stored in video memory one “frame” at a time. Frame buffer architecture (Fig. 43-2) haschanged very little since PCs first started displaying text and graphics. The heart of theframe-buffer video adapter is the highly integrated display controller IC (sometimes called a
Cathode-Ray Tube Controller
). The CRTC generates control signals and super-vises adapter operation. The CRTC reads
Video RAM (VRAM)
contents and passes thosecontents along for further processing. Many new video boards use specially designed ICgroups (
) that are intended to work together. Chipsets provide fast, efficient video performance while minimizing the amount of circuitry needed on a video adapter.
TEXT VS. GRAPHICS
Video RAM also plays a vital role because the RAM holds the image data to be displayed.The video adapter can operate in two modes: text and graphic. In the text mode, ASCII char-acters are stored in video RAM. A character ROM, character generator, and shift register produce the pixel patterns that form ASCII screen characters. The character ROM holds a pixel pattern for every possible ASCII character (including letters, numbers, and punctua-tion). The character generator converts ROM data into a sequence of pixel bits and transfersthem to a shift register. The shift register produces a bit stream. At the same time, an at-tribute decoder determines whether the defined ASCII character is to be displayed as blink-ing, inverted, high-intensity, standard text, or a text color (for color monitors). The signalgenerator is responsible for turning the ASCII serial-bit stream from the shift register into thevideo and synchronization signals that actually drive the monitor. The signal generator might produce either analog or TTL video signals, depending on how the particular monitor is to beoperated. Today, virtually all color graphic monitors operate from analog video signals.In the graphic mode, video RAM locations contain the color/gray-scale information for each screen pixel, rather than ASCII characters, so the character ROM and character-generating circuitry used in text mode is bypassed. For example, monochrome graph-
1252VIDEO ADAPTERS AND ACCELERATORS
ShiftregisterCharacterROM AttributegeneratorPC businterface VideoRAM Attribute dataSignalgeneratorCharacter data VideoBIOSRAMDisplaycontrollerICCharactergeneratorSync signalsSignals to themonitor
Block diagram of a frame-buffer video adapter.