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Early Graphics Chips That Changed the Computer Industry

There's a long history of graphics processors and controllers that have changed the course of the computer graphics market. Major players in the emerging graphics chip market, including IBM, Intel and Texas Instruments, helped pave the way for low-cost, high-performance graphics processing in personal computers. And many of these early innovators made windfall profits in the process.

Today, Nvidia is the market leader in discrete graphics processors (GPUs) devices and targets the high-end gaming computer space. Advanced Micro Devices is second in terms of total market share. Intel, which holds more than 80% of the personal computer space, has long dominated integrated GPUs and plans to ship its first discrete GPU in 2020. GPU IP vendors include Arm and Imagination Technologies.

Another potential windfall awaits as artificial intelligence takes over more of the software industry. Today the most advanced graphics chips contain thousands of cores, each capable of handling lots of calculations related to rendering shadows, reflections, lighting and other functions at the same time—a process called parallel computing. That also makes graphics chips ideal for running artificial intelligence in servers.

Graphics processors have had a long history. In the following gallery, computer graphics expert Jon Peddie returns to the 1980's to discuss some of the most important early graphics chips.


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