3D graphics turned a dull PC industry into a light and magic show after generations of innovative endeavor. Here's our extensive look at the history of the GPU, from the early days of 3D, to game-changing hardware and the industry's consolidation.
#ThrowbackThursday Having a specialized 3D API was arguably both the highlight and the downfall for pioneer 3Dfx. The Glide API combined with Voodoo hardware truly enhanced the gaming experience. If you are old enough, odds are you owned a 3Dfx card and played some of these games. Let us take you a trip down memory lane and remember some of the best.
With the turn of the century the graphics industry bore witness to further consolidation. Where 3dfx was once a byword for raw performance, its strengths before its dismissal laid in its full screen antialiasing image quality. By the time 2001 dawned, the PC graphics market consisted of a discrete card duopoly (Nvidia and ATI), with both of them in addition to Intel supplying the vast majority of integrated graphics chipsets.
Prior to the Voodoo 5's arrival, ATI had announced the Radeon DDR as "the most powerful graphics processor ever designed for desktop PCs." Previews of the card had already gone public on April 25, and only twenty-four hours later Nvidia countered with the announcement of the GeForce 2 GTS (GigaTexel Shader).
Launched on November 1996, 3Dfx's Voodoo graphics consisted of a 3D-only card that required a VGA cable pass-through from a separate 2D card to the Voodoo, which then connected to the display. Voodoo Graphics revolutionized personal computer graphics nearly overnight and rendered many other designs obsolete, including a vast swathe of 2D-only graphics producers.
The 3D landscape in 1996 favoured S3 with around 50% of the market. That was to change soon, however. It was estimated that 3Dfx accounted for 80-85% of the 3D accelerator market during the heyday of Voodoo's reign. Later on Nvidia would revive with the RIVA series and eventually land their greatest success with the first GeForce graphics card.