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Number Nine Visual Technology

Company Backgrounder



Number Nine Visual Technology Corporation is a world-leader in designing and supplying innovative, high-performance visual technology solutions, including video and graphics accelerators, 128-bit graphics chips, innovative display control software, and high-performance software drivers. These subsystems render and control sophisticated graphic and video content used in desktop computing. They enable the computer to display visual content at high resolutions, in true color, at optimum refresh rates. Number Nine delivers some of the highest quality accelerators on the market today. 

Number Nine is focused on delivering performance and value in our proven area of expertise -- visual technologies. While other vendors may broaden product offerings to include unrelated peripherals (such as modems, sound cards or multimedia upgrade kits) in order to balance product cycles, Number Nine deems it a greater strength to remain specialized, and to continue to innovate in a single area of technology.

Number Nine is a publicly held company (NASDAQ:NINE) headquartered in Lexington, Massachusetts and has marketing and sales offices in Munich, London, Madrid, and Tokyo.



The History of Number Nine



Founded in 1982, Number Nine first made its mark with a CPU accelerator board for one of the first personal computers, the Apple II.  The Number Nine Apple Booster increased the Apple's CPU speed from 1 MHz to an amazing 3.5 MHz (astounding at that time) by enhancing the processing power of the CPU.

Subsequently, Number Nine turned to focus its expertise and resources on driving the advancement of visual technology in desktop computing. The result of this focus has brought to market successive generations of visual subsystems for IBM-compatible PCs and Apple Macintosh computers.

In 1983, as IBM introduced their first color graphics adapter (CGA), with a display resolution of 320 x 200 in 16 colors, the Number Nine Graphics Systemcould support a display resolution of 1024 x 768 - making it the first high resolution graphics card for the PC.

In 1984, Number Nine introduced the Revolution 512x8, the world's first 256 color graphics controller card.   This was followed shortly thereafter by the Revolution 512x32, the world's first "true-color" graphics card for the PC. True-color is defined as 16.7 million colors, the supposed maximum number of colors that can be detected by the human eye. To put things into perspective, IBM had just introduced the PGA standard which could display 16 colors at 640 x 400.

In 1986, Number Nine launched the first co-processor-based graphics accelerator, the Pepper. The Pepper series were the first boards in the world to be fitted with a dedicated graphics processor, a powerful 40 MHz Texas Instruments TMS-34010 chip. This chip was, in itself, a computer that could be programmed specifically to take advantage of graphics display functions. A dedicated graphics co-processor off-loaded graphically intensive operations from the host computer, freeing it to handle the currently loaded application.  This technology advanced the graphics display industry by creating an affordable solution for users in any design field where color, clarity, and processing power were all critical elements.

The next generation  Pepper Pro1280 provided resolutions up to 1280 x 1024, with true-color display. Almost three years after it's introduction, the Pepper Pro1280 was honored with Byte Magazine's "Best High Resolution Graphics Board Award" in one of their first comparative roundups of the world's best graphics accelerators.

During this time, Number Nine was working with the emerging Microsoft Corp. to develop some of the first drivers for Windows 1.0. At that time, it was customary for developers of application software to write specific device drivers for each graphics board they wished to support in their application. To alleviate programming redundancy, Number Nine created our own graphics operating system called NNios(Number Nine Intelligent Operating System).  NNios was resolution, color and even processor independent. NNios was a unique innovation in graphics display programming, and offered developers assurance that a single driver would support multiple boards.

The core strategy of Number Nine's development has been to outpace the demands of operating systems and applications, and therefore remain at the forefront of technology. The arrival of Microsoft Windows 3.0 in 1990 marked a turning point for Number Nine. The long-awaited graphical user interface (GUI) for PCs placed great demands on the CPU. The need for a boost in graphics performance sparked heavy interest in Number Nine's high-end graphics accelerator boards; and Number Nine products emerged as the fastest, most powerful visual accelerators in the industry, establishing Number Nine as the leader in graphics display technology.

With the proliferation of Windows based systems, the visual display market began rapidly expanding.  Within this market, Number Nine identified the need for a broader range of graphics acceleration products.  We expanded our product line to include more affordable solutions based on less expensive, mass-market chips.

S3, one of the primary players in the graphics chip market, became our first chip partner, providing us with chips for our new boards designed for mid-range, mainstream markets. Number Nine's first mainstream graphics board, the #9GXE, was based on the S3 928 processor. It supported 1280 x 1024 in a non-interlaced mode. For almost six months, the #9GXE was the fastest Windows accelerators on the market.

Based on the success of the #9GXE,  Number Nine continued to design boards with graphics chip technology from S3. Early in 1994, Number Nine introduced the first low-cost, 64-bit DRAM accelerator card. The market acceptance of 64-bit graphics was very rapid; and graphics accelerators became a well-known, highly desirable add-on product.

As the world's major graphics vendors began to develop 64-bit graphics boards, Number Nine was already building the next wave of visual technology - the world's first 128-bit graphics solution.  It leap-frogged and stunned the rest of the industry, as they introduced their 64-bit technologies.  The technology was more than a powerful graphics chip, it was an architecture, and it was called Imagine.

With Imagine,  Number Nine had developed not only a chip, but an entire graphics architecture.  It worked so well, and was so fast, that it was awarded Byte Magazine's "BEST OF COMDEX" award for best peripheral product, upon introduction. Twelve years after starting a graphics revolution, Number Nine eclipsed the current state-of-the-art in graphics technology with our 128-bit development. That year, the Company's revenues jumped an astounding 160 percent.

For its first 12 years, Number Nine thrived as a private organization, funded solely by its operations and two founders, Andy Najda and Stan Bialek. Late in 1994, the Company received $15 million in venture capital, the third largest infusion of capital in the New England area; and in May 1995, Number Nine went public on the NASDAQ (NINE).


Performance That Keeps Getting Better



Number Nine's 128-bit architecture is the only graphics architectures that "scales" with faster computer and operating systems. This means that as operating systems and CPU technologies improve, our 128-bit products are already built to utilize faster processing, automatically optimizing your system.

For example, Windows NT 4.0 has effectively widened the performance delta between Number Nine's 128-bit products and leading 64-bit graphics accelerators, precisely because our board designs target 32-bit operating systems.

A compelling testimony came in the February 20, 1996, issue of PC Magazine, in a review of 101 of the industries top high-performance desktop computers.  Each of the three Editors Choices' computers used Number Nine's Imagine 128. PC Magazine editors wrote: "128-bit graphics make an impact. This graphics board has always been a strong performer on our tests, but its optimized Windows 95 driver made the difference in this review." And further, "Number Nine's Imagine 128... which features a sophisticated 128-bit graphics acceleration engine, yielded Graphics WinMark 96 scores, that were head and shoulders above the rest."

In addition to our powerful 128-bit 2D/3D drawing engines, Number Nine has incorporated a unique, dedicated 256-bit bit video engine to deliver the best video playback in the industry.  This video engine can stretch tiny video clips in both X and Y direction to full screen. Small video clips scale smoothly up to full screen -- at any resolution - at any color depth, and maintain maximum frame. Once a video clip is scaled, the video engine then filters the result to eliminate blockiness and fat pixels normally associated with scaled video.



Commitment to Quality Software



In addition to superior hardware, Number Nine believes that superior software is equally important for graphics users. We invest heavily in a team of software development experts, who have made their mark as pioneers in the graphics industry.  Number Nine has made a business of differentiating products by providing stable, high-performance software drivers and an innovative graphics utility suite, called HawkEye.

"In the end, it is the intelligent software architecture in a high performance driver that brings out the greatest performance from the silicon," said Steve Fried, director of software development for Number Nine. "Number Nine has earned a strong reputation by consistently delivering the most stable and reliable software drivers in the industry."

In 1991, Number Nine began to develop software tools which allowed easy access to our powerful hardware features from within any Windows application. This release was called HawkEye, and its first feature was true, onboard hardware panning and zooming.  It gave the ability to view documents up close and pan in real time, hence the name HawkEye. Subsequent features included Virtual Resolution, and an easy-to-use interface for changing resolution and color depth.  HawkEye was the first display control utility in the industry; and it changed the way people interacted with their graphics device. Almost every vendor in the industry has since followed in the footsteps of Number Nine by providing display utilities pioneered by Number Nine.

Today, HawkEye '95 supports a new look and feel.  HawkEye '95 features include:

  • Status: obtain useful, detailed diagnostic data regarding the Number Nine card - without opening the computer case;
  • Monitor Adjustment: dynamically adjust refresh rates to 150 Hz. to produce a rock solid, flicker-free displays;
  • Resolution Exchange: switch resolutions on-the-fly, change color depth and to utilize DoubleWide and TwoTall Virtual desktop resolution;
  • Zoom: instantly ZOOM in for a closer look;
  • StopBOX: disable hardware panning;
  • Online Help: access instant online help where all HawkEye features are fully documented;
  • International Exchange: access foreign translation for eight international languages;
  • Color Perfect: color calibrate their monitors, so that the printed materials are matched with what is seen on the monitor;
  • HawkKeys: access easy-to-program HotKey interface;
  • Chameleon Cursor: change the size and color of the hardware cursor and aids in viewing the cursor;
  • Place Windows: automatically center and size current application to the current monitor position within virtual or zoomed mode; and
  • Information: ascertain valuable driver and board data.


Number Nine Can Help YOU



The market for graphics accelerators spans from the professional, for whom high-resolution true-color graphics display is critical to their livelihood, all the way to the home user looking for an added boost in screen performance. Virtually every PC user can benefit from one of Number Nine's visual technology solutions.

Computing is a visual endeavor. Consider all the different ways a user interacts with the computer -- typing on the keyboard, moving the mouse, inserting disks, looking at the screen, etc. The visual interaction is intense. In the same time a user may type hundreds of keystrokes, they are absorbing millions of pixels from the screen. The importance of this visual interaction only increases with the advancement of technology.

The world is a visual environment; and users are being bombarded with graphics from all fronts.  Once a user views graphics in high-color (65,000 colors) or true-color (16.8 million) modes, the benefits are apparent, as they see graphics come to life.  To afford everyone the opportunity of an optimized visual experience, Number Nine is dedicated to offering visual enhancement options for all user levels, with a wide range of system compatibility.  "Users most often hear about adding more memory or buying a faster processor," said Andy Najda, chief executive officer and founder of Number Nine. "We are working to show consumers that they will get the biggest bang for their buck by upgrading their graphics accelerator."

Broadest Product Line in the Industry



Number Nine manufactures the widest range of visual accelerators in the industry. From our multiple Editor's Choice winner Revolution 3D, to our entry-level 9FX Reality line, we offer a solution for any application and budget.  Our broad product line allows us to distribute our products to customers via retail channels, inside OEM systems, or through locally assembled system builds.



The following chart outlines the breadth of Number Nine's product offering:

 

Revolution 3D

Imagine 128 Series 2

9FX Reality 334

Controller

"Ticket To Ride"

Imagine 128 S2

S3d ViRGE GX-2

Base Memory

4MB or 8MB WRAM

8MB H-VRAM

4MB SGRAM

Upgrade Modules

4MB and 8MB WRAM

none

none

Bandwidth

128-bit

128-bit

64-bit

Bus Support

PCI and AGP

PCI

PCI and AGP

Max 2D True Color

1280 x 1024 @ 86Hz

1920 x 1080 @ 83Hz

1280 x 1024 @ 85Hz

Max 2D High Color

1920 x 1080 @ 73Hz

1920 x 1200 @ 77Hz

1600 x 1200 @ 75Hz

Max 3D True Color

1280 x 1024 @ 107Hz

800 x 600 @ 150Hz

640 x 480 @ 150Hz

Max 3D High Color

1920 x 1080 @ 73Hz

1280 x 1024 @ 107Hz

800 x 600 @ 120Hz

Dual Monitor Support

under NT 4.0

under NT 3.51 and 4.0

under NT 4.0

Video Engine

128-bit

256-bit

64-bit

DVD Upgrades    

x

Direct3D Support

x

 

x

OpenGL� Support

x

x

x

32-bit Z-Buffering

x

x

 
Texture Mapping

x

 

x

3D Filtering

x

 

x

3D Setup Engine

x

   
Texture Cache

8KB

   
RAMDAC

220Mhz (External)

250Mhz (External)

202.5 Mhz (Integrated)

Drivers Supported

Windows 95
Windows NT 3.51
Windows NT 4.0

Windows 95
Windows NT 3.51
Windows NT 4.0

Windows 3.1x
Windows 95
Windows NT 3.51
Windows NT 4.0

ESP (11/97)

$249 (4MB)
$299 (8MB)

$199 (4MB)
$499 (8MB)

$129 (4MB)


Number Nine and HawkEye are registered trademarks. Imagine, Imagine128, Revolution 3D, and  9FX Reality 334 are trademarks of Number Nine Visual Technology Corporation. All rights reserved. Windows, Windows 95 and Windows NT are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corp. WinBench and WinMarks are trademarks of Ziff-Davis Publishing. All other trademarks and tradenames are properties of their respective companies. Features and specifications are subject to change without notice.


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