Supercomputer on a chip

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Not long ago the world had a first glimpse of the new processor by the STI group, which is intended for the upcoming Sony Playstation 3. The processor called “Cell” has been called to have a revolutionary new architecture and given the new architecture it also has astonishing computing power. It is not unusual that the “Cell” processor is also nick named a supercomputer on a chip, because it can deliver 256Gflops at a clock speed of 4 GHz.

The need for new and better computing power is not only been a trend in the recent year for the PC industry, but also a lot in the gaming industry. Games have become more power consuming, because the systems have better audio/video possibilities, but also need better security and creating high quality 3D graphics. So the need for faster processors will only increase.


  • Need for more computing power
  • High Definition Imagery and Sound
  • Audio/Video decoding
  • Digital Signal Processing (DSP)
  • Multi-functionality
  • Complex encryption for security


  • Government regulations
  • Power consumption
  • Competitors


Where as computing power is a must to deliver more comprehensive and realistic games, there are some problems with the computing power.
First of all the US government will put regulations on the distribution of the systems, because they have such great power and can be clustered together to become a real supercomputer. Just like the Apple Mac computers there are restrictions about its exporting to risk countries like Iran, Cuba and Syria.
Second the power consumption of the processor as they are used. The amount of electricity a processor need to operate is increasing as well. This is will lead to improving chip architecture and making more efficient chips.


Blachford, Nicholas (2005) Cell Architecture Explained: Introduction


1985 - Master system: Z80 8-Bit @ 3.6 MHz
1989 - Mega Drive: Motorola 68000 16-bit @ 7.61 MHz
1995 - Saturn: Two Hitachi SH2 32-bit RISC @ 28.6MHz
1998 - Dreamcast Hitachi SH-4 RISC 128-bit @ 200 MHz

1986 - NES: Motorola 6508 8-bit @ 1.79 MHz
1989 - Super Nintendo: Motorola 68000 16-bit @ 7.61MHz
1996 - Nintendo 64: MIPS R4300i 64-bit @ 93.75MHz
2001 - Gamecube: IBM PowerPC "Gekko" @ 485MHz
TBA - Revolution: IBM "Broadway" @ xxxx MHz

1995 - Playstation: MIPS R3000A @ 33.86 MHz
2000 - Playstation 2: 2x Toshiba & Sony Emotion Engine @ 294.9MHz
2006 - Playstation 3: IBM Cell processor @ xxxx MHz

2001 - Xbox: Intel Pentium III @ 733MHz
2006 - Xbox 360: 3x IBM PowerPC-cores @ 3.0GHz

As you can see the computing power of the game consoles has increased immensely over time and will only increase more to deliver on the more power consuming games and entertainment consoles.

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