In Pictures: Of punchcards, platters, and wooden mice. The PC's origin story

Technology marches relentlessly onward, discarding the old to make way for the new. Today’s heroes quickly becomes yesterday’s news.

Powering up PC graphics The evolution of computer graphics is almost as messy as the early years of PCs themselves, but many people consider IBM’s Monochrome Display Adapter (introduced in 1981) to be the first “graphics card.” Sure, the Monochrome Display Adapter was designed to produce only 80 columns by 25 lines of text characters and symbols, but nevertheless it was a PC component with the sole purpose of displaying video.

It (somewhat arguably) counts in our book—or at least our slideshow—and IBM’s MDA arrived more than a decade before ATI and 3dfx ignited the cutthroat graphics wars. The first video card to be regarded as an honest-to-goodness graphics processing unit, Nvidia’s GeForce 256, didn’t appear until 1999.

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