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About Macintosh PCI

  What and Why is PCI?

Up until very recently, NuBus has been the primary means for Macintosh hardware expansion. Many desktop Macs could accommodate 1 to 6 NuBus expansion cards. NuBus was originally designed to be considerably faster and more versatile than the expansion bus of most PC's. However, NuBus never really caught on outside the Mac market, and consequently has remained more expensive than similar cards for PC's. Since Macs have gotten much faster in recent years, NuBus is no longer fast enough to handle all the data being moved to and from modems, disk drives, video, networks, etc. In fact, all PC's are experiencing the same limitations of their hardware busses. Industry leader Intel has pioneered a new standard for personal computer expansion cards, called "PCI Bus" (Peripheral Component Interconnect). IBM, Apple, and many other personal computer giants have joined Intel in support of this as a new industry standard. Within just a few years of its introduction, many PC's, workstations and desktop Macintoshes are shipping with built-in PCI expansion slots. PCI Bus is much faster than the older busses, and have several other improvements that nicely support the newest generation of microcomputers.

Almost all current Power Macintosh models incorporate PCI. For example, the 7200, 7300, 7500, 7600, and 8500 each have three PCI slots; the 9500 and 9600 have six. Apple has committed to using PCI in all desktop Power Macs for the next several years. Many high-speed video, SCSI, and networking PCI cards are available for the Mac.

  What are the consequences of changing to PCI?

Any NuBus cards you may already have cannot be used directly in PCI slots. Luckily, Second Wave, Inc. makes an adaptor to use a PCI slot with an external NuBus chassis (more below). New software will also be required, both native PowerPC drivers and new System software (System 7.5.2 ships with PCI Power Macs). Advantages of PCI include potentially faster performance at prices that should be lower than comparable NuBus cards. Because the PCI bus has become a general computer standard, the same cards that run on a PC clone can be used on a Macintosh, as long as appropriate Mac device driver software is available. This wider market for PCI cards should eventually lead to lower prices for PCI cards than for the equivalent NuBus card, although PCI may be more expensive initially because of more expensive components and more demanding design.

  Web Sites covering Macintosh PCI cards in general:

  • Mac PCI Product Directory

  • PCI Cards for Power Mac

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