In­ven­tive Ge­nius: Graph­ics Card Tech

The Borneo Post - Good English - - Front Page -

IF YOU want to thank some­one for start­ing the first step to­wards modern graph­ics card tech­nol­ogy, di­rect those bou­quets to­wards Dr. Ivan Sutherland, an MIT grad­u­ate.

Back in 1963, he had writ­ten Sketchpad, a soft­ware pro­gram used on a TX-2 com­puter with a mon­i­tor and light pen. Sketchpad drew im­ages on a com­puter. That started a rev­o­lu­tion.

In the 1970s, Alan Kay, a sci­en­tist at Xerox PARC, would use Sutherland’s idea to de­velop Alto. Alto was a graph­i­cal user in­ter­face pro­gram that used icons to per­form a com­puter task. The lines of code from a pro­grammed lan­guage were part of the GUI, but hid­den in the back­ground.

Video games were also be­ing de­vel­oped with graph­ics. Pro­gram­ming lan­guages like COBOL and For­tran were used to per­form ba­sic op­er­a­tions on main­frames and mini­com­put­ers. In 1952, A.S. Dou­glas, a doc­toral stu­dent, cre­ated a graphic tic-tac-toe game us­ing an al­go­rithm, or a set of rules.

The game was played on an EDSAC vac­uum tube com­puter with a cath­ode ray tube mon­i­tor. In 1972, Nolan Bush­nell cre­ated the Atari brand and made Pong. With Ivan Sutherland’s suc­cess in de­vel­op­ing the Sketchpad pro­gram, com­puter pro­gram­mers be­gan us­ing pro­gram­ming lan­guages to make com­puter graph­ics and de­sign soft­ware ap­pli­ca­tions.

In 1965, IBM cre­ated the first graphic dis­play ma­chine. The IBM 1130 com­puter was used with the IBM 2250 dis­play unit. The IBM 2250 was a cath­ode ray tube (blank screen TV), which used pro­grammed soft­ware from the IBM 1130. The im­ages were drawn on a screen us­ing a light pen and dis­played vec­tor graph­ics.

Raster and vec­tor graph­ics are used on a com­puter to dis­play im­ages. Raster graph­ics uses pix­els, small dots that at­tach to a bit­map grid. Each pixel is placed on a spe­cific lo­ca­tion based on the draw­ing. If the graphic is a line, it will ap­pear smooth. But once the graphic is en­larged, it ap­pears dis­torted or fuzzy. Vec­tor graph­ics uses a point-to-point maths scale. Us­ing a maths scale, vec­tor graph­ics have a de­fined path for points, lines and curves. The im­ages are much clearer, even when en­larged.

In the past, cath­ode ray tubes were used to dis­play graph­ics and looked like a TV set. In the 1980s, IBM was the first com­pany to de­velop the graph­ics card. The monochrome dis­play adapter and the colour graph­ics adapter were plug-in de­vices that at­tached to the CRT. The MDA card had 4 kilo­bytes of mem­ory that could han­dle 720 by 350 pix­els and could dis­play 25 rows of 80 char­ac­ters. The CGA had 16 kilo­bytes of mem­ory and 160 by 200 pix­els. The CGS had two types of res­o­lu­tion for text and three types for graph­ics. IBM would later de­velop the En­hanced Graph­ics Adapter, the Video Graph­ics Ar­ray, Ex­tended Graph­ics Ar­ray, Ul­tra Ex­tended Graph­ics Ar­ray and the Su­per Video Graph­ics Ar­ray.

In the 1990s, IBM de­vel­oped the Ex­tended Video Graph­ics Ar­ray, still in use to­day with mon­i­tors and pro­jec­tors. The EVGA has 1024 by 768 pix­els and dis­plays 256 colours. In­tel has de­vel­oped the Ac­cel­er­ated Graph­ics Port Dig­i­tal Dis­play card. When the adapter card is at­tached to the In­tel 865G chip, it can be used as an out­put de­vice for tele­vi­sions, dig­i­tal dis­plays and mon­i­tors. The ARG adapter has a res­o­lu­tion of 2048 by 1536 pix­els and 16.7 mil­lion colours.

To­day, graphic cards are not be­ing made only for com­puter use. Com­pa­nies like Nvidia and ATI are mak­ing 2-di­men­sional and 3di­men­sional graphic cards for gam­ing. Video con­soles like PlayS­ta­tion and GameBoy use these graphic cards for video dis­play.

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