IBM made the first video card in 1981. It was called Monochrome Display Adapter (MDA). The card was only capable of displaying one color and had 80×25 text-only display, with a 4KB memory.
Video cards are hardware pieces that generate the images you see on your monitor. Without this you could not use the software you have, because you could not see the images to work it. The CPU sends applications to the video card, and the video card decides how to use the pixels to make the correct image appear on the monitor. There are 4 parts that make up a video card.
#1- Motherboard connection- The motherboard gives the power and data to the video card.
#2- Processor- The ability to generate geometric calculations (GPU) to produce the picture.
#3- Memory- The data that the GPU produces is temporarily stored on RAM. The RAM sends it to the Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) to convert image to analog signals that the monitor uses to display the image.
#4- Monitor connection- The video card is connected to the monitor to receive all images sent.
Three other names for video cards are: Graphics Accelerator Card, Display Adapter, and Graphics Card. From the year 1981 to 1987 three other standards of video cards were presented to computer users.
*Color Graphics Adapter (CGA) 640×200 graphic mode display, 16 colors, 16KB memory
*Enhanced Graphic Adapter (EGA) 640×350 graphic mode display, 16 colors, 256KB memory
*Multi-Color Graphics Adapter (MCGA) 320×200 graphic mode display, 256 colors
Video Graphics Adapter (VGA) was produced in 1987. It contained 720×400 text-only display, 640×480 graphic mode display, 256 colors and a 256KB memory. Companies like S3, Cirrus Logic, and ATI soon possessed the same capabilities as VGA. Not wanting to be out done, they made the Super VGA (SVGA) with 1024×768 resolutions, 256 color mode and 2 MB video memory. New improvements continued to be made until 1995 ,when they thought they had reached the top, 2D and 3D cards were created. They were released by Creative Matrox, S3 and ATI. These cards were based on the SVGA, but with the addition of 2D and 3D capabilities.
NVIDIA dominated the video card market between 1999 and 2002 with their version, the GeForce video cards. They went from 32MB in GeForce to 128MB in the GeForce 4. Their leadership was soon taken away by ATI in 2006 when they introduced Radeon Video Cards to the computer consumer.
There are several leading video card producers such as: NVIDIA, ATI Technologies, 3Dlabs, Matrox Graphics, SiS Inc., ABIT Ltd., Aopen, ASUSTek Computer, Gainward (CardExpert), LeadTek Research, MSI Inc., PNY Technologies, and Sapphire Technologies.