How did Graphic Cards develop over the last 20 years?

Do you remember,
how computer graphics looked 20 years ago? Did you even have a computer back
then? (Where you even born, yet?) 20 years ago during the beautiful years of
the early 1990s, while pcs started being produced for the home market, they
still had very limited graphics. The graphics card principle was known in mass
production for roughly 15 years, then, for it was used in series production for
the first time the Apple II microcomputer. This article tells you more about grafic cards.

Until 1989, the VGA card had become the standard color graphics card type, so
that even today the VGA mode (640 × 480 pixels in 16 colors) is the one
“emergency mode” on all PCs by default. VGA, however, was not the
last graphic card standard. The Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA)
introduced a standard for video modes with a resolution of up to 1280 × 1024
pixels in 16 bit color depth, which now dominates any PC graphics card.

Until about 1990, the graphics cards were limited to convert the contents of
the video RAM in output signals for the monitor via so-called RAMDAC
components. From 1991 on, the graphics cards developed into small computers
themselves, containing their own GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) known as a
graphics or pixel engines. There, you could not only put individual pixels, but
with single commands could draw lines and fill whole areas with color.


The concept
of extra functionality was implemented as time went on. For instance, since
1995, functions to accelerate video playback (for example AVI formats) and for
the decoding of compressed video data (like MPEG) were introduced. These
functions had previously been offered on separate cards.

After the mid-1990s and with the ego-shooter game “Doom”, when the great boom
of 3D games had started, 3dfx invented the first useful 3D accelerator: the
“Voodoo Graphics chipset”. A 3D accelerator can specify geometric figures in a
three-dimensional space for a program in the form of polygons and textures,
with which the surfaces of the polygons are being rendered. During the times of
the early 3D games, this simple but computationally intensive task had still to
be carried out by the CPU, and now they could be delegated to the graphics
card, which led to a massive increase in the performance of 3D games like
better image resolution and more realistic images.

While the 3D accelerators of the first generation still used their own plug-in
cards, soon single-card-solutions emerged. Today, to offer even greater 3D
performance, multi-GPU technology uses two or more 3D graphic cards or
processors in parallel in order to calculate more graphic elements per unit of
time, a technology known as SLI or crossfire.


You see,
graphic cards have come a long way and who knows, what way they are yet to go.

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