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Knyte's blog

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Knyte avatar 6:01 PM on 11.06.2007  (server time)
Knyte's VGM #4 - Honoring A Phone Company?

And, no we are not talking about the N-Gage.

Today we hail Motorola. Not for the Razr, not for any phone. But, for a microchip they developed in 1976.

That chip was the 68000.

What's so great about a 30 year old chip, you may ask?

That chip gave us such memorable characters as Ken & Ryu, Sonic The Hedgehog, Captain Commando, Arthur (Ghouls 'n Ghosts), Strider, Morrigan Aensland, Haohmaru, Marco Rossi & Tarma Roving (Metal Slug), Mai, Haggar, Opa-Opa (Fantasy Zone), Joe Musashi (Shinobi), Gilius Thunderhead (Golden Axe), and many more!

That one chip gave us litterally thousands of video games.

The 68000 was first used during the early 1980s in high-priced systems, including multiuser microcomputers like the WICAT 150, Tandy TRS-80 Model 16, and Fortune 32:16; single-user workstations such as Hewlett-Packard's HP 9000 Series 200 systems, the first Apollo/Domain systems, Sun Microsystems' Sun-1, and the Corvus Concept; and graphics terminals like Digital Equipment Corporation's VAXstation 100 and Silicon Graphics' IRIS 1000 and 1200. While Unix systems soon abandoned the original 68000 due to limitations of the processor, its derivatives remained popular in the Unix market throughout the 1980s.

During the mid 1980s, the 68000 was first used in personal and home computers, starting with the Apple Lisa and Macintosh, and followed by the Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, and Sharp X68000.

As technological advances obsoleted the 68000 from use in the standalone computing market, its use grew in consumer and embedded applications. Video game manufacturers used the 68000 as the backbone of many arcade games and home game consoles. Atari's Food Fight, from 1983, was one of the first 68000-based arcade games. The 68000 was the main CPU of many arcade systems during the late 1980s and early 1990s, such as Sega's System 16, Capcom's CPS-1 and CPS-2, and SNK's Neo Geo. A number of arcade systems used two 68000s; some even used three. During the 1990s, as arcade systems switched to more powerful processors for the main CPU, they often continued to use the 68000 as a sound controller.

The 68000 was also the central processor in several home game consoles of the late 1980s/early 1990s, including the Sega Mega Drive (Sega Genesis), the Sega Mega-CD (Sega CD), and the console version of the Neo Geo (AES). Some later game consoles still included the 68000: the Sega Saturn used it as a dedicated sound controller, and in the Atari Jaguar it co-ordinated the activities of the other specialized graphics and sound chips.

So, a company that is now known for only making phones, gave us a revolutionary chip that gave us years of fond video game memories.

So, is the 86000 retired after so many years of faithful service to the world? Nope! It can still be found in everything from TVs to specialized medical equipment. In fact, kids are still using the chip today. But, not so much for gaming, as for high school math. Texas Instruments uses the 68000 in its high-end graphing calculators, the TI-89 and TI-92 series and Voyage 200.

Although, I fondly remember playing Tetris on my TI-80 all those years ago, and I no doubt believe that kids are still playing games while they should be learning tangents and cosines...

So, I guess you could say, that little chip is still gaming on to this day.

(If you do an article about Motorola, you gotta have a picture of the awesome 80s-tastic DynaTac cell phone!) ;)

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