Rise of the machines

    In your mind’s eye, take a quick retrospective look at the history of gaming. Do you see the early ’70s and the monochromatic, soundless splendor of the Magnavox Odyssey, that beautiful little brown box that had the true original Pong? Do you remember the feud between Magnavox and Bushnell over who really made Pong?

    If not, that’s no surprise, because most modern gamers are more prone to believe that video gaming started in the late ’70s, when Atari released its 2600 system.

    This release ushered in the start of central processing units (CPUs) for gaming. The cartridges for games actually held their own memory and they were played separately. Now, to speak of such a concept today is underwhelming, if not boring; we’re so far beyond cartridge media that even the last release in the Atari family, the 7800, is horribly dated. After the video game crash of 1983–a horrible, dark time when most every company tied to the gaming industry went bankrupt–you would have thought that Atari and their competition Coleco would have learned that jumps in technology aren’t enough to make gaming exciting.

    Today, there are leaps and bounds being made in gaming technology and, for the most part, it has been coupled with developers and producers that know what the hell they’re doing (maybe because they have more than 16 colors to work with). While some of these advancements weren’t made with gaming specifically in mind, they’re still the sort of growth that will make the next generation of gaming even better than the last. Do you remember how awesome the concept of games on CD was? Well, now we’ve got Blu-Ray! Could there be anything better than the PlayStation 2’s Emotion Engine processor? Hell yeah, and it’s called the Cell processor, my friend! And surely the pinnacle of online gaming came with the Dreamcast and its PlanetWeb (which supported Phantasy Star III, only the best fucking MMORPG ever!), right? Wrong! Now, there will be Sony’s PlayStation Network, the continuing Xbox Live and Nintendo’s WiiConnect, all three of which are broadband and totally user-friendly.

    Quad-core processor

    Recently, dual-core processors have been all the rage with PCs and Macintoshes. Most every new iBook and iMac features dual-core technology, and Intel’s Core Duo architecture is bringing faster clocking, greater storage space and lower power consumption rates to everyday computer users. Now, the market will shift towards quad-core technology in 2007, as quad-core processors become available commercially, effectively allowing a regular user to access the sort of elite hardware that, only a year ago, was more or less the pinnacle of the private programming universe.

    What that means

    For the most part, your current single processor does the job. Dual-core will speed things up and let you run dozens of programs at one time without slowing you down. Quad-core is going to be complete and total overkill unless you have your own server, are always online and constantly running Photoshop, Word, Visual Studio and Quicken all at once. If that’s how you usually are with your computer, then it’s gonna be a good year. Otherwise, quad-core is probably a few years away for your wallet.

    Cell processor

    The guts of the PlayStation 3, Cell is a microprocessor featuring nine-core architecture. Eight of the processors (called SPUs) are synergistic and attach to one power processing unit (PPU). This gargantuan amount of processing prowess allows for a clock frequency of 3.2 GHz, rivaling most cutting-edge PC processors. Similarly, the floating point processing is much greater than even the Pentium 4 or Athlon 64.

    What that means

    Your games will never crash again. The speed with which your PS3 connects to online gaming will blow your mind, and the graphics that it can run are going to be, as the kids say, “off the hizzy fo shizzy.” While you don’t have to know anything about microprocessors to enjoy gaming, even amateur computer nerds are creaming themselves in anticipation of Cell–and rightfully so, given how powerful it is.


    This new format of compact disc is an amazing form of data storage. Written by a blue-violet laser and the test media used with Blu-ray discs (BD), it can hold up to 200GB worth of memory–that’s probably more memory than your computer has, and requires at least quadruple-level layering to make. A BD can be written in 11 different layering styles, the most common being the single-sided, single-layered 12cm format currently gaining mass popularity with the development of PlayStation 3 games.

    What that means

    These new discs are insane. Not only can they store behemoth amounts of data, but they’re more scratch-resistant than DVDs and the layered side is a pretty, shiny shade of purple that will make you smile when you see it. Also, remember the region codes for DVD, and how there were about five million of them? That little frustration is gone with BD, which carries three region codes: one for Europe, Africa and Australia; one for China, Russia and Central Asia; and one for the rest of the world. That means that your American BD will work in Chile, Japan and even Korea, provided we don’t go to nuclear war.