Earlier this week Apple held an event where they introduced Apple Silicon for the Mac. While this may not seem like a big deal, it is actually a very, very big deal. If you will indulge a little history keep reading, but if this is too deep just skip to the bottom to see the attached article about the new Macs.
Back in the mid 1980’s I worked for a company in Dallas called Mostek as a field applications engineer in the Boston office. While there I met Ken, a really smart engineer from Minneapolis and we have been friends ever since. This was the beginning days of the IBM PC and Mostek made memory chips used in the PC and other computers. Ken and I would have many conversations about technology and one time he described an idea for what he called a DOS Engine (DOS was the precursor to Windows). Computers have mostly used off the shelf processors, from companies like Intel and those general purpose processors were not designed for any specific application. Being general purpose they had features that not everyone used, making them bigger and less efficient than they could have been. The DOS engine concept was to create a processor designed for one purpose, running DOS. What if the processor was designed to maximize the efficiencies of the operating system with nothing extra. Extra circuitry on a chip impacts the size (which increases the cost) and it increases the heat generated shortening battery life. This was really hard to do in the PC world because Microsoft wrote the operating system but did not make PCs (at least at the time) and IBM and many clone makers lacked the resources to create a new processor so Intel has been the primary processor for the PC and the Mac.
After introducing the original iPhone using general purpose processors, Apple purchased a company called PA Semi because they were working on advanced processor technology. This led to the Apple Silicon that has powered the iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV for several years now. With Apple controlling both the hardware and the IOS operating system they were able to maximize the functionality, reduce the heat from unused circuitry, minimize the power required to maximize battery life, and more. This was the concept of the DOS engine brought to life and it was only a matter of time before Apple took this to the Mac.
Starting next week you can buy a few Macs with the new M1 chip. This is a chip that was designed specifically for the Mac and it offers many advantages over the previous Intel powered Macs. The first Macs are on the lower end of the performance curve but that will not be for long. Apple will have future products that will support the higher end systems too. If you are not a power user, the current products provide great value with higher performance, longer battery life and cooler operation. If you are a power user you may want to wait a little longer for the high end Macs.
The following article is one of many that have been reviewing the new M1 Macs, featuring Apple Silicon.