The Crazy Story Of BitBoys
The other dominant player is Qualcomm and its Adreno graphics technology. The story of Adreno is worth noting because Qualcomm bought it from AMD. AMD bought this technology from ATI. And ATI bought it by acquiring BitBoys.
Now, anyone who knows tech history will remember that BitBoys is one of those companies infamous for its vaporware. But products based on its technology really did exist. It’s a crazy story, actually, and we like telling crazy stories.
Everything starts back in 1991. In the early 90s, Finland was home to the demo scene, which is where programmers (many of whom were just high school kids) would get together and write software able to push computer hardware to its limit. The idea was to pull off visual effects so awesome that you couldn’t believe they were running on commodity components, and to pull that off so efficiently that the data would fit into an absurdly small file. These demos combined creativity, video and audio talent, and pure programming genius. Competitions included stuff like the best intro (with graphics and audio) in 4 KB of space, or the best 64 KB demo (you owe it to yourself to check this out). And then there was the best mega demo, which had no constraints. Think of it like Step-Up 2: The Streets, only with software engineers instead of dancers.
One of the most respected groups at the time was Future Crew, who took first place at the biggest competition of the time: Assembly. Mika Tuomi (also known as Trug) was one of the lead coders. He and his brother, along with their friends, started a company called BitBoys. At first, they just paid the bills with software development for local businesses. But when they tackled the Second Reality demo, they found their calling for 3D graphics.
Some connections and contacts were made and soon they were engineering a graphics chip known as the Pyramid3D for a company called TriTech. Most folks consider that to be the first piece of vaporware from BitBoys, but Pyramid3D did make it past the design stage. There are stacks of prototype boards out there, many in the wild, and the hardware was demoed at various Microsoft events. Development definitely took longer than expected, and there were multiple respins and failures. But, in the end, the product really existed. The problem was that TriTech also happened to make audio chips, which also happened to violate Cirrus Logic’s patents. TriTech lost a lawsuit and, in light of royalties owed, the company shut down before Pyramid3D could reach consumers.
Of course, you can’t keep a demo coder down. So the BitBoys team regrouped and tried again. This time, they went to companies like Real3D (a spin-off of Lockheed, bought out by Intel), Rendition (bought out by Micron), Creative Labs (which ended up buying 3DLabs), ATI, Nvidia, and even Diamond Multimedia. No one wanted to work with them, so they decided they would do it on their own.
This was when they started working on Glaze3D, which promised amazing fill rate performance with 9 MB of embedded DRAM. The company got its first round of venture capital and selected Infineon as its manufacturing partner, owing to significant embedded DRAM expertise.