Friday, April 22, 2005

Physics Processing Unit?

I enjoy reading CPU Magazine. Having been sticking my hands inside of computers for about 24 years, the "how to upgrade your PC" type articles of most computer magazines miss the mark with me. On the other hand, CPU Mag is aimed at those of you who are well beyond how to add more memory. Check it out. Anyhow, I was reading the May issue last night and they had a brief note on a company that is coming out with a Physics Processing Unit (PPU). Since the new simulations are maxing out your CPU, and your GPU on your nVidia 6800 is clsoe to maxing out, if you had a PPU, it could offlaod the f=ma type calculations. Watch your car's fender realistically crumple, when you kiss the driver's vehicle next to you in a NASCAR race. See explosions sending fragments out in realistic patterns, etc, etc, etc. I recall the first 386SX chips. They were supposed to have the math co-processor function working in them, but since some failed this QA test, but the main part of the chip worked, Intel sold the "SX" series, which was the defective set of CPUs coming from the fabrication process. Mother boards back then had a socket where you could install a math co-processor. The 80486 series similarly had the "DX" (the math function worked in these) and the "SX" types series. Smart marketing by Intel, but us hard core geeks just reffered to the "SX" chips as "386 SUX" or "486 SUX." As the games became more demanding, video cards began having their own Graphics Processing Units (GPUs). Sound cards (high end ones) have processing these days. Now we'll get a PPU, and then, when display technology cranks up the pixel density, the computer display will almost substitute for real life. Cool and spooky all at once... But, I have wondered for years, who will demand royalties when the actors of days gone by go digital, and we are treated to Humphrey Bogart, and Marilyn Monroe in digital format? That will get exciting...

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