Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Video Card Upgrade

Posted by Rampant Coyote on July 8, 2016

It is weird to wax nostalgic over the video cards of the early days of PC hardware accelerated graphics… cards like the Voodoo and Voodoo 2, and the Nvidia Riva 128 and TNT. ¬†Really, compared to now, those cards were beyond pathetic. I think the nostalgia factor for me comes more from the era… the seismic change they represented for gaming. It’s hard to imagine that now, although mobile gaming and perhaps Virtual Reality might be analogous to how big of a shift that was.

The very first cards were barely even worthy of being considered “accelerators.” I remember one that I evaluated that was for 486 machines… and the ‘acceleration’ it offered was to make the 486 play games as well as on a Pentium. Not exactly stellar.

It was 3DFX’s Voodoo that really changed things up, making 3D rendering not only faster than software rendering, but adding additional “free” features that enhanced the visual quality. Here’s a good video showing the difference at the time. It starts with software rendering, and then switches over to using the acceleration. THAT was the difference:

Amusingly, I remember Nvidia at the time being a distant second place to 3dfx but catching up, in the Riva 128 days. I would not have expected to see them become the consumer graphics leader, and eventually purchase what was left of 3dfx.

Since I’m such a fan of indie games and retrogaming, I’m not exactly demanding of my video cards these days. I find it’s much easier on my budget that way. ūüôā ¬†Each card generation now offers an incremental improvement over the previous one, not the massive technological leap we had back in the 1990s. My hardware only becomes obsolete by degrees, now.

The latest NVidia cards – the Pascal series, which started releasing last month – are pretty exceptional, and offer a significant performance improvement over the last generation of cards, especially in certain areas (notably virtual reality). Definitely a massive improvement over my GTX 750 (not even the Ti… a plain ol’ vanilla 750). My old card¬†actually¬†runs DOOM¬†(the new one) okay… uh, sometimes. If I get lucky. But that’s some kind of bug or incompatibility, not a hardware capability problem.

But the time has come for an upgrade. I’ve ordered a GTX 1070, which will hopefully last me for a while. It only came out last month. We’ll see how things go. I have more than a¬†passing interest in VR (which I’ve had for decades now), so it’ll at least give me a better-than-baseline starting point for my desktop. I’ll still have to rely on borrowed VR hardware for a bit though. In the meantime, I don’t think I’m going to have to worry about performance problems with gaming for a good, long time.

That’ll probably last me for a while. I hope. Because as much as I look nostalgically back on the bad-ol’-days when 3D acceleration was a new thing, I don’t want to feel like I’m still living in it.

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