Next up for Pcs: high-end graphics and power smarts

What's a Klamath? The latest word on Intel Corp.'s forthcoming Pentium Pro MMX
multimedia processor is that its AGP, or accelerated graphics port, involves a
modification of the motherboard architecture rather than a port in the usual sense.


The AGP represents Intel's line of attack on the dedicated graphics workstation market
as well as the games market. By inserting this high-bandwidth, dedicated path between
graphics chips, main memory and CPU, Intel can offload some graphics processing chores and
free the PCI bus to handle other traffic.


But instead of the PCI bus speed of 33 MHz, the AGP will expedite graphics at twice
that speed, or 66 MHz. Intel expects AGP add-in cards to be widely available by mid-1997,
and its new motherboards soon will have AGP built right in with the Klamath Pentium Pro.


Check out http://www.teleport.com/~agfxport/
for more information on the AGP. The same World Wide Web site contains the full AGP
1.0 specification in a 2.1M Adobe Acrobat file.


Implementation of the AGP could be a big advance for PC architecture if, as Intel
apparently expects, it helps Pentium Pro computers supplant dedicated Unix graphics
workstations.


A bit further out on the event horizon, desktop PCs will gain advanced power management
capability so you can just leave them on all the time. Intel's ACPI, or advanced
configuration and power interface, will deliver the kind of system-level power management
seen now in notebook computers.


This should be a boon to small agency sites without LANs--they could keep a
"sleeping" but functional PC running 24 hours to receive faxes, e-mail or voice
mail.


Meanwhile, the universal serial bus (USB), a low-bandwidth connection for
daisy-chaining printers, keyboards, telephones and other peripherals, should become
standard on motherboards by the end of 1997.


The higher-bandwidth IEEE 1394 interface standard, which will enable 100-megabit/sec to
1-gigabit/sec network connections, will support devices such as digital video cameras,
recorders and other peripherals yet to be invented.


A low-end, 100-megabit/sec IEEE 1394 interface should become optional via an add-in
card in 1997, and demand volume should bring the price down enough that it might become a
standard motherboard feature by 1999.


How do you factor all these prognostications into your buying plans? Remember that even
a 286 running an old version of WordPerfect can do a full day's work in many offices, as
long as they don't deal with multimedia applications' bells and whistles.


For Microsoft Windows 95, you need 100-MHz or slightly faster Pentiums, but my advice
is to load up on cheap memory while it's still around. If you run 16-bit applications and
need multimedia, then you probably should wait for the P55C multimedia Pentium chip that's
due soon.


For 32-bit Windows NT or OS/2 applications, the Pentium Pro is just the ticket, but you
probably won't see the MMX Pentium Pro, or Klamath, in any quantity for another year.


John McCormick, a free-lance writer and computer consultant, has been working with
computers since the early 1960s. He welcomes mail from readers. Write to him care of
Government Computer News, 8601 Georgia Ave., Suite 300, Silver Spring, Md. 20910.



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