

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Jul 29, 2003
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This is great, but the main issue is X-Code: Will the compiler still create a PowerPC target to put in the fat binary? Will the compiler still allow you to use the different MacOS libraries that are needed on the older OSes that run on different targets?

Not with any recent version of Xcode.

Instead you need to build the PPC binary on an old version of Xcode running on an old version of OS X (in a VM or using separate boot disk or partition on an older Mac). That old Xcode will include the old proper libraries and frameworks. Then copy the binary to the current version of Xcode on a current Mac running a current macOS, and lipo your fat binary together, before code-signing or notarization.
 
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Madd the Sane

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Nov 8, 2010
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I'm not surprised.
I'd be more surprised if they could get a binary and assets working on OpenStep 4 PA-RISC, SPARC, Motorola 68k, PowerPC Macs, Intel 32-and-64-bit, and Apple Silicon.
I'd be even more surprised if they got OpenStep i386 and Mac OS X i386 working in the same binary!
 
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JosephAW

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May 14, 2012
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a curiosity at best.
Really.... Who's still using a PPC Mac? Sure, there's lots of people with old PPC macs stuffed somewhere in a basement under that pile of ZIP drives- but actually using one?
Have several web servers running G5 and G4 applications. Although we're starting to see the units starting to fail from dried out capacitors and having to reapply CPU cooling paste.
usually you can get them for next to nothing but still have a lot of performance.
 
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