viva PowerPC

About PowerPC

PowerPC logo

Once upon a time there was a microprocessor architecture called PowerPC. Created in early 1990's by Apple, IBM and Motorola alliance, it was a modern 32-bit superscalar RISC CPU derived from high-end server IBM POWER processors. Many believed that PowerPC would be the future of desktop computing, but even though it performed on par or better in comparison to other desktop architectures, this future never happened.

PowerPC 601

After five generations of CPUs (601, 603+604, G3, G4, G5) used from 1994 until 2006 in their whole product line - from entry-level desktops, through laptops to hi-end workstations, Apple left for Intel x86/x64. PowerPC then quickly disappeared from the mainstream desktop market.

At the same time seventh generation of gaming consoles entered the market and chips based on PowerPC cores were used in all of them (Sony PS3, Microsoft XBox360, Nintendo Wii) as well as in various embedded devices (communications, automotive, etc.). Sadly, on both markets PowerPC lost as well - in gaming x86/64 prevailed and embedded went mostly to ARM. PowerPC was merged back with IBM Power and high-performance server market was for some time the only area where the architecture was still relevant, as most of the time three or four of ten fastest supercomputers in the famous Top500 list were Power-based.

Talos II

For more than a decade PowerPC was a platform for hobbyists, trying to make their old hardware survive as long as possible. No new hardware, that appeared on the market during this period, was faster than the last generation of PowerPC-based machines made by Apple. Fortunately this changed in 2017, when Talos II - a completely open POWER9-based workstation - became available. Even though it's pretty costly (even the Lite variant), it's again desktop/workstation class hardware on par with current x86/x64 mainstream. The future is maybe not as dark as we all thought.

The future became even brighter in following years. In 2019 Blackbird arrived - more low-end, budget-oriented board made by Raptor CS, the same company that produces Talos II. It's more affordable and even cheaper than the last-gen PowerMac hardware, when it was new, which is not bad for small scale production hardware. In the same year Power architecture was made truly open and available under royalty-free license through OpenPower association (established 2013). We can only speculate, what will 2020 bring.

No matter if you have state-of-the-art POWER9 machine or still run some older PowerMacintosh, this site aims to be the place you want to start on the internet to get some information.