In the dark ages of PC gaming, the CPU took care of most of the graphics chores. The graphics chip did just the basics: some raster operations, dedicated text modes, and such seemingly quaint tasks as dithering colors down to 256 or 16 colors. As Windows took hold, the graphics equation began to shift a bit, with some Windows bitmap operations handled by “Windows accelerators.” Then along came hardware like the 3dfx Voodoo and the Rendition V1000, and accelerated 3D graphics on the PC took off.
Now it’s coming full circle. Today’s GPUs are fully capable of running massively parallel, double-precision floating-point calculations. GPU computing allows the 3D graphics chip inside your PC to take on other chores. The GPU isn’t just for graphics anymore.