PC

3dfx never released a quad-GPU Voodoo 5 6000 so a modder built a custom one

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A hardware modder and overt graphics accelerator historian hailed from Anthony created a clone of the Voodoo 5 6000, a crazy graphics card that actually existed at one point in time, but only inside the walls of 3dfx headquarters. The Quad GPU card was never released to the public so we forever wondered what could have been.

Anthony posted the details of his nifty reverse engineering efforts in Mod Labs (via HotHardware), noting that the cloned card does not yet have an official name. However, it has the same hardware specifications as the Voodoo 5 6000, including four VSA-100 graphics chips running at 166 MHz and a regular PCI interface (read: not PCI Express).

It also has 128MB of video memory, which also runs at 166 MHz (although the 5ns memory chips can keep up with 200 MHz).

Amazingly, this is a working card that comes with the same BIOS and driver support as the original prototype. Anthony also claims that the cloned card doesn’t have the same anti-aliasing issues in full screen mode as the original card, probably because the modding community released newer drivers that fixed some of the earlier bugs.

For anyone unfamiliar with 3dfx, the company was a pioneer in 3D graphics acceleration for the PC. My first graphics card was a Voodoo 3 2000 that I plugged into a Compaq with a Pentium MMX 200MHz processor. Good times.

Nvidia began acquiring 3dfx in late 2000, and a few years later the company became a footnote in computer graphics history. It was around this time that 3dfx was building a Voodoo 5 6000 prototype.

Technically, the VSA-100 is a graphics co-processor. Nvidia likes to claim that it is bringing out the first real GPU (graphics processor) with its GeForce 256. A graphics card with four VSA-100 chips is an impressive feat, even if it has never been released.

It is of course tame by today’s standards.

Each VSA-100 of the Voodoo 5 6000 was built in a 250 nm manufacturing process, had a chip size of 112 mm2 and around 14 million transistors. The GA102 Ampere GPU of the latest generation from Nvidia on the GeForce RTX 3090 has a chip size of 628.4 mm2 and has 28 billion transistors.

Anthony says the cloned card is part of a first batch and that a second batch is planned, possibly with an upgrade to AGP or PCI Express. There will also be boxes for these cards, suggesting that Anthony could sell these to anyone interested.

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Robert Dunfee