As some of you know, I'm going to present a book of 3dfx and history of 3D on November 25th in Retrosevilla. Here is the chapter 9, where I talk about 3dfx nowadays and this forum. I hope you like it. Please, keep in mind that the translation is WIP. It isn't accurate 100%.
I wait your comment.
It was posible thanks the next people and this thread:
- Kamil Hałasiewicz (VooDooMan) https://www.facebook.com/RetroGraphicsCards/
- Neo (Bart³omiej)
- Giacomo Usiello (Glide)
- Bernd (NostalgicAslinger): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTYGXF9VCXZAU83qv2BlC0g
- Lukas (lommodore)
- Luke Zorich
- Batyra (Pawel)
- Gold Leader
- Ricardo Daniel Costa
- Jose Jorge Fuentes (jordigahan)
We have talked about 3dfx's history, its fall and the products that it launched in the past, but... what about it today? More than twenty years have passed and everything has changed, so now, in 2018, the main question is: What is 3dfx today?
When I started the research about 3dfx, I discovered hundreds of pages. I made a list of about six hundred links, which were reduced to about two hundred links thanks to my own listing. From there I reduced the links to one hundred, after hours and hours of reading, it helped me to make this book come true. Most of them were very old websites, with an old designs of their time, based on designs that is not attractive today. Only a handful of them directed me to more current pages. At first, my main interest was to collect information, translating and adapting it. I did that until I have collected enough information to take the next step. Later, in several forums, I have got to know many people who made me realise that the book only contained technical information, and that it would not be complete if it was not accompanied by testimonies from anonymous people who still use such old computers with those or similar cards. Who does not remember the IDE Seagate mechanical discs? They were louder than a disco.
For this reason and with my limited level of English, I tracked every Facebook forum and group to interview all the people that I could, and then be able to capture the image of the world of retro computers and particularly 3dfx today. This article is, therefore, the result of many hours of conversation with more than twenty people around over the world.
After I cheked all the social networks, I verified that not all of them would be especially useful. Instagram is full of photos. However, Instagram has only a few text comments of this topic. Twitter provides a lot of information, but it is really impersonal. It's really hard to contact people who provide information. Moreover, with a lot of text messages, It is difficult to find what is really interesting and what is useless. Nevertheless, for the users of that social network, I strongly recommend following @ 3dfxhistory, their messages are always relevant, and @ 3Dfx_Aslinger, with a lot of information thanks to their great videos.
But if we focus on Facebook, everything changes. It is undoubtedly the most used social network for this topic, and its groups have become, little by little, the substitutes of the old and almost disappeared nowadays forums. These groups are more active, not only in exclusively 3dfx. There are bigger groups that deal with all old computers . The proof is that there is not a day without new messages or new threads opened. The number of groups is huge, although those focused on 3dfx have a fixed user base. From my experience I can stand out x3dfx, 3dfx Voodoo User Group, or Exclusive 3dfx Voodoo5 5500 Owners Club. The last one was the first group that I joined. It is a group only for owners of this great card, but they allow access to anyone who are interested in 3dfx. My enormous interest allowed me to be part of it and verified the large number of users who remain loyal to this company using this card, even on their old computers. There are conversations about the most common configuration problems, marketing, online sales links, and especially about the documentation and data that many people shared.
3dfx Voodoo User Group is probably the one that contains the most messages of the three analyzed. Moreover, it is the one that deals with more themes (However, in many occasions people talk about graphics cards or systems that are not of 3dfx). Like the previous group, here we talk about the 5500, but also about more graphics cards and test acquisitions. Many user's images are also shared with their old computers. With these photos you can learn a lot, because they are aware of many details about the cards, such as their special designs, the checks about memory speed, or if any chip is different from the original one. These albums are a mine of information, which has helped me to complete the data of this book.
The last one is x3dfx, a group that many will know, because it emerges from the forum created after the close of 3dfx. Its lethargy caused that many of their users come over here, making this forum the descendant of the 3dfx forum. The group works in a similar way to the previous ones, with publications that are shared between users and some links or exclusive information that appears from time to time.
Although these are the main groups of 3dfx, there are many others that deal with retro PCs and in many cases end up being as interesting as than the previous analyzed forums. Old PC forever! Is a perfect example. It is a small forum with few users, but they are really active, you can see new topics every day. RETRO PC Gamers is another interesting option, since it has the triple number of users than the previous one. But, if we look for the biggest of them, then we have to mention RETRO Machines. Nevertheless, with almost nine thousand active members is really hard to follow all the publications. In all these places you can find information of all kinds, from current i5 or i7 to 8086, making the three groups mandatory places to visit for anyone interested in this world. As is logical, in all these groups there are users from all countries of the world, but it is curious that many of them were born in Eastern Europe, countries such as Poland, Russia, Latvia or Estonia.
If we leave Facebook behind, we have to return to the old forums. The search is arduous, because many of them did not survive to the death of Windows Messenger, but those who are still alive prove this offering a lot of activity.On the one hand most of them, focused on 3dfx, are abandoned, with just few messages in recent years.On the other hand, except two of them, are still really alive -and they have helped me when I was making the interviews for this chapter-. The first is voodooalert.de, a German forum for all types of hardware that contain a large community of 3dfx fans. A lot of known forum users in the world can be found here, being the starting point for their current hobby for many of them. The second one is 3dfx.pl, the page of a collector named @ Lukas_3dfx, who founded that forum in 2012 (he made a good decision doing that) to turn it into a reference in his country, Poland. The first time when I joined that forum, I could see the slogan"3dfx is still ALIVE !!!" and just as I saw that, it was clear to me that if I did not find volunteers there, I would surely have to forget this part of my book. Unlike voodooalert, 3dfx.pl focuses on old computers and is so popular, they have organized small users meetings in Poland, where many fans present themselves with their creations. Language is not a problem, because almost everyone speaks English to communicate with people abroad of Germany and Poland. Both forums are very actives, although anyone could say that voodooalert is a little bit more active because it has more modern themes. Anyway, in both new topics are opened daily and new messages are written in an environment that, unlike the large Facebook groups, becomes almost familiar.
If we focus on non-exclusive 3dfx forums, two should be highlighted. The first one would be retrowiki, a Spanish forum where all the topics of retro computers are treated, and where I learned a little bit more about 3dfx in Amiga. The other one that stands out is the famous Vogons.org. I could talk a lot of about it, but, in summary, if you can't find one theme there, it is because is does not exist.
In conclusion, I think there are more active users in the forums than social networks of 3dfx, and this is due to the profile of its users. There are people that lived the boom of the forums, those born in the 80s and 90s, so they consider them the best way to communicate. Now, when these users need to make an announcement, promote a video or update their website always end up using social networks because they have to do that nowadays. It is interesting to see how most of the interviewees consider social networks as a necessary evil, due to the Facebook policy and its lack of privacy and transparency.
We already know where they meet, but who is behind these old graphic cards? The majority of interviewees are in their thirties or forties, and they usually have jobs related to computers or technology. However, there is an exception, a very special case: a fifteen-year-old boy who run into this little world and who is slowly learning everything about this scene, which gives it a very interesting perspective.
When we asked about how they came to this, most confess that their hobby began at the end of the 90s, when their father / friend / acquaintance showed them that graphics cards that worked on their computers. None understood why it worked so well, but everyone did not care. This is the situation for 99% people, except for the fifteen-year-old boy and his special story. His beginnings in this scene come from his casual encounter with a computer that his school was going to throw away to the rubbish. He picked it up and made it work thanks to the information he collected from the internet and several YouTube videotutorials.Another interesting and different case is @ 3Dfx_Aslinger (formerly NostalgicAslinger), an Austrian fan who opened a YouTube channel in 2014 to record interesting comparisons about the games and graphics of the time. It has more than 50 videos, and today he uploads material regularly.
Many of those followers began this hobby thanks to the television commercials, or to the publicity that the magazines published at that time. These magazines invited to buy these cards, although it was an immediate environment which really made them decide. If we look back, the graphics cards-and the games themselves- usually do not work as advertised, with terrible cases where the software was not correct (I have suffered it trying CDs with drivers that never worked) or with game and graphic card packs that were not compatible. Being able to try your hands in a known place and check that everything worked correctly was the final step to decide to go to the store and finally buy it.
In this era, the press are power is declining, but there was a real power of influence in those publications, when the bombardment of images, comparisons and explanations of the benefits of the cards was intense, and it was a rare case when that hardware did not become the dream of any player or reader. Moreover, all these graphic cards used to have a fair price for an average salary of that time (maybe even for a medium-low one) which made them totally affordable for users. With all these aspects, they had a great success of sales.
At this time, without Internet and without television programs of this subject, it was really difficult to obtain information and comparisons beyond those that the magazines offered. With this, the Voodoo1 and Voodoo2 cards were the most sold. In several cases they remember Diamond and Gainward, although often they do not remember what the brand was. What they do remember is the first game they tried, it was an important memorie. The most popular are racing games such as POD, Need for Speed 2 and 3. Although we have a case, which first game played was Final Fantsay VII. A game that is very much associated with those graphic cards is Unreal Tournament, because it was very popular in the era of cybers and LAN-parties. These games were perfect to test the graphics, so many editors gave one with each purchase so you could run it and try it. These games, in some cases, were special versions, some of them optimized for 3dfx in order to enjoy and check the quality of the newly purchased card.
The proper working of these games and the good reviews of the users caused a new boom, which reached its zenith with the launch of the Voodoo2. This would unleash the cult of the brand with a lot of fanatics, but we will talk about this topic later. Let's see the reasons for this great impulse. Among the interviewees there is unanimity about their API Glide and its filters, together with the first memories of those LAN-parties so popular at that time, which made the myth grow and maintain it until today. Anyone who tried the same game with several rendering modes, was surprised with the quality of the graphics card. In addition, they were launched in the right moment (just when technology made it possible), creating a cascade of events that, with the interest of developers and the independence of the type of computer, became a safe investment.
It's curious that no one speaks about the boxes, because they were really impressive and they help to sold the graphic cards. Does anyone remember those magnificent boxes?