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About S3


Type : Ancillary
Founded : January 1989
Location : United States, Fremont, California
Key Figures : Dado Bonata
Industry : Computer Technology
Products : GPU
Subsidiary : VIA Technologies
Website : www.s3graphics.com

S3 Graphics was founded in 1989. Dado Banatao and Ronald Yara stood at its origins. The company successfully promoted its solutions in the computer market - it took them only two years to develop the world's first integrated GUI accelerator. The resulting work attracted with its price and performance - the card successfully worked with graphics in 2D format. From 1990 to 1994, the company went a long way improving its accelerators: it changed 16-bit color to True Color, worked with different types of memory, and introduced PCI support. In 1994, the 911 and 911A chips were replaced by the aforementioned Vision 864 and Vision 964, which were called "the second generation of accelerators for Windows" (with support for a 64-bit buffer),

1995 is the year of the company's heyday, the year of the release of the S3 Trio in all its modifications. Over the next three years, these cards became perhaps the most common computer software for displaying images (and somewhere the monsters of the future, such as ATI, were already in full swing). They worked well, all the minuses were attributed to crookedly written drivers, and the pluses were attributed to the genius of the developer. But the time for 3D was just around the corner - new solutions were needed.

The ViRGE card failed to become this solution - it was simply unsuccessful, and with all its letter suffixes. 3D graphics turned out to be something indigestible in its performance, and it sold well only in OEM configuration for systems where high-quality 2D rendering was needed, and only because of the low price.

The solution to their problems has already matured in the depths of the company - they pinned great hopes on the Savage series of cards. What S3 took away from the entire Virge saga is that another failure in the 3D market cannot be tolerated. After conducting reconnaissance and thoroughly preparing, S3 went on the offensive again. In the fourth quarter of 1997, S3 Graphics owned 35% of the entire computer market for video cards and expected to capture some more or less solid piece. After releasing the Savage 3D in 1998 and the Savage 4 in 1999, the company's management was somewhat embarrassed by the position in the market. The share of the closest competitor, ATI, jumped to 32% thanks to close cooperation with Intel and Steve Jobs, who said that the new Apple G3 computers will only have solutions from this company.

Something was wrong with S3 Graphic's plans, despite the fact that their S3 Texture Compression, implemented thanks to the Savage chip, became the standard in the video card industry. The fact is that there were very, very few games that supported work with compressed textures, and despite the fact that the chipset was able to digest dozens of megabytes of textures compressed 5-6 times, no one needed it.

In the spring of 1998, the mainstream model of almost every GPU had 8 megabytes of memory; a year later, up to 32 MB were offered for the same price. By this point, however, S3 had already made crucial mistakes, in particular, tackling a poorly thought out processor architecture that did not match the growing popularity of games with advanced 3D graphics. A year later, S3's market share dropped to 14%. “We focused all of our resources on one processor, but it turned out that the market was going in the wrong direction,” said S3 vice president Andrew Wolf.


After the merger with VIA, the company practically disappeared from view. No press coverage, no new products or information about them, and then bam! - it turns out that for three (!) years they have been developing an accelerator with a tiled principle for processing video information, which, even at the stage of building a geometric model, will determine invisible areas and will not draw them to optimize the rendering process. Thus began a new product line from S3 - the Chrome line. Models Gamma, Delta, Uni…

Together with VIA, they have developed a good product - with support for 256 MB of DDR memory running at 600 MHz, all the modern gadgets needed in top games, but still it is no longer able to repeat the success of its 2D predecessor - S3 Trio. Lost time cannot be returned, competitors have seized the market with their teeth and are not going to let it out of control.

The times when a video card from S3 Graphics was on every third computer in the world are gone forever.