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5 historical video cards that you don’t remember


Check out 5 historic graphics cards that helped shape the PC gaming scene that you probably don’t remember

The world of PC gaming and video games themselves have undergone several drastic evolutions since then Atari created the I playin 1972. However, virtually none of these changes were as significant as the creation of video cards dedicated in the 1990s.

Early GPUs were limited to creating just a few polygons and 3D simulations without overloading the system processorlong before NVIDIA GeForce RTX AND AMD Radeon RXwith Ray Tracing and lots of TeraFLOPS.

Both to revisit the first turning point of the gaming industry and to refresh the memories of those who experienced it up close, the Canaltech listed 5 of the most iconic video cards in history and that you probably don’t remember.

5. Diamond Multimedia Stealth

Diamond Multimedia was one of the first companies to produce dedicated video cards with the Stealth line of graphics cards in the early 1990s with the Stealth24 and Stealth Pro models, still in the 2D era. Its most popular in-house design product was the Stealth 3D 2000, released in 1996 as one of the first 3D graphics cards.




The card used the S3 ViRGE engine (Graphics engine of Virtual Reality), and competed directly with other big names of the same period. With a 64-bit memory bus, 55 MHz frequencies and Direct X5 compatibility, the Stealth 3D 2000 was, without a doubt, one of Diamond Multimida’s greatest successes.

Most of the company’s other card lines, such as Monster3D and Viper3D, used 3dfx chips (before the company moved from supplier to manufacturer), but the Diamond Stealth not only ushered in the segment, but also had ATI Radeon models at the end of their cycle.

4. ATI Anger

In the same year that the Diamond Stealth 3D 2000 hit the market, ATI launched the ATI 3D Rage. The card was also one of the first to integrate 2D graphics with accelerators for vector calculations and polygon rendering, debuting with 3D games and competing directly with Diamond Multimidia.



After AMD's purchase of ATI, ATI Rage 3D cards evolved into the Radeon line that still exists today.  (Image: Toggomusic via Wikimedia/Playback)

The first 3D Rage cards were also compatible with DirectX 5 and OpenGL 1.0, but had only 2 MB of memory, compared to the 4 MB of the Stealth 3D 2000. The ATI Rage family of cards continued to evolve for a few years, following the development of the industry until to 1999, with Rage 128 Pro, Rage Fury and Rage Fury MAXX.

The problem is that even with 32 MB of VRAM, the Rage still uses SDR memory, and its architecture and instruction set were more outdated than the GeForce 256, which already used DDR memory. With the purchase of ATI aside OMGthe next generation of Rage was renamed Radeon, giving rise to the most famous line of the red team.

3. Nvidia RIVA 128

Before NVIDIA To be the trillion-dollar giant of 2024, it began as a GPU developer that licensed its designs to other manufacturers. The Nvidia NV1 was released in 1995 under the Diamond Multimedia banner as Diamond Edge 3D and added several audio and I/O interface elements and was the main component behind the console. Saw Saturn, one of SEGA’s first failures in this market.



RIVA TNT 128 cards kicked off NVIDIA's success story (Image: Hyins via Wikimedia/Reproduction)

This is because, when creating such a versatile design, the NV1’s graphics performance was quite limited, leading NVIDIA to take a more focused approach. The result was the birth of the RIVA 128 (Real-Time Interactive Video and Animation Accelerator) line, in 1997.

With an incredibly more robust design and a design with 3.5 million transistors, RIVA had a 128-bit bus and frequencies of 100 MHz. At the same time, Voodoo boards with technology from 3dfx (but still licensed), they focused exclusively on 3D rendering, while RIVA followed the same line as ATI Rage and combined 2D and 3D rendering on the graphics card.

This freed the PC from using the processor’s built-in video resources to create textures, resulting in improved overall performance in some applications. The RIVA 128s were also among the first video cards to use the 2X AGP bus, while the Voodoo2, even with a larger 192-bit bus, still depended exclusively on slower PCI slots.

2. 3dfx Voodoo

To the Voodoo boards from 3dfx They were to ’90s gamers what the RTX 4090 is to modern gamers. Initially, 3dfx began acting only as a developer and licensing its video components to other manufacturers, with Diamond Multimídia as one of its main customers.

In fact, the first Voodoos were launched under the Diamond Monster 3D label in the same year as Stealth 3D 2000, but aimed at the high-end segment. In 1998, the still-licensed Voodoo2 became a hit, and in an effort to capitalize on this popularity, 3dfx acquired STB Systems.



The Diamond Monster 3D cards used 3dfx's Voodoo1 chipset.  (Image: VGA Museum / Reproduction)

The plan was to stop being a supplier to OEMs and produce their own cards, but insourcing production killed 3dfx’s main source of revenue, partnerships. In terms of performance, the Voodoo3 were still excellent cards, being among the most competitive on the market, but the end of relationships with other manufacturers increased the pressure for the first 3dfx Voodoo 100% to sell even more.

The problem is that with increasing competition from ATI Rage and NVIDIA RIVA, Voodoo was naturally losing strength in the market. Furthermore, closing the doors to OEMs further limited 3dfx’s R&D capacity, which ended up launching Voodoo4 and Voodoo5 with outdated technologies, such as memory and slower buses.

The arrival of the first ATI Radeon cards, heirs to the Rage 3D, and the NVIDIA GeForce 256, practically destroyed the reach of the Voodoo cards and of 3dfx itself as an independent manufacturer, which went bankrupt and was purchased by NVIDIA in 2002.

1.NvidiaGeForce256

Even though Voodoo cards were the dream of an entire generation of gamers, the turning point of the market was definitely the GeForce 256. Even after purchasing STB Systems, the OEM that produced the majority of NVIDIA GPUs, 3dfx continued to rely on the production and experience of Multimedia Diamante.

This ensured that the RIVA 128, RIVA TNT and TNT2 were among the first graphics cards to use the AGP bus. Historically, NVIDIA has always absorbed and incorporated all the knowledge and technologies resulting from partnerships formed over the years.

RIVA’s success, with more advanced technologies, allowed the company to grow to the point where, in 1999, it launched the GeForce line, which continues today one of the most desired. It is worth remembering that until then video cards were treated only as expansion cards and with the launch of the GeForce 256 NVIDIA coined the term GPU.



NV10 chip of the first NVIDIA GeForce 256 GPUs (Image: Konstantin Lanzet via Wikimedia / Playback)

The marketing language aimed to highlight that, from then on, these parts would become as essential components as processors, condensing rendering engines, vector polygons and lighting transformers into a single chip.

Furthermore, they were the first to migrate from the memory standard From Single Data Rate (SDR) to Double Data Rate (DDR). This way it was possible to provide similar, or even superior, performance to Voodoo on the same bus, depending on the game, without requiring much higher frequencies, but in a much cheaper price range, officially starting the GPU era .

Trends on Canaltech:

Source: Terra

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