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The VoodooX 3Dfx project tries to revive the legend of early 3D graphics cards for PC

In brief: Oscar Barea, a 3Dfx enthusiast, is trying to make Voodoo cards reach a “new hardware level.” Using VSA-100 chips collected through online auctions, Barea and his collaborators are still working to “innovate” on the corpse of the first 3D graphics hardware company.

3Dfx Interactive is a brand that is long gone but not forgotten. It’s a name known by many PC enthusiasts who experienced and survived the crazy hardware innovations of the 1990s that changed PC gaming forever. Oscar Barea is a Voodoo doctor (pun intended) who decided to resurrect the brand in his own way. Barea is trying to use the defunct company’s graphics technology to assemble a working video card that can run games on a barebone PC setup.

Since 2022, Barea has shared his progress with the “VoodooX 3Dfx project” on X (formerly Twitter). The project aims to design, develop, and assemble a functional Voodoo video card based on the VSA-100 chip, the last “graphics processor” developed by 3Dfx Interactive for its Voodoo 4 and Voodoo 5 graphics cards.

Also read: 3Dfx Interactive: Gone But Not Forgotten

The VSA-100 is the most powerful 3D acceleration technology 3Dfx for the various Voodoo 4/5 models. Unfortunately, it only found its way into the single-chip Voodoo 4 4500 card and the dual-chip Voodoo 5 5500. The company released the VSA-100 cards in 2000, and the company went bankrupt soon after that, making them hard to find. Nvidia purchased most of 3Dfx’s assets and developed the first commercial “GPU” for 3D gaming on PC.

Last year, someone sold a sample of the unreleased quad-chip Voodoo 5 6000 graphics card on eBay for a cool $15,000, demonstrating how rare and sought-after 3Dfx technology still is. Barea claims he used brand new, stand-alone VSA-100 chips, designing a custom “VoodooX” card that could somewhat work within 3Dfx’s official specifications.

According to Barea’s X posts, the custom card has 32MB of RAM, while official VSA-100 specs support up to 64MB per chip. Barea engineered his card to provide newer digital interface ports (HDMI, DVI) next to a traditional VGA port. The difference in picture quality between VGA and digital output is seemingly noticeable, with “crispy and clear” images and better colors with a digital connection.

Barea said his latest tests with the custom VoodooX card are surprising. The VSA-100 chip can reach a core frequency of 160MHz with no issues and no attached heatsink, and the Quake3 “timedemo” works “perfectly” over HDMI. The VoodooX 3Dfx is still a work in progress, though. Barea is also testing a switch to enable a 32MB or 64MB memory per chip configuration.

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