Graphics card history: How pixels learned to run

Graphics card history: How pixels learned to run

Number of colors is increasing

This new generation was called S-VGA and is still the unchangeable standard today. Finally, 256 colors could also be displayed in 640x480 pixels and the maximum resolution was now 800x600 pixels, with only 16 colors being possible again, limited by the 256KByte graphics memory that was common at the time.

The first big revolution began with X- VGA (or just XGA). For the first time, breathtaking 512KByte RAM was built into the cards, which enables resolutions of 1024x786 with 256 colors and in the smaller resolutions up to 24Bit (16Mio colors).

Probably the most famous, because it is also quite inexpensive, graphics card of this generation was undoubtedly the Tseng ET4000 which in the end was even available with an incredible 2MB graphics memory.

ET4000 in ISA design

A new era

As the graphics card market slowly became very confusing due to a number of standards, VESA, the standardization committee of the VBE (Vesa Bios Extensions)set. That was slower than direct access to the graphics chip, but for the first time programmers were able to write their programs in such a way that they could run on all graphics cards.

Timeline of graphics standards
year Model Resolution Colors Palette Type Frequency 1981 MDA Mono Display Adapter 720x350 2 2 TTL 50 Hz 1981 CGA Color Graphics Adapter 160x200 4 16 TTL 60 Hz 1981 RGBI Red Green Blue Intensity 640x200 4 16 TTL 60 Hz 1982 HGC Hercules Display Adapter 720x348 2 2 TTL 50 Hz 1984 PGA Professional Graphics Array 640x480 Analog 1984 EGA Enhanced Graphics Adapter 640x350 16 65536 TTL 60 Hz 1987 8514/A Video Standard for PCs 1024x768 256 262000 Analog 43.5 Hz 1987 MCGA MultiColor Graphic s Array 720x400 256 Analog 60Hz 1987 VGA Video Graphics Array 320x200 256 262144 Analog 70Hz 1988 VGA Video Graphics Array 1600x1200 DDC 85Hz 1990 XGA eXtended Graphics Array 1024x768 16 256 DDC 70 Hz 1990 SVGA Super VGA 1600x1200 256 DDC Analog 60 Hz 1991 EVGA Extended VGA 1024x768 256 DDC Analog 70 Hz
  • TTL (Transistor-Transitor-Logic): Describes a technology in which the colors are digitally controlled on the screen. This means that the individual colors red, green and blue can only be switched on or off or provided with an intensity signal. A maximum of 64 colors can be displayed in this way.
  • DDC (Display Data Channel): With this standard, graphics cards and monitors compare their properties with one another. TheThe graphics card can use the identification data it receives to adapt to the supported resolution, refresh rate, etc.
  • Analog : With this video signal, a theoretically unlimited number of colors is possible because the Intensity of each basic color can be changed continuously.

Since with X-VGA finally a uniform and gradual An open standard was created, and uniform BIOS routines were provided with VBA, graphics card manufacturers were able to further increase the performance of their graphics cards. At a time when graphical user interfaces found their way into operating systems such as Windows 3.0 and OS/2, the graphics cards were optimized for these systems. Suddenly they were able to conjure up more than just colorful pixels on the monitor, but were already able to use simple commands such as 'line' or 'triangle'. This allowed the display speed of the graphics card to be increased drastically. In addition, two new bus systems were put into service. The VesaLocalBus from VESA and PCI from Intel. The big disadvantage of the VLB was the direct connection to the front side bus of the processor.

S3 virus in PCI design
VESA Local Bus Card

During it was slower than PCI with a 486DX2-50 with 25MHz, so with a 486DX-50 with 50MHz it was clocked so fast that reliable operation of the card was not always guaranteed, even though every PCI card was disconnected. The winner in this race was Intel with its PCI which was always operated at 33MHz regardless of the processor's clock frequency.

That was the hour of birth of the then large manufacturers such as Video7, S3, ATI, Cirrus, Diamond andMatrox. All entered the market with their own chips and only a few made the leap into the next generation of graphics cards.

Matrox Millenium

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