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Video Card History

Hemos posted more than 10 years ago | from the walking-down-memory-lane dept.

Graphics 390

John Mathers writes "While searching the net for information on old Voodoo Video Cards, I came across this fabulous Video Card History article up at FastSilicon.com. It's nice to see that someone has taken the time to look back on the Video Cards that revolutionized the personal computer. Here's a quote "When 3dfx released their first card in October of 1996, it hit the computer world like a right cross to the face. That card was called Voodoo. This new card held the door open for video game development. The Voodoo card was simply a 3D graphics accelerator, which was plugged into a regular 2D video card; known as piggy backing."

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fp! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7433978)

first post!!!!

Re:fp! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7433990)

congratulations! you have earned the right to vigorously whack off and spooge on rob malda and jeff homos.

Re:fp! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7434148)

Way to go, you cockmunching Linux fags. You slashdotted the goddamn website. I hope you all catch the AIDS and die.

I remember... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7433979)

I remember watching some poor slob in a Chuckie Cheese costume get swarmed by a horde of anklebiters. I can only imagine how wonderful it would be to wear a hot-smells-like-pizza-with-no-visibility rat costume as little tykes randomly ram you in the crotch as they mill about and cling to your legs. After the poor slob had been hammered back against the stage for about 10 minutes, one of the other characters appeared and said, "Time for Chuckie to go kids!" He finally managed to pull enough kids off of poor Chuckie, allowing him to flail backwards out of sight behind the stage curtain. I wonder if they offer free counselling to the wearers of the Chuckie Cheese costumes?

first piss (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7433983)

piss first

YOU FAIL IT! (-1)

YOU FAIL IT! (624257) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434027)

You're WRONG and you're a grotesquely ugly FAILURE!

YOU FAIL IT!

Revisionist History? (4, Interesting)

Maradine (194191) | more than 10 years ago | (#7433993)

I note that the history of this article starts in 1996 . . . one year after Rendition's Verite chip became the first consumer add-on 3D accelerator.

Re:Revisionist History? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7434004)

who cares??!? 3dfx was teh first real 1 ne-wayz.!!

Re:Revisionist History? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7434078)

What bullshit! The Rendition Verite supported bi & tri filtering, 32 bit color and a whole bunch of other 'now common' 3d features. The chip was well ahead of its time. It was the same problem nvidia first had. It had great features, but wasn't as fast as 3dfx. If Rendition would have released another card during the Riva128/TNT days (they did release the Vx2200.. which was nice, but a bit slow) with a tad more speed, we might be talking about Rendition, Nvidia, and ATi instead of just the latter two. All in all.. i can still remember playing VQuake, the first 3d version of quake, back when Carmack fully supported Verite and their far superior 3d technology.

Any article which try to encapsulate the history of 3d cards but fails to mention the Verite cards is a piss-poor article right from the get-go.

Re:Revisionist History? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7434120)

We would talk about Rendition and Nvidia. ATi probably would have drowned in their old filty drivers and cards back then.

Re:Revisionist History? (5, Informative)

merlin_jim (302773) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434152)

I note that the history of this article starts in 1996 . . . one year after Rendition's Verite chip became the first consumer add-on 3D accelerator

And absolutely no mention of Matrox whatsoever... despite the fact that their add-on 3D accelerator was arguably superior to the voodoo, and the parhelia is the ONLY 3d solution to support 3 display devices.

Re:Revisionist History? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7434241)

Check this one:

http://www.accelenation.com/?ac.id.123.1

Only 1996 to the Present (4, Interesting)

dada21 (163177) | more than 10 years ago | (#7433998)

I was excited to load this article up and hope to see my first VGA card by Paradise. I believe it was called Paradise 256K or something like that. I had a Sony VGA monitor, and my friends and I were blown away by some 320x200 x 256 color graphic of a parrot. Then we found a nude GIF. Whoa. I think I had that card about 2 years before any game really supported it, although Police Quest in EGA mode was nothing like we could imagine.

I'd love to see a history of all video cards for the PC platform...

Re:Only 1996 to the Present (2, Interesting)

shawn(at)fsu (447153) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434012)

I had a paradise card. Wow that takes me back. When pictures almost looked like real pictures.

Re:Only 1996 to the Present (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7434198)

No history that doesn't include the Paradise VGA and the Tseng ET-4000 is not a history at all. How about the NEC Multisync II? Groundbreaking monitor.

Re:Only 1996 to the Present (2, Interesting)

Maradine (194191) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434018)

What were the big players back then? Paradise, Trident, and Tseng, right? Man. MCGA rocked.

Re:Only 1996 to the Present (1)

Arker (91948) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434164)

What were the big players back then? Paradise, Trident, and Tseng, right? Man. MCGA rocked.

Hmmm yeah, Trident and Tseng go way back. Oak Technology made a lot of cards... Diamond was hot for awhile, but in my memory, at least, they came in to the game pretty late, at least I didn't see them till the mid 90s.

Cirrus Logic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7434229)

Big players back in the VESA Local Bus days :-)

1Mb CL5402B on a 40MHz VLB.... like a greased whippet!

JS

Re:Only 1996 to the Present (1)

NihilSmurf (632575) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434252)

I had an Orchid ProDesigner II (for my 386SX-16). I believe it was the first consumer SVGA card to offer 1024x768x256 (1MB RAM). At least, I remember that's why I bought it at the time (1989 or 1990). It was Tseng ET4000 based, so considered relatively fast.

Re:Only 1996 to the Present (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7434020)

Why do you want to see a whole history? Linux doesn't support any of them!

Re:Only 1996 to the Present (1)

Maradine (194191) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434112)

Actually, I'd be shocked if there wasn't linux support for all the earlier stuff. VESA is VESA, right?

Re:Only 1996 to the Present (1)

ischorr (657205) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434049)

Overall, this "article" is pretty weak, doesn't really touch on several of the competitors or get heavily into the technical/non-technical strengths or disadvantages of quite a few of the cards. And the fact that it doesn't talk about before 1996...

This sounds like some gamer's "memory of video cards" instead of a comprehensive "history of video cards"...

Re:Only 1996 to the Present (5, Insightful)

PainKilleR-CE (597083) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434156)

It's basically just an article on the early 3dfx cards and then a quick skim of about 1/4th of nVidia's lineup and a love-fest with ATI's most recent cards.

It almost sounds like the author only talked about the cards he owned.

Just on the nVidia side, he barely mentioned the TNT and it's various derivatives, didn't mention the TNT2 Ultra or other TNT2 cards (except the baseline), and didn't mention that the GeForce 256 came in SDR and DDR versions, pretty much solidifying the future of DDR on video cards (because there was little other difference between the cards to explain the difference in benchmarks). Not to mention the later GF2 upgrades, the GF3, and the GF4.

Even with his early mentions of ATI he missed the mark a bit. ATI wasn't aiming for the 3d market so much because they had a solid hold on the OEM market, which didn't care (at the time) about 3d. When the OEM's started to care, nVidia had their chipset ready in part because of their XBox work (or they got the XBox work because they were working on the chipsets for the OEM market, either way it wasn't long before they were releasing motherboard chipsets), and a solid hold on the lead in 3D graphics technology.

Beyond that, he mentions that nVidia 'bought out 3dfx', which isn't quite right, since nVidia simply bought most of their IP and left the company to it's own devices (3dfx basically sold all of their assets and shut down).

Overall, it's a very light article that could be surpassed by a quick read through the review history on most sites that review graphics hardware.

Ah... those were the days :-) (3, Insightful)

turgid (580780) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434070)

I remember when the PeeCees had EGA or lowly CGA (which looked terrible, by the way) or even no graphics at all other than the graphics characters available to MS-DOS. PeeCee graphics cards were expensive to get even rudimentary high-res and color (16 if you were lucky) whereas "home" computers like the Amiga and ST had higher resoltiom, greater colour depth and some hardware acceleration (blitting). These machines were never taker seriously because their advanced graphics and sound capabilities were considered frivolous in the busness world.

The rest, as they say, is history :-(

Re:Ah... those were the days :-) (1)

RevMike (632002) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434122)

I remember when the PeeCees had EGA or lowly CGA (which looked terrible, by the way) or even no graphics at all other than the graphics characters available to MS-DOS. PeeCee graphics cards were expensive to get even rudimentary high-res and color (16 if you were lucky) whereas "home" computers like the Amiga and ST had higher resoltiom, greater colour depth and some hardware acceleration (blitting). These machines were never taker seriously because their advanced graphics and sound capabilities were considered frivolous in the busness world.
That's right. There was only one video standard that was actually considered useful "in the real world", and not for games. HERCULES! I actually ran windows on hercules for a while.

Re:Ah... those were the days :-) (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7434157)

I had a Hercules card specifically designed to display nude pictures. I called it the Testicles.

Re:Ah... those were the days :-) (2, Informative)

Malc (1751) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434135)

You beat me to it. It's so sad when people got excited about PC graphics cards. It wasn't/isn't because they were good, it's because they were /finally/ able to start doing what other platforms had been doing for years. Even then, the performance was poor - that's just when they started being able to display the same number of colours. The lowly Commodore 64 had better graphics than a PC with CGA graphics!

Bullshit (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7434174)

The EGA was a great card in its time. Amigas used NTSC monitors at that time. Macs had 512 pixel monochrome displays. The ST's I used were monochrome, but ST's were nothing but failures anyway. PC's of that era were largely monchrome because people believed that was right. Hercules graphics cards were the standard and they were very good compared to other platforms. The EGA set the standard for color graphics and war far better than an Amiga with an NTSC display.

Re:Bullshit (2, Insightful)

turgid (580780) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434228)

Where I come from, it's PAL, not NTSC, which gave you 100 pixels extra vertical resolution. Anyway, the Amigas and STs had monitor outputs for serious use, and even the low-end ones could do higher resolution, with much better pucture quality, on proper monitors.

EGA was expensive and slow compared.

Re:Only 1996 to the Present (5, Insightful)

vasqzr (619165) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434111)


Back then, the hardware specs (so you could program the device) came with all the accessories you bought for your PC. Imagine that.

Printers had a book with all the Escape codes, Video cards told you which modes they supported, modems had AT command set references...

Try getting the specs to a PCI card nowadays....

Re:Only 1996 to the Present (1)

pegr (46683) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434206)

Paradise was great for the cheap geeks. I couldn't live until I got a Targa Truvision. That puppy did video overlay (poorly, but it was the only game in town). Then I saw a buddy's Amiga and wondered why I just didn't get one of those instead. I think I still have that Targa in a box somewhere. "Damn thing cost me $2000. I don't care if it is obsolete, I just can't throw it away!"...

Re:Only 1996 to the Present (1)

Alan Partridge (516639) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434232)

Shame you missed out on the Amiga!

My first PC graphics accelerator was an Orchid ProDesigner IIs, which could run at up to 800x600 in thousands of colours on my humble Panasonic Multiscan display. It was SO good, that it almost made my disgusting 386DX with Windows 3.1 as nice to use as my friend's Mac II.

The Amiga was still WAY better, but I played Flashback for many hours on that crappy PC coz the progressive scan display didn't make my brain hurt.

Nostalgia (3, Funny)

CrayHill (703411) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434000)

Aahh, 1996...the good old days...

I remember when we would write ASCII graphics contouring programs for line printers!

Re:Nostalgia (2, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434031)

HUH? in 1996 I was playing 3d accelerated games on my Virge 3D card. 3d gaming was around for a while at that point...

Bring me back to 1994 when the real 3d cards were $3000.00 and only in the CAD workstations.

1996.. not long ago at all.

Re:Nostalgia (2, Funny)

AllenChristopher (679129) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434248)

His point is that fondly looking back on graphics cards in '96 is like anxiously checking Rolling Stone every issue to find out if 90's music is retro yet. Computers without monitors... now that's history.

Well, sort of. (5, Informative)

ultramk (470198) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434008)

The Voodoo card was simply a 3D graphics accelerator, which was plugged into a regular 2D video card; known as piggy backing.

This isn't entirely correct, as any Voodoo 1 user could tell you. The card took up its own slot, and used a pass-through video cable to connect the monitor: When a Voodoo-compliant video signal was detected, it hijacked the output to the monitor and took over.
Nice design, for the time. The best thing was, it was CHEAP for the time (considering the performance). I think I paid $199.

M-

Re:Well, sort of. (1)

mosschops (413617) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434057)

When a Voodoo-compliant video signal was detected, it hijacked the output to the monitor and took over.

To be more accurate, when the Voodoo card was told to hijack the output by the drivers (which talked to it using regular I/O), it did. There wasn't anything special about the video signal itself.

Re:Well, sort of. (1)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434084)

$199 cheap? In 1996? I STILL have trouble justifying paying $200 for a video card, and it's almost 8 years later!

Re:Well, sort of. (4, Informative)

daBass (56811) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434133)

What they also forgot to mention was that you could daisy chain cards to get even better performance.

At the ISP I worked at I had two Voodoo 2 cards, which, on a lowly PII-350, ran Unreal Tournament with full detail in 1024*768 at a massive framerate!

Confusion with later Voodoo cards? (1)

swb (14022) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434149)

I owned a Voodoo 1 and Voodoo 2 card. Didn't the Voodoo2 series have the ability to be cabled *directly* to another Voodoo2 card for greater performance? I forget what they called this piggybacking, but maybe he's confusiong the passthrough video cabling with this ability.

Re:Confusion with later Voodoo cards? (1)

merlin_jim (302773) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434170)

It was called SLI... and basically the cards interleaved, one doing the odds and the other doing the evens.

Which is a pretty simple way to get double the performance. I wonder why noone's done this recently...

Re:Confusion with later Voodoo cards? (2, Informative)

green pizza (159161) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434233)

Which is a pretty simple way to get double the performance. I wonder why noone's done this recently

They are, in the chip itself, sorta. Modern all-in-one GPUs have multiple texture pipelines, which does split some of the load on the silicon level. It's not SLI, but it's the same concept.

The problem is SLI only doubles the fillrate. Both 3D chipsets need to work on the exact same dataset. SLI was a great boost back when 3D hardware was slow at texturing. These days the hardware can pump a couple thousand frames per second worth of textures, it's fancy multipass rendering and dynamic shaders (and to some extent, the geometry) that take up all of the frame generation time. SLI could speed some of this up, but it wouldn't help with most of the bottlenecks. It would be like putting new tires on a car that needs an engine tuneup.

dual voodoo2 via SLI (1)

green pizza (159161) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434193)

ScanLine Interleaving. To get over the fillrate bottleneck, one card pumped pixels for even-numbered scan lines, the other worked on the odd-numbered scan lines. Back in the days when a dual PII/400 and dual Voodoo2 was the gamer's ultimate machine. There were even a few companies that stuck two Voodoo2 chipsets on a single card.

A lot of professional/expensive 3D systems before the Voodoo2 used a similar technique. If one of the texture ram modules comes loose on an SGI Indigo2 MaximumImpact, textured models will suddenly lose half of their scanlines!

Re:Well, sort of. (3, Informative)

PainKilleR-CE (597083) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434221)

Nice design, for the time. The best thing was, it was CHEAP for the time (considering the performance). I think I paid $199.

The Voodoo2 cards started at $250 and $350 (or somewhere around there) for the 8MB and 12MB models, respectively. The only way to get the 1024x768 mentioned in the article was to have 2 12MB cards in SLI mode (which meant connecting the 2 V2 cards with a small ribbon cable between the two cards inside the case). Additionally, the pass-through cables that came with most V2 cards caused some degredation of the signal going to the monitor, so the graphics tended to be a bit dark, but was easily fixed by buying a better cable.

The performance was definitely solid, though, since the V2 cards I had were originally passing the 2D signal of a Riva128, and then a TNT, and finally a TNT2Ultra was the card that made me decide to pull out the V2 cards (not to mention that the V2s I owned did not have fans on the boards/chips, which meant that one of them burned up within about 6 months).

The combination of the lack of real OpenGL support, lack of 32-bit colour, and the speed of the TNT2 Ultra was what finally put 3dfx to bed, as the Voodoo 3 couldn't keep up and the Voodoo 4 was delayed far too long while 3dfx kept talking about how raw framerates were more important than features, and that no one could see the difference between 24-bit (the V3 supposedly output 24-bit colour through some tricks) and 32-bit colour anyway. Quake 3 proved them wrong quite quickly, as anyone could show with a few screenshots at the time.

Nice article and all.. (4, Interesting)

fault0 (514452) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434009)

but it'd nice to have a history of things before 1996 (i.e, pre-voodoo cards). Video card history between 1996-2000 was very well documented, perhaps thanks to all of the articles that came out near/after 3dfx's demise, and most of us remember everything within the last three years.

That web site revolutionized... (0)

chrisgeleven (514645) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434013)

...the art of being slashdotted in record time

The Memories... Ahhhh (4, Interesting)

dolo666 (195584) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434016)

I remember my first Voodoo cardie. I was playing TWCTF [thunderwalker.net] alot with my buds, and many of them had fast systems (at the time) running glquake/glqw [gamespy3d.com] . Finally after being a software user for so long, getting decent lag-frags, I did the unthinkable and ditched the software client for some better visuals with my very own piggybacked Voodoo card, from 3dfx. Gaming has changed quite a bit since then, but you have to understand how much fun it was playing Quake in software mode. The mods were cool too, but everything about that experience was killer fast. Now since then, games have mostly slowed down on PC. Quake 2 and Quake 3 were much slower. The speed of play for TW back with software, was intense. You had to hold your adrenaline rush to the bitter end of any match. By the time I was playing for ZFA [142.179.67.73] , everyone had a 3d card. I can remember the Q2 LAN parties when guys would show up with their configs all set for zero textures and no coloured lighting. The levels would all be just plain white, and guys would be saying how awesome it was they could get 100fps doing this. To me, it always took something away from the game to run configs like that, even if it could give you an edge in matches.

When I saw Quake 2 CTF for the first time at the Respawn LAN party, Zoid [iwarp.com] showed us on this decked out system, how totally amazing it was. I remember how georgeous q2ctf1 looked for the first time my eyes caught it. It was magic. I even wrote about it. You could never have seen it if it wasn't for the people at 3dfx, who pretty much paved the way for all the gaming rigs we've got now. It's a shame that the same people who built this dream had to shut their business down.

I guess, that's how we award our innovators today... with steady, constant competition, or you're out. Seems cold, doesn't it?

Re:The Memories... Ahhhh (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434213)

"Gaming has changed quite a bit since then, but you have to understand how much fun it was playing Quake [...] Now since then, games have mostly slowed down on PC. Quake 2 and Quake 3 were much slower."

What are you talking about? Wing Commander's a bit choppy on my machine, but F19 Stealth Fighter screams along. So smooth. I tried that Quake game, but it was hard finding space on my 80MB hard drive. Then it was unplayably slow. How can these other games you mention be even slower - you can't get slower than that. I'm think of upgrading my 25MHz CPU as Wing Commander is much smoother on my friend's 386DX33...

Yes, this was a bit of a joke. I think comments about game performance are silly in the PC world. It's all relative to where you draw your baseline. You think Quake2 is slow... I don't as I get hundreds of FPS second on my current machine. I can't see the difference between it and Quake.

FastSilicon.com (2, Funny)

loconet (415875) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434019)

FastSilicon.com - not so fast anymore.

Almost... (1)

dark-br (473115) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434136)

Damn :/ i almost get to page 3 this time! :/

Lost $50 on that Voodoo II (2, Funny)

WC as Kato (675505) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434022)

I remember when I was craving for a Voodoo card so that I could run Quake better. I finally sprung for a Voodoo II card when they had a $50 rebate. I was so excited to get online with my ISDN line and frag everyone in OpenGL graphics that I threw away my Voodoo II box along with its product bar code. No proof of purchase no $50 rebate. Doh! Damn, that hurt my wallet.

1996? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7434026)

Coming soon - geological history of the planet Earth from October 2003 onwards.

What a dull, pointless load of pointless dull bollocks.

Blurb from article (5, Funny)

Acidic_Diarrhea (641390) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434029)

From the article: "The cards released then were rather nuke warm. Nothing really special, nothing too different brought to the table..."

Nuke warm cards huh? How many fans do you need for one of those?

The Internet needs an editor or two hanging around.

Re:Blurb from article (0)

JPelorat (5320) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434116)

Use the Horse, Nuke!

Re:Blurb from article (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7434151)

Use the Penis, Fag!

Slashdotted (2, Funny)

kinnell (607819) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434032)

Maybe they should change their name from fastsilicon to smokingsilicon.

Here's the text. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7434053)

When 3dfx released their first card in October of 1996, it hit the computer world like a right cross to the face. That card was called Voodoo. This new card held the door open for video game development. The Voodoo card was simply a 3D graphics accelerator, which was plugged into a regular 2D video card; a practice known as piggy backing. (Oh the days of piggy backing, I remember them well. Having that black cord sticking out of the back of your case was especially annoying). A few months later a new card was introduced, the Voodoo Rush. It was the 3D and 2D card all rolled into one. However, it ran significantly slower than the normal Voodoo. This, combined with driver issues caused the Rush to be seen as a flop by the community.

In all races, there must be competitors. ATI (A company that has been around for twice as long as NVIDIA or 3DFX.) and NVIDIA had cards out shortly after that to compete with 3dfx. They were named Rage, and RiVA 128. This was long before they both took the 3D giant 3DFX completely out of the race though. They were just tiny blips on the radar for 3DFX at the time. To counter the new competition, 3DFX released the Voodoo2 in March of 1998. It was a vast improvement over the Voodoo, having a 90 MHz core clock and a whopping 12 Mb of video memory. Voodoo2 could produce a resolution up to 1024 x 768, and had a blistering fast 3.6 Gb memory bandwidth - top of the line back then. As before, the Voodoo Banshee came out after the Voodoo 2, and like the Voodoo Rush; it was a waste of money due to performance issues. Incidentally, the Voodoo2 was still a piggy-backer; they did not drop that method of 3D graphics card integration until later.

In March of 1999, 3dfx came out with the Voodoo3. This time, the Voodoo 3 was separated into different steps to cover different consumer needs (sound familiar?). The Voodoo3 2000 was the low-end budget card, and it had a core speed of 143 MHz to offer. On the next rung was the Voodoo3 3000, which offered up a 166 MHz clock speed. At the top was the 3500 version, which featured a TV-out port, and a 183 MHz clock speed. All these cards were offered in PCI and AGP versions (a new concept, also shared with an ATI card called the 3D Rage Pro).

Like many underdogs, the competing companies started catching up to the hardware giant. NVIDIA released a card around the same time as the Voodoo3, called the TNT 2. The TNT 2 was the successor of the TNT, and upped the ante from 8 million to 10.5 million transistors - a huge jump in complexity. It also offered 32-bit color support, and digital flat panel support. The Voodoo3 barely beat the TNT2 in pure FPS, but the TNT2 had much higher visual quality, so people started checking out the competition. It didn't cripple 3dfx, but it let them know that they better have something groundbreaking with their next release. ATI, possibly one of the cleverest (or maybe luckiest) of all three companies was content to sit in the corner and watch NVIDIA and 3dfx battle it out. ATI still released new cards - they weren't spectacular, but by no means were they horrible. The cards were just enough to keep them in the race. ATI's strategy seemed to be to lie in wait for their time to strike, which wouldn't come until later.

On October of 1999, NVIDIA dealt the final blow to the 3D giant, with the introduction of the Geforce 256, 3dfx didn't have anything to combat the new card with, so they took the blow right to the face (we saw this same situation happen to NVIDIA later on). The revolutionary Geforce 256 brought much to the table, including four pixel pipelines at 120 megahertz, DDR ram support, along with many other new features. 3dfx had two cards that were very highly anticipated but delayed long past the original schedule (Sound familiar?). But once the voodoo4 and 5 did come out, they were well accepted, but far too late to do damage to NVIDIA. Basically, they just added more GPUs and more RAM to beef up the new cards. Which was fine and dandy, but it made the cards about twice as big as the previous models, for example the voodoo5 5500 had 2 GPUs and a rather hefty price tag. The Voodoo 5 outperformed the Geforce 256 card by a significant amount, but with that hefty price tag it didn't make it very far at all. Sadly, the last card 3dfx constructed was the Voodoo 5 6000, which was rarely seen at all. That is rather hard to believe seeing that it's one of the biggest graphics cards I have ever seen. It's equipped with 4 GPUs (That's right, 4.) and 128 megabits of memory. This card was mostly only seen in servers though.

Needless to say, 3dfx was defeated and taken out of the race. But, not without one last project up its sleeve, called Rampage. Rampage was an amazing new card that would have pushed 3dfx far ahead of the game. But, when 3dfx was knocked out of the race, NVIDIA bought them out in December of 2000. If you didn't know, when you buy a company out, you also get the rights to anything that company produced. So, this means that NVIDIA had the rampage project in their hands, and it was rumored that it was put into use on their NV30 (Geforce FX) series of cards. This shows just how ahead of its time the Rampage project really was.

Keep in mind that ATI was not staying dormant at this time; they released a card called the Rage Fury MAXX. It was a double processor solution, the two Rage 128 GPUs worked in parallel, but that also meant that the card needed twice the memory which added a large price tag. But, that card could just barely keep up with the TNT2. In the spring, after the Geforce 256 release, NVIDIA released its successor the Geforce2 GTS. Which was more than just an overclocked version of the Geforce 256, it almost doubled the pixel fill rate, and added multi-texturing in each pipeline; not to mention a significantly higher clock speed. Also, about that time, the Xbox was announced by NVIDIA and Microsoft, which took up much of NVIDIA's time, which will become important later. Surprisingly, when the Geforce2 GTS started hitting the shelves, NVIDIA released the Geforce2 MX. The GF2MX was a small step down, it cut off two of the pixel pipelines, and took the fill rates down to 350 pixels per second. But, two important features were added to the GF2MX, TwinView, which allowed for dual monitor setups, and silicon revisions for use on Macs. Mac later named the GF2MX the high end graphics card for the new Apple Power Macintosh G4.

As time went on, ATI and NVIDIA battled between themselves, releasing card after card. The cards released then were rather nuke warm. Nothing really special, nothing too different brought to the table, just faster cards and companies thirsty for your hard earned dollar. The game would not get too exciting until later on. When NVIDIA boldly went out on a limb and announced "The Cinematic Gaming Experience" which would come with their next generation of cards, codenamed the NV30. Keep in mind, at that time NVIDIA was busy with the Xbox and their new motherboard chipset called the Nforce, respectively. The NV30 boasted 128mb of DDR2 memory, and a .13-micron chip design, among many other things (rather than a .15 micron chip design that ATI used on their 9700). ATI, being the go getters that they are, Released their Flagship graphics card (the Radeon 9700 Pro) around the time the GeforceFX (NV30), was scheduled to be released. When the new Radeon hit the shelves, people were stunned; it was quite possibly the best card to hit the market for a long time. But where was the GFX? It was delayed, unsurprisingly because of a lack of manpower. (Does that sound familiar? I think karma comes into play here.). Fast Silicon was at the launching of the Geforce FX, it was a very interesting event. The GFX was so hyped, that when it came out it was nothing but a disappointment. The frame rate was there, but it just couldn't match the picture quality of the Radeon 9700. Not to mention the cooling solution (Teasingly called the Dust Buster or Leaf Blower by consumers.) devised by the R&D department. This monster of a fan took up a PCI slot, and ran at two speeds depending on the GPU usage. There was the low speed, which wasn't so bad. But, then there was the high speed, which rivaled most concerts in decibel levels. Needless to say, that didn't help sales any. The GFX was a jinx for the graphics giant.

ATI took a huge lead with the 9700, and later on extended their lead with the 9800. NVIDIA has made revisions to their GFX (they're now on the 5950), and ATI has made changes to their 9800, which is now called the 9800 XT. Things do not seem to be turning around for NVIDIA. They just can't compete with ATI for much longer. Not to mention the little dilemma they got themselves into with the makers of a famous benchmarking program 3DMark (Futuremark). Basically, NVIDIA tweaked their drivers to perform better on the 3DMark's benchmarks. Which was a big no-no, and did nothing to boost their fan base. It only made ATI look better.

Conclusion
Well now, with that crash course through recent video card history, it leaves us with only one more thing to talk about, the future. What will the NV40 (NVIDIA) and the R420 (ATI) bring us? Will the NV40 Finally close the gab between the two companies, and possibly pull NVIDIA back ahead of the game? Or will the R420 finally vanquish the only real competition it has in one clean stroke? Only time and message board rumors will tell. I can feel the hype building. I will let you people be the judge of what takes a seat in your AGP slot in the coming months.

Re:Slashdotted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7434199)

Silicon doesn't smoke. Packaging does.

still going (1)

bpland (529369) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434041)

I have a Voodoo 2 with 12 megs of ram still plugged into my 8 meg agp card. I was so excited when I got it back in 98 i just haven't needed anything else and it still looks good.... when I play quake 2. :)

XGL? (4, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434042)

How long until history catches up with the X Windows System, and I can get an X server that renders entirely to the OpenGL API? I'd love all those panel edges, drop shadows, animated buttons, textured skins, and other 3D "embossed" window decorations to come from my video card. The X server code could be much smaller, factoring out all the rendering code that it could reuse by calling the OpenGL API. And the X graphics primitives could become unified behind a widely cross-platform API, already implemented by blazingly fast hardware in the most competitive market in computing. And once XGL implemented the current style of X server display, we'd have an open, popular, and modular platform for experimenting with 3D spaces for "desktop" visualization. Let a thousand raytraced xscreensavers bloom!

Re:XGL? (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434234)

This is /. ... I'm surprised you haven't been modded down for trolling with flamebait. If what you were suggest were to happen, rabid /.ers would look at the screenshots and complain about bloat and how it's all unnecessary! ;)

An interesting tidbit. (4, Informative)

MtViewGuy (197597) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434045)

I think what finally brought 3-D graphics acceleration into the mainstream was the introduction of graphics card chipsets that could combine decent 3-D acceleration with fast 2-D graphics all at once.

nVidia's pioneering RIVA 128 chipset was the first chipset that could compare itself in 3-D mode against the vaunted Voodoo cards of that period; once nVidia unveiled the groundbreaking TNT chipset it was pretty much over for Voodoo's separate board approach. This is what spurred ATI into developing the Rage Pro and later Rage 128 chipsets in the late 1990's, starting the competition between ATI and nVidia that has lasted to this day.

I had one (3, Interesting)

chunkwhite86 (593696) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434050)

I had one of these original Voodoo I PCI boards. It had a VGA passthru connector on the back. The card didn't even have any heatsink or fan at all on it! I remember it ran at 43 Mhz or something like that, but I had overclocked mine to a whopping 47 Mhz! I glued a motherboard northbridge heatsink to the Voodoo chip to dissipate the extra heat, but I lost the neighboring PCI slot due to the size of the heatsink.

Ah... those were the days.

Re:I had one (1)

chunkwhite86 (593696) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434088)

One more thing... The card had 6 MB of RAM on it. 4 MB main memory and a 2 MB texture buffer I think.

Re:I had one (1)

pridkett (2666) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434240)

You're probably thinking of the Canopus Pure 3D. It was good card and had TV out well before it was a standard feature. I remember hooking Quake ][ up to the big screen in the fraternity house and watching people ogle over it. Also, it was a 2MB framebuffer (like all Voodoo I cards) and a 4MB texture buffer.

Memories... (3, Interesting)

vasqzr (619165) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434051)


We sold Diamond Monster 3D's like hotcakes back at Best Buy in the mid 90's.

Then the Voodoo Rush came out. All in one. It stunk.

Then the Voodoo II came out. Remember you could buy 2 of the cards and some games (SLI) would run faster than with just one!

Then they did the combiniation card again...Voodoo Banshee. Worked pretty well.

Then NVIDIA wiped them off the face of the earth.

Re:Memories... (1)

malf-uk (456583) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434126)

It was great getting my 2nd 8Mb (Creative Labs) Voodoo 2 card as I was able to up the resolution to 1024x768.

When will it go back to the CPU? (2, Interesting)

Thinkit3 (671998) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434052)

At some point shouldn't we just have really versatile CPUs? All these 3D cards are just kludges that happen to be tuned for 3D processing. They can do other general purpose processing as well. Thus the CPU can do their processing, given enough versatility.

Re:When will it go back to the CPU? (1)

adamruck (638131) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434103)

sure, any modern cpu can perform any task, handle any input or output, but the question is how fast can it do it, and how much are you paying for the cpu.

speed/cheap/general purpose

pick two

Re:When will it go back to the CPU? (2, Informative)

turgid (580780) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434125)

When your CPUs floating-point throughput is a factor of 1000 better, that's when. In other words, at the rate at which general-purpose CPU technology advances, you'll be at that level of performance in about 15 years.

Re:When will it go back to the CPU? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7434254)

If CPU speed doubles every year, you'll get a CPU 1024x faster in 10 years (2^10).

Some egregious errors here... (4, Informative)

Bagels (676159) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434064)

From the article...
The GF2MX was a small step down, it cut off two of the pixel pipelines, and took the fill rates down to 350 pixels per second.

Erm. That's not even enough to fill in a single horizontal bar of the screen (unless you're running in 320*240 resolution). Perhaps they meant megapixels? This was hardly the only such error that I noticed, though - these guys really need to have someone proofread their articles.

Forgotten cards (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7434067)

He totally forgot the ATI's RAGE which if I remember right was one of the first cards, and it supported SEGA Satrun games.

He also slights 3DFX a bit. The Voodoo 2 was huge, although I had TNT 1, every one I knew was running Voodoo 2.

Re:Forgotten cards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7434207)

S3's ViRGE (mine was a Diamond Stealth 3D 2000, 2mb s3c25, socketed for a whopping 4mb!) was one of, if not the first consumer available 3d accelerators. I've got one kicking around in a server with IIRC a BIOS date of 1994 or 1995.

Pretty damn good at the time. The bundled h/w accelerated version of Descent was mind boggling!

I think it pre-dated both the Voodoo, Riva, and the Verite cards. I remember it competing with the non-3d Videologic M600 card that had some new fangled twin memory interface (and an odd amount of ram [2.5mb?]for some reason!) at around the same time.

JS

Want to read more about older video cards? (5, Informative)

vasqzr (619165) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434081)

Re:Want to read more about older video cards? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7434141)

lol a quote from the first link:

"3Dfx is one of the few other computer hardware companies next to Intel, that doesn't have to worry about its future."

TOM'S IN TEH POCKET OF THE OVERCLOCKERZ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7434220)

Spend two minutes there and you'll see what I'm spouting about.

Orchid Righteous 3D (3dfx Voodoo) (3, Interesting)

malf-uk (456583) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434097)

Now there was a card that announced it was taking over the monitor - the not-so-delicate *clang* as its mechanical switch moved.

Now you see it, now you don't... (0)

ewhenn (647989) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434100)

Video Card History article up at FastSilicon.com

Whoops, not anymore...

Took my breath away.. (2, Interesting)

boogy nightmare (207669) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434117)

I remember plugging a 'piggy back' 12mg voodoo2 into my 4mg (or was it 8mg) Hercules graphics card, i remember installing UnReal and firing it up, when you get out of the ship for the first time and see that waterfall with the music playing i thought it was the most amazing thing i had ever seen. To this day it still ranks up there with the first time i saw a dinosaur in Jurassic Park and thinking 'this is the way to go' and being seriously in awe of all things to do with computer graphics.

Now I have a 256mg geforcefx 5600 (some letters after it) and all games look amazing, in my other pc i have a 64mg geforce2 4400 (i think) and all games look good. Shame they dont play like Unreal did :(

ps that voodoo2 is still going, its running on a p3 500 with a 8mg rage card, still can use it to play quake3 in a 800x600 res with pretty good textureing and fast as well :)

ahhh any other memories or first time looks at the games that made you go 'ohhhhh thats pretty' ?

Re:Took my breath away.. (1)

teamhasnoi (554944) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434218)

That very same moment getting out of the ship, I had to stop playing and just *look*. I'm sure there weren't any badguys there so you could just have your mind blown.

I was so taken by the 'great outdoors' that I grabbed the cheats off the web and just flew around that area. Absolutely one of the most impressive games I have played, eyecandy-wise. Not to mention the run down the hallway after the 'creature' and *hearing* your shipmates get torn apart on the other side of the door.

All with the magic of a 4 meg Voodoo through a 4 meg S3 ;). ILM eat your heart out!

Tomb Raider (1)

Bryan Ischo (893) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434118)

I first saw this card when a friend bought one to play Tomb Raider. I was blown away; the game went from chunky, halting software-rendered 3d to beautiful, smooth, detailed hardware 3d. I immediately bought one of my own (from Canopus, the Canopus Pure 3D), which I proceeded to use for several years. I can remember the big pit in Tomb Raider where a couple of lions and gorillas were running around in the fringes of darkness. I thought it was so cool that you could see these animals from far away and rather than being blobs of smudgy pixels, they looked like real animals in miniature. It made the game feel so much more realistic.

The last games I played with my Canopus Pure 3D were the updated versions of Tie Fighter and X-Wing, which really ran well on an AMD K6-233 and Canopus Pure 3D. Those games had the advantage of not needing to render any backgrounds, it was all just black space, so they only had to render the actual ships flying around. I upgraded to a TNT2 card halfway through Tie Fighter but that game didn't get much faster or prettier, it was already well taken care of by the Voodoo-based Pure3D.

I bought another Pure3d for the system that I built for my sister in mid 1997 as a wedding present. A Cyrix 233 with 32 megs of memory and a Canopus Pure 3d, with monitor and printer, was over $2000 to hand-build at that time. You couldn't sell one of those systems for $50 these days ...

Ah the memories ...

Uselss Article. (1)

13Echo (209846) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434139)

There's nothing in there about chips from PowerVR, S3, Rendition, etc.

Could use more info (2, Insightful)

alpharoid (623463) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434153)

Video card history going back to 1996 isn't really necessary -- if you're around 25 and bought the Voodoo 1 back when it came out, you can probably recite all the facts from 1996-2003 from the back of your head.

And if it's just 3D chipsets that count, what about the [near useless] S3 Virge, before the Voodoo? What about the extra details, like 3dfx buying out STB to manufacture its own integrated 2D/3D solutions (Voodoo3 onwards), effectively pissing off an entire industry?

Oh well. Maybe next time.

"Video Cards" started in 1996? (2, Interesting)

green pizza (159161) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434154)

Does anyone else notice that this "Video Card" history starts off with about the 3rd consumer 3D accelerator? They didn't even mention the groundbreaking Rendition Verite. Nor any of the non-PC 3D systems that came before it (Jim Clark / SGI's Geometry Engine based systems in 1983 or the image processors from Evans & Southerland).

And if it's a Video Card history, why no mention of EGA/CGA?

Sounds more like "the 3D accelerator world since the Voodoo" history. It's articles like this that make me wish the slashdot editors would remember they have some readers that are older than high school age.

[end rant]

This days... (4, Interesting)

dark-br (473115) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434159)

I have never understood how this breed of cards exists to this day. Really... the difference between a "stock" GeForce and a workstation class Quadro GeForce... just doesnt justify the cost difference anymore.

When you go back about 3 or 4 years ago... when you contrasted a Oxygen video card, or a FireGL vs a TNT or 3DFX card, you could see where the extra money went. But now, todays commerical grade video cards are more then capable. In fact, alot of people I know that work as graphic artists, use traditional Radeon or GeForce 4's in their workstation machines. Outside of say... Pixar, I just dont understand people buying the workstation class cards.

Re:This days... (1)

nate1138 (325593) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434230)

Actually, the cost difference is easily justified. A workstation class card may use the same GPU as a gaming card, and the gaming card may be faster (in games). The work done on a workstation card is on the drivers. They are MUCH more stable, and designed to work with apps like Lightwave and 3DStudio MAX.

What? No mention of the IBM CGA card (5, Interesting)

pegr (46683) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434160)

What? No mention of the IBM CGA card that you could destroy by putting it into video modes it didn't support? One of the few circustances in which PC hardware could be broken by software. That in itself should be worth mentioning!

gaming hardware in servers? (2, Informative)

jest3r (458429) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434163)

Sadly, the last card 3dfx constructed was the Voodoo 5 6000, which was rarely seen at all. That is rather hard to believe seeing that it's one of the biggest graphics cards I have ever seen. It's equipped with 4 GPUs (That's right, 4.) and 128 megabits of memory. This card was mostly only seen in servers though.

This card was massive and would never have been used in a server.

Re:gaming hardware in servers? (1)

Anita Coney (648748) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434197)

Gee, I just came back to criticize that statement too. Who is the moron that wrote that "history"?!

First, the Voodoo 5 6000 was NEVER sold at retail or OEM. Accordingly, how could anyone buy and install it into a server?! Second, why would anyone put a 3d card in a sever?! Heck, do server boards even have AGP slots?!

The "history" is not worth the code it was written in.

Terrible Timeline (1)

Talisman (39902) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434184)

That was a horrid timeline.

Let alone the historical inaccuracies, the guy writes like he's in the 4th grade.

Here's my favorite typo, "As time went on, ATI and NVIDIA battled between themselves, releasing card after card. The cards released then were rather nuke warm."

Yeah. We wish.

Tal

Re:Terrible Timeline (1)

nate1138 (325593) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434209)

Or, my personal favorite:

Sadly, the last card 3dfx constructed was the Voodoo 5 6000, which was rarely seen at all. That is rather hard to believe seeing that it's one of the biggest graphics cards I have ever seen. It's equipped with 4 GPUs (That's right, 4.) and 128 megabits of memory. This card was mostly only seen in servers though

WHAT? In servers? OK buddy.

Not to mention the fact that he completely missed the original TNT. What a dipshit.

Quake 1 without Voodoo? (1)

swb (14022) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434187)

There was a patch or something for Quake 1 that let you run it with a voodoo card, and its why I bought a voodoo card to begin with,

I still have the Q1 CD, but it occured to me -- can I even run it and get good graphics without a voodoo card, or am I stuck with software rendering? IIRC the Q1 patch was voodoo specific.

I'm also wonder if Q1 wasn't a DOS game as well, which might make it impossible to run on XP, unless a subsequent Windows version was released.

Re:Quake 1 without Voodoo? ANSWER (1)

Graemee (524726) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434235)

GLide wrappers. They interpret glide calls into opengl or directx calls and allow glide games and apps to run on other non-voodoo cards. Dos & windows version available. google for it. Tombraider, Jane's WWII fighters, Quake all work with either my GF2MX or My 8500. Thanks UltraHLE for helping spawn these glide "emulators"

Not a complete history by any means... (3, Informative)

Graemee (524726) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434189)

What about the early cards, TIGA, 8514/A & other 3D attempts like RIVA, Mystique, Virge? What about the cheats on PC benchmarks, back in VGA, now in 3D tests? What happened to Number 9, ELSA and other "Big" names in cards that are nolonger? Reads more like a Time magazine article then a serious attempt at a history of video cards Most glaring to me is the ATI 8500/Nvidia GF3 omission.

Still have one. (1)

Jedi1USA (145452) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434191)

I still have a voodoo card. A Canopus Pure 3D. The machine it was in died, so it is sitting there with all the other dead machines. I actually thought of using it's tv out capability in another box for a MAME machine in the living room.

Then along comes /. (1)

stud9920 (236753) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434202)

and the site's History

Lame Article (1)

hcuar (706760) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434208)

Not sure why this article is so great. They seem a little biased towards ATI. I realize that the current ATI cards are supposedly faster than the NVIDIA variety, but I'm sure they still have the same crappy driver support. At least with an NVIDIA chipset, I know I will have great Detonator driver support. Oh, did I mention great linux support.

Sorry, ATI is that great. I'd rather sacrifice a little speed for stability and driver support. (Although I do like my ATI Tv Wonder card)

Inferior (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7434223)

Vastly inferior to a comparable, older work at www.accelenation.com

The Monster3D memories (2, Funny)

Obiwan Kenobi (32807) | more than 10 years ago | (#7434226)

I had a 3dfx Monster3d (Voodoo 1) back in Winter 1996, when it first came out. I remember the passthru cable that connected to my turbocharged 2MB video card and my overclocked P150 (to a P166, yeah baby!), and I certainly recall the brilliance of GL Quake and the absolutely gorgeous Grand Theft Auto (1!) after it supported Glide.

I also recall the controversy of transparent water in Quake and how that was considered "cheating" by en large. Those poor non-accelerated folks had to get in the water first to see anything!

Me, I'd just wait until they all jumped in the water and fire off that Lightning Gun. Sure it's suicide, but is it really suicide when you get to roast at least 5 or more people at the same time? DM3, how I miss thee.
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