Keeping in mind I barely understand CPUs, what should I do/read to start on GPUs?

@qxn I would recommend the chapter on GPUs, "4.4 Graphics Processing Units", in J. Hennessey and D. Patterson¹ , "Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach", 978-8178672663 (

¹ that'll be "Prof. RISC and Prof. RAID" for the un-initiated :flan_wink:

@qxn Also, come to think of it, you should look at the design of the Intel i860 “supercomputer on a chip” as it carries within it the seeds for some particular design concepts which were then developed further in GPUs. In particular note the “limited VLIW”.

If you find anything there’s also Evans & Sutherland with their graphical magic. I still have and cherish an E&S graphics card (dual full-length PCI) for my Digital PWS600au which pumps OpenGL in 3D at amazing speeds.

@qxn In the same vein: the history of Silicon Graphics and their graphics workstations. All had accelerated graphics and, therefore, pretty amazing chipsets.

@qxn I have likened it to a network of pubs which go from the large city pub with lots of people ( to small country pubs with a friendly publican ( You can have peaceful conversations, occasionally delve into the larger pub if you so desire, but generally live a far more constructive and peaceful social life.

That is, incidentally, why I moved to small pub, excellent publican, wonderful clients.

@qxn there is also the whole history of graphics terminals (vector graphics) of which the Tektronix was probably the most famous (Xterm has a Tektronix mode to display OpenGL output).

While looking for info about ancient graphics displays by, I believe Three Rivers Corporation (unsure about the number of rivers… age…), I stumbled upon the Computer Graphics Museum ( which is, unsurprisingly, looking for Evans & Sutherland kit :)

@qxn You should also take a peek at the history of Weitek which started with maths coprocessors for the 68k and x86 (not x87 compatible) and then moved to creating a frame buffer chip for Sun moving onto SVGA chips in the later years before dying a horrible death. Their SVGA card held the speed record for quite some time (and their FPU was the “standard” for AutoCAD acceleration before x87 became ubiquitous with the i486DX).

@cynicalsecurity @qxn Put enough i860 together and you get a real supercomputer! The CPU had some design quirks, although the "VLIW" dual-issue pipeline meant that it performed really well on DGEMM and LINPACK in our Intel Paragon.

@qrs @qxn it was a time when there were two beautiful designs in Intel: the i860 and the i960. Both with their own quirks, both interesting with peculiarities in each design. The VLIW in the i860, when used, was definitely spectacular: I remember the BYTE issue presenting it as a “supercomputer on a chip”, hence me quoting them to Mara :)

@qxn There is a good blog post from 2011 by Fabian Giesen (@rygorous on the birdsite) titled “A trip through the graphics pipeline”:

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