All those add-in boards

Posted by Jon Peddie on August 28th 2017 | Discuss

Are being used for different kinds of games now

How the GPU defies gravity and continues to have an increasing market demand. 

Since the introduction of the PC, which was 1981 believe it or not, we estimate that 2.1 billion AIBs will have been shipped by the end of this year. That’s not the installed base, just the total of all AIBs, shipped using a Microsoft operating system in an IBM PC. There were microcomputers with Intel, and MOS 6502 CPUs, plus some Motorola 88xx systems built as far back as 1975, and some of them had plug-in graphics boards, but I’m not counting them in this total. 

That’s a lot of graphics boards, and they all weren’t what we call today, GPU-based AIBs. Prior to the turn of the century, graphics controllers, as we called them then were hard-wired state-machines with little to no programmability. The early ones like the popular Hitachi 82786 even had its drawing library embedded it in. The famous TI34010 was the first truly programmable graphics controller, back in 1986. 

HISTORY OF AIB shipments since the start of the IBM PC

I calculate the cumulative market value for all those AIBs is $482 billion and that’s not adjusting for inflation. What the heck did, or are people doing with all those AIBs? 

In the early days, they mostly displayed spreadsheets and word processing. But after Hercules Computer introduced the bit-mapped display, clever folks figured out how to create computer games using the display (prior to that PC games were blocks or just text). Gaming on a PC took a big leap when S3 and 3Dfx started putting out chips and AIBs were built to target gaming in 1994. So, for seven or more years, it was all about gaming, CAD, and office apps. Then the GPU was introduced, first by 3Dlabs, and then by Nvidia, and smart people in universities began figuring out ways to use them as parallel processors and GPU-compute was born. Intriguing, and useful, GPU-compute applications in-creased sales of AIBs a bit, but gaming was by then the big seller. 
Once the genie was out of the bottle on GPU-compute, amazing and interesting other ideas began to emerge. One of the biggest was using a GPU to identify cats. At Stanford, where GPU-compute was developed, a new kind of compute was brought to life with the discovery of a new algorithm for sorting through tons of data and making accurate analysis of it. That was called deep-learning (DL) and it lead to a renaissance in artificial intelligence (AI) which has sparked the imagination of millions of people, and promoted the development of several ASICs and additional use for other existing processors, but the AIB is still and will continue to be the preferred engine. 

The developments in AI, led to talking assistants in your home, and the promise of a driverless car, which raised the question of do we even need to own a car anymore. AI apps not only found things in pictures, like terrorist suspects, but helped us take better pictures with our smartphones. 

AIBS DEFY gravity and increase in sales while desktop PCs decline

And then while selling porn, pills, and people on the darknet, procurers, purchasers, and profiteers needed proof of the transactions and developed chain-blocking that just happened to run amazingly well on an AIB, and so another use for a GPU other than gaming was developed. 

And so, the AIB that once was a lowly spreadsheet display controller has evolved into a massive market serving untold applications, and has found its way into test vehicles, submarines, movie studios and engineering offices, supercomputers, and bitcoin mining farms, as well as an enriched and expanding game market that reaches from PCs to pachinko and through VR on the way. 
Gamers drove the market, which enabled the GPU suppliers to produce extraordinarily powerful parallel processors at consumer prices, which in turn, in a price-elasticity form, allowed clever people to find other applications which contributed to the expansion of capabilities whilst still driving down, or at the least holding steady, the price. AIBs and GPUs, what a wonderful market to be right now. 

The ASP in 1981, in today’s dollars would be $467. And the average (adjusting each year for the annual ASP rise, and inflation), came out to be $294.6. That makes to total market value of unadjusted ASP $484.2 billion (since 1981). And the inflation adjusted value $1.02 TRILLION dollars!!

Discuss this editorial