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Graphics card history: How pixels learned to run

Graphics card history: How pixels learned to run

The beginnings

The prehistory and early days of graphics cards began about 20 years ago, so it wasn't as long ago as it may seem in view of the technical advancement.

It all actually started when Hercules was the first graphics card manufacturer to try to improve the old monochrome graphics cards of the PCs of that time. These could only display text, i.e. the ASCII character set, according to the MDA (Monochrome Display Adapter) standard from IBM. The desire for freely drawable graphics became louder and louder. So Hercules developed the first graphics standard 'HGC' which, in addition to the well-known text mode, also controlled a graphics mode of 720x348 pixels. This mode was still limited to 2 colors, which consisted of black and a color defined by the monitor (amber, green or white). Since the HGC standard also included the MDA standard, the raw MDA standard was pushed out of the market. At that time the world was still okay and all manufacturers produced 'Hercules compatible graphics cards'.

Discovery of colors

Next came VGA (Video Graphics Adapter) and in competition with MCGA ( Multicolor Graphics Adapter) graphics cards. In between there was also EGA (Enhanced Graphics Adapter) graphics standard. This standard came in the mid-80s and is considered the predecessor of VGA. The resolution of the EGA cards was 640 x 350, whereby a maximum of 16 could be displayed simultaneously from a palette of 64 colors. With VGA and MCGA graphics cards it was now possible to display 256 colors simultaneously from a palette of 262144 colors. This was only possible in 320x200, in 640x480 only 16 colors were possible, with MCGA cards even only two. This deficiency was due to the monitor technology of the time. At that time, all monitors were controlled digitally by the graphics card, but it was not possible to develop a protocol that could also transmit high depths at high resolutions. As a consequence, as of the next generation, the monitors were controlled analogously, as is still the case today.

EGA graphic
EGA graphic
VGA graphic

On the next page: Number of colors increases

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