PPC still lives!!!

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    Posted: 08 August 2012 07:49 PM

    For its nuclear-powered life-hunting tank, NASA chose a 200MHz PowerPC 750 CPU specifically hardened to withstand radiation and space flight. Take that Intel raspberry

         
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    Posted: 09 August 2012 11:38 AM #1

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    Are you serious? Surely a 200MHZ chip isn’t the only brains on the Curiosity! A $2.5 billion probe with less computing power than an iPhone???

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  • Posted: 09 August 2012 01:08 PM #2

    It is standard procedure for these kinds of applications. They use hardware that is tried and true, because once it launches we can’t replace defective components.

    We wouldn’t want to stick a brand new chip design on there, because the closer you are to the cutting edge the greater the chance of encountering unforeseen defects. And undoubtedly the more sophisticated it is, the harder it will be to make it radiation resistant.

    Besides, all it’s doing is collecting data from some sensors and driving around. It’s not like it needs to play Halo or stream Netflix. wink

    [ Edited: 09 August 2012 01:14 PM by David Nelson ]      
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    Posted: 09 August 2012 01:28 PM #3

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    David,

    Agreed with all you’ve said, especially the reliability issue. It’s just mind-blowing to think a 200 MHz PowerPC G3 chip can be the brains behind the most sophisticated space probe ever built. And as for your Halo comment, how interesting that it takes far more computing power to simulate being in space than actually functioning on another planet! But I did a Google search, and sure enough, 200 MHz is all the computing power on board:

    Inside NASA’s Curiosity: It’s an Apple Airport Extreme…. With Wheels

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    Posted: 13 August 2012 03:54 PM #4

    mrmwebmax - 09 August 2012 02:38 PM

    +Are you serious? Surely a 200MHZ chip isn’t the only brains on the Curiosity! A $2.5 billion probe with less computing power than an iPhone???

    Two other thoughts on this:

    Curiosity has a severe bandwidth limit. It can’t send Gb or even 10Mb/second data streams back to earth. Lower data rates require less computing power.

    The tasks involved in running a robot are not hugely processor intensive. It takes sequences of orders from Earth and performs them to drive or dig or test a sample, or take an image, all at low speed with limits and orders to stop what it’s doing if anything seems strange. The processor is managing data but it isn’t doing the same kind of intensive ‘processing’ that an iPhone does when, for example, it runs a full motion game or decodes an embedded video from a HTML5 web site.

    No reason to have more processor than the system needs especially when the older one is tested, hardened and proved itself.

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    Posted: 14 August 2012 08:25 PM #5

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    geoduck - 13 August 2012 06:54 PM

    No reason to have more processor than the system needs especially when the older one is tested, hardened and proved itself.

    Agreed. That’s just still…wow. They must be using very efficient code. I can’t imagine running even Word on 200MHz today!

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    Posted: 14 August 2012 09:05 PM #6

    Yeah, it’s odd to think that Curiosity is running on roughly the equivalent of a Bondai iMac.

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    Courage is not the absence of fear, that’s insanity.
    Courage is knowing the risks and dangers.
    And doing what needs to be done anyway.

         
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    Posted: 14 August 2012 09:13 PM #7

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    geoduck - 15 August 2012 12:05 AM

    Yeah, it’s odd to think that Curiosity is running on roughly the equivalent of a Bondai iMac.

    Yet, all the same, they just completed an “intellect upgrade” of the steering computers:
    Mars Rover’s Test drive Set for Next Week
    How they’re doing this with a Bondi Blue iMac chip? My only guess is that they must be rocket scientists! smile

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