3Dfx Voodoo Graphics

Also known as SST1, the Voodoo Graphics was almost a failure as bad as the NV1 had been for Nvidia. Story goes that nobody was willing to manufacture and market the boards, which were using 2 MiByte of framebuffer along with 2 MiByte of texture memory, because it was too expensive for a small set of games. Luckily for 3dfx and the whole industry, memory prices came down a lot in just the right time and then there was no one who wouldn't want a Voodoo Graphics card any more!

3dfx SST-1 Framebuffer Interface3dfx SST-1 TMU Chip

Working with two chips, one being the pixel processor and the other doing the texturing work, it was build on a 500nm process and had two separate interfaces to the respective 2 MiByte partitions for framebuffer and textures, each being 64 bit wide. The boards used EDO-RAM. The chip was capable of bilinear texture filtering, perspective correction, using palletized textures for saving memory, alpha-blending, z-buffering (limited to 640x480 pixels) and a few other neat tricks not too common in the 3D world back then. The card worked on one pixel per clock which with its 50 MHz standard clock rate yielded a fillrate of 50 Megapixels/texels. The two things that set the Voodoo Graphics apart from anything else in its class was 3dfx' easy-to-use proprietary programming language called Glide and the ability to run in configurations consisting of up to 6 chips - as far as I know. Each pixel processor could communicate with three texturing chips, or so say my friends at Beyond3d.com, and each of those quartets could work in tandem with one other. The prohibitive cost of these setups prevented them from appearing in the consumer space.

Here you can find a copy of the original (I suppose) press release 3Dfx issued on November 6th, 1995. Some interesting passages:

Quote Originally Posted by 3Dfx Press Release, Nov. 6th, 1995
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nov. 6, 1995--3Dfx Interactive, Inc., a company focused solely on developing technology for interactive 3D electronic entertainment, today announced Voodoo Graphics(tm), a 3D graphics accelerator specifically designed for 3D entertainment applications in the coin-operated/arcade and home consumer markets.

Designed to enable a new class of realistic and highly interactive 3D games, Voodoo Graphics offers expanded capabilities above and beyond the basic 3D functionality that will be found in commodity Windows and multimedia accelerators. Major consumer and coin-op OEMs and developers have announced support for the chipset.
"Voodoo Graphics was designed specifically to provide the highest quality, most intense 3D game experience available anywhere," said Gordon Campbell, chairman and CEO, 3Dfx Interactive. "While other manufacturers have designed 3D for a diverse set of graphics applications, our focus has always been interactive entertainment. The support we're receiving from the industry indicates our course of action is the right one."

In separate announcements, 3Dfx Interactive revealed that Orchid Technology and FMI Graphics Products, a business unit of Fujitsu Microelectronics, Inc. have signed OEM agreements to develop consumer 3D game boards based on Voodoo Graphics. In the coin-operated entertainment market Data East and Jaleco have announced support and are developing next generation arcade games utilizing Voodoo Graphics. 3Dfx Interactive is working with leading PC and coin-op game developers including Virgin Interactive Entertainment, Electronic Arts, Interplay Productions, Acclaim Entertainment, Mindscape, Sierra On-line, Looking Glass Technologies, Accolade, Domark, and over 50 other developers worldwide.

Voodoo Advantage
"All of the graphics processors that have been introduced for the PC barely meet the basic requirements for 3D," said Gary Tarolli, vice president and chief scientist, 3Dfx Interactive. "Our design goals were much higher and Voodoo Graphics incorporates state-of-the-art 3D features such as advanced texture-mapping techniques including texture compositing, texture morphing, and animated textures as well as superior filtering and MIP mapping functionality. When combined with our performance capabilities developers can produce really cool, interactive game experiences."
3D games require the combination of interactivity and visual realism. To achieve elementary 3D functionality, a graphics chip needs to support perspective correct polygons with point sampled texture mapping, Z- and double-buffering, Gouraud shading capabilities and standard VGA resolution. To take the gaming experience to the next level, 3Dfx Interactive has included level-of-detail (LOD) MIP mapping, bi-linear and advanced filtering and SVGA resolution support. In addition, the chipset delivers realistic imagery through sub-pixel correction, alpha blending, and anti-aliasing. Most importantly however, unlike other multimedia accelerators that suffer significant performance degradation when available 3D features are used, Voodoo Graphics was designed to simultaneously offer all of these features at real-time frame rates.

Voodoo Graphics also supports special effects for even greater game impact. These include per-pixel effects such as fog, translucency, and transparency, texture compositing, a variety of lighting techniques, texture morphing, animated textures, and reflection mapping. These features let game developers deliver the most realistic interactive entertainment on the market.
The Voodoo Graphics chipset supports full screen games under popular PC operating systems including Microsoft Windows 95, MS DOS, and Microsoft Windows 3.1 using 3D APIs including Microsoft's Direct3D, DirectDraw, 3D-DDI, and Reality Lab 2.0, as well as Intel's 3DR. The chipset also supports embedded operating systems for coin-op/arcade platforms. Development environments supported by the chipset include MS DOS, WindowsNT, Windows95, and Silicon Graphics' IRIX. Important development tools and APIs supported by Voodoo Graphics include Silicon Graphics' IRIS GL and OpenGL, AutoDesk's 3D Studio, MultiGen's GameGen, and Gemini Technology's OpenGVS.

"As a long-time SGI developer we're pleased that 3Dfx Interactive has gone beyond the basic 3D checklist by providing workstation-quality features and performance in their Voodoo Graphics 3D accelerator," said John Archdeacon, vice president, Gemini Technology. "Voodoo Graphics is a powerful, low-cost PC-based alternative to high-end graphics workstations. The combination of our OpenGVS software with 3Dfx hardware technology is going to offer our developers unprecedented 3D graphics price/performance."

Packaged in a two-chip set, the Voodoo Graphics architecture is a PCI Bus 2.1 compliant device that operates transparently with existing VGA and Windows accelerators via analog pass through or shared frame buffer implementations on Intel or RISC-based PCI platforms. The Voodoo Graphics chipset is priced at less than $75 in 20,000 piece quantities. On perspective correct, texture mapped, Z-buffered, filtered, LOD MIP mapped, fogged, alpha blended, 50-pixel triangles Voodoo Graphics delivers more than 45 megapixels per second fill rate and over 350,000 triangles per second polygon rates on a Pentium 90. The first chip, pixelfx, is the primary graphics controller and contains interfaces to the PCI bus and companion texture processing unit, texelfx. The 3Dfx Interactive pixelfx graphics controller is packaged in a 240-pin PQFP. texelfx, the advanced texture processing unit, is packaged in a 208-pin PQFP.

"3Dfx Interactive's announcement reflects a growing recognition that the Pentium(r) processor is ideal for multimedia applications and games," said Dev Bose, director of software development, Intel Software Technology Lab. "Complimentary solutions like the 3Dfx Interactive Voodoo Graphics accelerator are great for today's Pentium processor-based systems."
3Dfx Interactive, Inc., founded in 1994, is a privately held company headquartered in Mountain View, Calif. 3Dfx Interactive brings together a team of leading professionals from the PC, video game, semiconductor, and 3D graphics industries to provide new levels of interactive 3D electronic entertainment.

3Dfx Voodoo Graphics
Codename SST-1 (notes: SST probably stands for Scott-Sellers-Tarolli, the founders of 3Dfx)
Type 3D add-on card, no 2D functionality
Year 1995
Manufacturing Technology 500 nm
No. of transistors 1 Million
Pixel throughput 1 Pixel per clock
Texel throughput 1 Texel per clock
Z/Depth throughput 1 Zixel per clock
Core Clock rate 50 MHz
Memory Clock rate 50 MHz
Memory Data rate 50 MT/sec.
Memory 2 MiByte Framebuffer + 2-4 MiByte Texture Memory
Memory Interface 2x 64 Bit (one for Framebuffer, one for Texture Memory)
Supported 3D-Features Perspective Correction, Bilinear Filtering, Alpha Blending, Z-Buffer, Gouraud Shading, Multi-Texturing
Supported Resolutions 320x240, 512x384, 640x400, 640x480, 800x600 (without Z-Buffer)

Currently, I own two of the boards. One of them is the Orchid Righteous 3D, which is a standard configuration except for its nice print on the backside and a audibly switching mechanical relais when entering 3D mode.

3Dfx Voodoo Graphics: Orchid Righteous 3D3Dfx Voodoo Graphics: Orchid Righteous 3D (back view)

The other is a Miro HiScore 3D (technically identical to the Canopus Pure 3D), which features a TV out and is equipped with 2 additional MiBytes of texture memory, making it a 6 MiByte card.

3Dfx Voodoo Graphics: Miro HiScore 3D / Canopus Pure 3D3Dfx Voodoo Graphics: Miro HiScore 3D / Canopus Pure 3D (back view)