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Smoking New Video Cards Coming To A Mac Near You
February 8th, 2000

Gary: Well, another Macworld has come and gone, and...

Randy: Dude! It's been more than a month since Macworld San Francisco. Have you been in a coma?

Gary: A month?!? Wow, time sure does fly if you sleep fourteen hours a day.

Randy: Why the hell did I partner with you? You are the most slothful, unmotivated person I have ever seen.

Gary: What are you talking about? I get up before you do.

Randy: Touché.

Gary: What is that you're saying?

Randy: It's French. It means that you had a point, and that - oh, forget it. Can we just get on with the freakin' column?

Gary: Hey, if it has been a month since Macworld, why haven't we mentioned the most significant announcement that came out of Macworld for Macintosh gamers?

Randy: Probably that slothful, unmotivated thing has something to do with that. What is the most important news that came out of Macworld for Mac gamers?

Gary: That 3dfx announced direct support for Macintosh with its new line of Voodoo 4 and 5 3D acceleration cards.

Randy: Yeah, that was pretty big. Man, we're Idiots.

Gary: Actually, the fact that we are Idiots gets us out of a lot of trouble. Maybe we aren't so stupid after all.

Randy: We are always thinking. On to the column, man.

Gary: Okay. While in the past, there have been Macintosh Voodoo1 and 2 cards, at first they were distributed by Mac companies that would buy 3dfx chips and make their own cards and then create Mac drivers so the cards would run in Macs. That meant that while Mac users did get Voodoo cards, we got them much later than PC folks and they cost a lot more as well.

Randy: Then, a while back, 3dfx began to create their own brand of boards with their own chipsets on-board. First, these cards were PC only, but 3dfx announced that they were going to release generic Mac drivers. So that meant Macstuds could buy off-the-shelf Windows Voodoo 2 and 3 cards and run them on their Macs. Sounds good, huh?

Gary: At least in theory. But 3dfx had a lot of trouble getting the drivers out in a timely fashion. In fact, the last time I checked they were still in beta.

Randy: A lot of Mac guys were a little peeved at 3dfx for this. And there is another issue with Mac drivers for Voodoo1, 2, and 3 cards. Because Windows and Macintosh handle graphics differently, the Mac drivers had to convert Windows instructions to Mac instructions via software. That's overhead that could be used to squeeze more performance out of Unreal or Carmageddon 2.

Gary: But all that is about to change. Another sign of the health of the Macintosh platform is that vendors are bringing products over and re-engineering them for the Mac. In fact, the new Voodoo4 and 5 cards will be completely cross-platform, meaning no software tricks will be necessary to get them to run on a Mac. The new VSA-100 chips support both Macintosh and Windows graphics instructions in hardware.

VSA-100: The new chip that supports all
Mac graphic hardware routines, and it does Windows too!

Randy: And that is great news. This is no small commitment from 3dfx, to actually redesign the 3dfx chip to accommodate native Mac graphics support. This is pretty much diving in head first. 3dfx's mission is to "Bridg[e] the gap between the PC and Digital Hollywood" and they have some pretty cool technologies to back them up on their mission.

Gary: Both the new Voodoo 4 is going to come with 32 megs of video RAM standard, and the Voodoo 5 will sport as much as 128 MB of RAM! Unbelievable!. The Voodoo 4 has a single VAS-100 chip that packs over 14 million transistors into a tiny .25 micron chip. It pushes an amazing 333 megatexels/megapixels per second, supports 32-bit rendering, Open GL Glide, Rave, Direct X (big whoop), DVD hardware assist, 128-bit 2D engine, it comes in AGP and PCI flavors, and is surrounded by... a new car!!

Randy: Uh, Gary?

Gary: A car...yeah, a car. Oh, uh, yeah, Randy?

Randy: There's no car, man.

Gary: Yeah, I know. But ...that'd be pretty cool, huh? You know, a car.

Randy: Yes Gary. That would be "pretty cool, huh".

Gary: So anyway... As if the VooDoo 4 didn't sound schweeet enough, listen to this:

Randy: Yes?

Gary: Are you listening?

Randy: Yes!

Gary: Listen...

Randy: Dammit man, spit it out!

Gary: The Voodoo 5 comes with two VSA-100 chips nestled in its little brain. And with two of those suckers on-board you get support for cinematic effects like full-scene hardware anti-aliasing, programmable depth-of-field, motion blur, soft reflections and soft shadows.


A sample of with and without soft reflections.
And isn't that a nice reflection on you?


A tasty sample of the depth of field effect and full-scene anti-aliasing.

Randy: Wow, that is impressive. Almost worth putting up with you to hear about it. Almost.

Gary: And here's the kicker. There talking about an estimated street price of $179.99 for the VooDoo 4 and $229.99 for the VooDoo 5. And for the heavy duty graphics gurus, there's the beef-o-dishious VooDoo 5 6000 AGP. Weighing in at 128 MB of graphics memory, and sporting four VSA-100 processors and pumping between 1.33 and 1.47 gigatexels/gigapixels per second fill rate. You can have it for an estimated $599.99.

Randy: Holy cannoli! That would make it the first consumer based card to break the one billion pixel fill rate. Another stride into the level of performance once reserved for the "professional" graphics. Such a beast! I must have it! I must ride the untamed wind of insanely great 3D and 2D graphics.

Gary: Whoa there, partner! That sounded dirty. Gettin' a little carried away there with your bad self.

While these cards are expected to be introduced in the first quarter of 2000, they are not on the market yet.

Randy: Well, I have to say, I'm extremely happy to hear 3dfx is committing this much attention to the Mac market. I give a big Idiot's welcome to 3dfx. (Even though they have been making stuff for Macs since their inception.) We hope these new VooDoo cards and many more great Mac products bring much success to 3dfx.

Gary: Hear, hear! This is another milestone in the road to Apple Computer's brilliant return to the throne of personal computer royalty.

Randy: Because as you folks at home and the kindly gnome-like people at Apple Computer know, the more products there are in the Mac market, the healthier the platform is for all of us. So watch for these new generation Voodoo cards. They are pretty hot stuff.

Gary: And 3dfx has decided to go with Mac specific packaging too. Very soon you will be able to hit the computer store and buy a stock 3dfx card that is labeled for use with Macintosh.

Randy: Man it's a good time to be a Mac user!

Gary: Yes, Randy. It is a "good time".

Randy: Dude! That's my William Shatner bit, and you didn't even do it right!

Gary: What, did you "invent quotes"? Are you the only one allowed to "mock friend"?

Randy: Yes and yes.

Gary: Oh...my bad.

Gary Randazzo and Randy Soare are the co-founders of IWS Interactive, a New York based game developer for Macintosh. The IWS in IWS Interactive stands for Idiots With Sticks. How that came about is a long and boring story, but suffice it to say that at four in the morning, it seemed like a good idea.

The demo for IWS Interactive's upcoming mystery-adventure game, Manhattan Apartment Hunter, has recently been released to rave reviews. The Idiots have been into gaming on Apple computers even before the Mac was around. Does anyone remember Choplifter on the Apple IIe? (Boy, we know we do.) Now, they are committed to help ensure that the Mac remains the premiere gaming platform on the planet.

You can email your comment and suggestions to Randy at , and Gary at .


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