August 19, 1996: G3 Chip Announced

Discussion in ' News Discussion' started by MacBytes, Aug 19, 2006.

  1. MacBytes macrumors bot

    Jul 5, 2003
  2. BenRoethig macrumors 68030


    Jul 17, 2002
    Dubuque, Iowa
    I remember that day well. The first G3 was pretty much a PowerMac 8600 with a new motherboard. Same for the Powerbook which was more or less a Powerbook 3400. The clones announced their G3 machines too before getting canned. The PowerPC had so much promise back then.
  3. FF_productions macrumors 68030


    Apr 16, 2005
    Mt. Prospect, Illinois
  4. steve_hill4 macrumors 68000


    May 15, 2005
    NG9, England
    Was? Still is, it's just it has been surpassed by processors which are cooler, cheaper and faster.

    I'm staying at a hostel while at the Edinburgh fringe this weekend and they have a single computer for guests' web access, a turquoise iMac G3. As long as you use a computer with its original software and the uses intended, you should be able to use it for years.
  5. FF_productions macrumors 68030


    Apr 16, 2005
    Mt. Prospect, Illinois
    Good point. I tried upgrading a B&W G3 so I could run Final Cut Pro and it turned out to be a disaster. I should have stayed with OS 9, it's always smart to stay with the software that will run it's fastest on your hardware.
  6. steve_hill4 macrumors 68000


    May 15, 2005
    NG9, England
    Well, in saying that you can have other problems too, (with Windows, generally security). Also, I know may that have gone to OS X on an OS9 machine and it's performed even better.

    I'd still say stick with what you have for a machine was designed for.
  7. ipacmm macrumors 65816


    Jun 17, 2003
    Cincinnati, OH
    I remember with the G3 & G4, Mac's used to be a lot more fun to use and be everyone is using them and to me they have lost their touch with the Intel switch.
  8. wyatt23 macrumors 6502a


    Mar 7, 2006
    Forest Hills, NY
    i know that my macbook is *just* a little more fun than my eMac 700.

    i blame it on built in isight.
  9. FocusAndEarnIt macrumors 601


    May 29, 2005
    Huh? Your eMac is a G4. :rolleyes: We're talking about the G3 here. ;)

    I have about 5 machines on the G3 still in my house. Still run great... :)
  10. Eidorian macrumors Penryn


    Mar 23, 2005
    Yes it still is. The G3 is dirt cheap and powerful for embedded applications.
  11. ShiggyMiyamoto macrumors 6502a


    Mar 29, 2004
    Just outside Boston, MA.
    My aging and in-bad-shape iBook is a G3.. a G3/600 MHz. It runs fine, but it's HDD died and I'm forced to run it using my external Firewire drive.... I remember when it was the fastest puppy on the block....
  12. RacerX macrumors 65832

    Aug 2, 2004
    They actually did change the case for the Beige G3 Mini Towers. I have two Mini Towers and two 8600s, the 8600s are about an inch taller than the Mini Towers.

    On the other hand, yes, the first PowerBook G3 was almost physically the same as the 3400c... this was possible due in large part to the fact that the G3 was based on the PowerPC 603e processor's architecture.

    Back to the article...
    As pointed out, Apple took the time to compare the G3's performance to the current line of Intel processors (the Pentium Pro and Pentium II) which it handily beat. But what Apple didn't talk about much was how the G3 compared to the previous top of the line Mac systems based on the PowerPC 604ev processors.

    If they had, they would have needed to do pretty much the same thing they are doing today with the Intel transition, which is emphasize the integer performance over the floating point performance.

    The release of the Beige G3 systems didn't end the sales of the 8600/9600 systems as they were (for many tasks) still faster than the original G3s. The first G3s were running at 233 MHz and 266 MHz, where as the 8600/9600 systems were running at 250 MHz, 300 MHz and 350 MHz. But the clock speed doesn't tell the true difference... at 300MHz for both the G3 and 604ev, the G3 is faster at integer tasks but slower at floating point tasks than the 604ev.

    Of course, when either processor was put up against either the Pentium Pro or Pentium II, they handily beat the Intel chips in both integer and floating point tasks. This fact was not exploited by Apple in the 604 era, which was a mistake Apple rectified with the introduction of the G3.

    Some technical background on the G3...
    As I pointed out, the G3 is based on the PowerPC 603e processor. What was added was a special caching technique which produced the major speed increase without the increase in heat or production cost. This was part of the reason that the G3 systems were very affordable compared to the 604-based systems and why Apple was able to release a G3-based PowerBook with the desktops even though they were never able to put a 604 in a PowerBook.

    At the same time the G3 was gaining advantages over the 604 due to the 603-based design, it was also inheriting some of the 603's limitations... mainly the inability to work in a multiprocessor setup.

    Even though the G3 line would be one of IBMs best selling processors, they never made use of them in their own computers. IBM would continue to use the 604 processor in their workstation line of computers until at least 2002. These systems would include single, dual and quad 604 arrangements at either 350 MHz or 375 MHz. Between the ability to have multiple processors and the better floating point performance, the 604 was still a better choice for IBM than the G3.

    The caching technique used in the G3 needed to be recognized by the operating system, otherwise it would appear (and run) like a 603e. Apple updated the operating system to recognize the G3 in Mac OS 8, and third party software let later versions of System 7 take advantage of the G3's design. At the same time Apple provided a patch for developer versions of Rhapsody to make use of the G3.

    Beyond the G3...
    The G4 was very much like the G3. It was based on the 604 processor's architecture, again with the special caching technique to increase performance, and would have the 604's ability to work in a multiprocessor environment.

    Where it differed from the G3 (and while IBM bowed out of the partnership on these chips) was the addition of a special vector processing unit called Altivec designed by Motorola (which Apple called the Velocity Engine). This part of the processor would need to be taken advantage of by rewriting applications to see and use Altivec, but the performance increases achieved were worth the effort.

    For software that didn't see or use the Altivec, the performance increases by the G4 over the G3 were much more modest (about 15% on average when comparing a G3 and G4 at the same clock speed).

    While Apple would benefit from Altivec, they would also suffer from IBMs absents in the G4 processors production. When Apple announced the PowerMac G4 line, they said that they would run at 400 MHz, 450 MHz and 500 MHz. While in production, Motorola ran into (quality) issues which both limited the speed of the chips and the amount they could produce. The speeds were dropped to 350 MHz, 400 MHz and 450 MHz, even though orders had already been taken for the original speeds.

    In order to meet the demands for the new G4 systems, IBM was asked to pick up the product short fall by making G4 processors at their plants. What they got was rather interesting. Even though they were asked to produce processors that would qualify as at least 500 MHz, many of the G4 processors off IBM's production line would have actually qualified to run as high as 650 MHz. The primary difference between the processors made by Motorola and IBM being the quality.

    -continued below-
  13. RacerX macrumors 65832

    Aug 2, 2004
    -continued from above-

    This intervention of IBM was a one time thing, and all other G4 processors were made by Motorola, which is why the G4 was stuck at 500 MHz for as long as it was. In fact, while Motorola was having production issues in getting the G4 past 500 MHz, IBM was able to get the G3 processor past 700 MHz. And even though IBM could produce these processors in large quantities, Apple refused to use any G3 processor that had a faster clock rating than their professional line, which kept the G3 based systems at 500 MHz for as long as the G4 systems were limited to that speed.

    This was, to a degree, understandable. Why would Apple want to explain why someone should pay more for a 500 MHz PowerMac G4 when they were selling a 700 MHz iMac G3 for much less?

    Of course Apple was able to weather the G4 clock limitations thanks to the fact that the G4 could be used in multiprocessor setups... but before Mac OS X was released, Mac OS 9 didn't actually use both processors in those systems. Only specially designed software could take advantage of more than one processor. After Mac OS X, even if apps were not able to use more than one processor, Mac OS X was able to distribute the open applications over the available processors.

    PowerPC vs. Intel: Has Apple Been Lying to Us?
    As long as we are looking at processor history here, I may as well address this recent article on PowerPC and Intel processors.

    Some people (who are not well informed) seem to think that because we are now moving to Intel, that they must have been better all along. This is, to say the least, a very flawed form of logic.

    What has happened, and I suspect will continue to happen, is that different processor lines have had a tendency to leap frog each other of the course over their development.

    Was the G3 really faster than the Pentium II? Absolutely. Was the G4 so much faster than any other desktop computer that (under the dated requirements) the Federal government restricted it's sale because it qualified as a Super Computer? Yes. Was the G5 so much faster at floating point tasks that it not only qualified as one of the top 10 Super Computers when clustered, it also handily beat a similar clustered system made up of Dell systems which were both more expensive and used more (Intel) processors? Yes.

    More to the point, if the Intel transition was because the Intel chips were always so much faster than PowerPC chips, why would we have a bottom up transition rather than a top down transition as we have always had in the past when changing processors? Easy, Apple was waiting for an Intel processor that would eclipse the current line of G5s. Intel already had processors that beat the G4s and older G5s used in the lower end products, they just didn't have anything that measured up to the high end G5s until now.

    Further, Apple didn't change because of speed. They changed because development cost and customer service (Apple as the customer in this case).

    Originally when IBM was designing the PowerPC 970, it was supposed to bridge the gap between the PowerPC 604 and POWER3 lines and the new POWER4 and beyond. The PowerPC 604 and POWER3 processors were 32 bit, where as the POWER4 was 64 bit. What they thought they needed was a 32 bit/64 bit hybrid processor to help their workstation and server clients make the move. In order to lower the cost of producing these chips, IBM went to Apple and ask if they would be interested in using them. Apple agreed on one condition... that Altivec would be added to the processor's design. The savings in final unit price made IBM agree to Altivec even though it was a technology that they were not thrilled with.

    What IBM found out later on was that a transitional processor wasn't really needed. So while Apple thought they were moving to a processor that IBM had a vested interest in, IBM was finding they no longer needed that processor for their own uses. This transferred nearly all the future development cost onto Apple (a burden they had not foreseen).

    Further, IBM had taken on a new PowerPC client which they found to be more fruitful than Apple... Microsoft. IBM started putting not only most of their development efforts into a new PowerPC processor for Microsoft, they diverted most of their production efforts to the Microsoft processor too. This left Apple waiting for their processors.

    Looking a few years back, Apple single handedly revived Intel's USB technology which had been dying a slow death in the PC market. Intel is as much a technology company as a processor company. When they saw what Apple could do, which no other PC maker could (which was quickly adopt new Intel technology), they wanted Apple as a client to showcase their new ideas.

    With IBM now giving Apple a cold shoulder, and Intel still wanting Apple as a client, the choice was simple. Even though Apple would never be Intel's largest processor client, Apple would be given first class treatment because they could showcase new Intel technology and jump start that technology in the PC industry. When you have one company basically not returning your calls (IBM) and another beating down your door (Intel), you (Apple) go with were you get the best service.

    Easy. :D

    :rolleyes: And it has nothing to do with Apple lying to us all these years.

    Anyways, that gives you a better idea of the history of all these processors and puts the G3 in better perspective.
  14. miniConvert macrumors 68040


    Mar 4, 2006
    Kent, UK - the 'Garden of England'.
    That was an interesting read, I can't believe I actually read it all, but it was an interesting read ;)
  15. RacerX macrumors 65832

    Aug 2, 2004
    Sorry about the length... I can be a little long winded at times. :eek:
  16. spicyapple macrumors 68000


    Jul 20, 2006
    I had bad memories using the PowerMac G3 at work in desktop publishing. It was slow and it crashed frequently running OS 8.
  17. eric_n_dfw macrumors 65816


    Jan 2, 2002
    DFW, TX, USA
    You should have gotten Final Cut Pro 2 -- it ran great on my Blue & White G3 400Mhz with OS 8.5 (or was it 9?) I even ran it, as well as FCP 3 on the same machine with a G4 400Mhz ZIF upgrade.

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