How far do you think a ’90s-era Mac can go? In fact, it can go to Mars. NASA’s Perseverance rover, which landed on the Red Planet on February 18, is powered by the PowerPC 750 processor, the same chip found inside the iconic 1998 iMac G3.
According to New scientist (via Gizmodo), the Mars Perseverance rover uses RISC CPUs in which Apple did its best before switching to Intel. The iMac G3 was colorful (you could see right through it) and it ultimately saved Apple from bankruptcy.
The PowerPC 750 was a single-core 233 MHz processor with 6 million transistors, which is now considered slow, but it was the first to incorporate dynamic branch prediction and is still used in modern processors.
Given that Perseverance’s launch was in July 2020, you might be wondering why you’re using such an old processor. It all comes down to reliability.
There is also a big difference between the iMac G3 CPU and the one inside the mobile. This PowerPC 750 chip can withstand between 200,000 and 1,000,000 Rads and temperatures between -55 and 125 degrees Celsius.
Since Mars does not have the same type of atmosphere as Earth, a flash of sunlight could damage the rover before it can begin its adventure.
“A charged particle running through the galaxy can pass through a device and wreak havoc,” James LaRosa of BAE Systems told NewScientist. “It can literally make electrons come loose; it can cause electronic noise and signal spikes within the circuit. ”
Apple used PowerPC chips in Macs until 2005, then switched to Intel. Today, Apple is making a further transition to its own Apple Silicon processors, starting with the M1 chip in MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini.
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