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Table Of Contents  CertiGuide to A+ (A+ 4 Real)
 9  Chapter 9: Graphic Cards
      9  Graphic Card Types and Functions

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Polygon Rendering and Fill Rates
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Card Components, Modes and Architecture
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OpenGL

Unquestionably, 3D graphics work is hard. The calculations required just to place a believable perspective-correct textured 3D cube on screen are phenomenal, and take a long time to implement. Since the huge success of Doom from ID Software, games developers have been scrambling to put out 3D games. But developing a comprehensive 3D engine that was robust and fast enough to work in a commercial game was a difficult proposition. ID Software reused their Doom engine for the lesser-known Hexen game, but they acknowledged it had serious limitations (for example if you've played Doom, you'll know you can only move in 2 dimensions - looking up and down is impossible). So for their next game, they turned to a 3D API called OpenGL.

OpenGL was created in 1989, with its first public release in 1992. It was created by SGI as a derivation of IRIS GL, which was quickly becoming redundant. SGI wanted to start with a clean sheet and for some unknown reason, decided to make the API a public release. By about 1995, it became apparent that OpenGL had been widely accepted, and IRIS GL had fallen by the wayside. The benefit of OpenGL is that it provided a complete API that interfaced with graphics card drivers to provide accelerated 3D graphics. Now instead of developers having to code their own routines for 3D graphics, they could simply define the objects they wanted to see on screen in terms of polygons (triangles), pass the information to OpenGL, and OpenGL would interface with the graphics card to render the required output on screen. Part of the magic was that OpenGL was able to talk to the card drivers, discern the capabilities of the graphics card and then use a combination of software processing within the API and hardware processing on the card to achieve the fastest rendering possible.

This allowed ID Software to worry less about writing 3D engine code, and spend more time on writing the actual game. The game they produced was again revolutionary, and its base code has been reused in countless other products over the years. It was called Quake.

The success of Quake and other 3D games secured the future of 3D accelerated graphics cards. It also reversed the rules of the game. As discussed before, prior to the release of the GeForce256 the manufacturers with the superior cards designed them from scratch. Now, manufacturers were rushing to license the 3D technology NVidia had developed. To allow manufacturers to produce their own graphics card variants based on GeForce technology NVidia produced reference boards for manufacturers to copy and enhance as they wished, for example the Abit Technologies Silurio card.


Previous Topic/Section
Polygon Rendering and Fill Rates
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Pages in Current Topic/Section
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Card Components, Modes and Architecture
Next Topic/Section

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