Imagination open sources PowerVR Series 1 GPU drivers

Saying that Imagination Technologies is not exactly popular in the open-source community would be an understatement, but the company has just open-sourced the driver source for Power Series 1 GPUs namely Midas Arcade, PCX1, and PCX2.

If those names do not ring a bell, it might be because some of you may not have been born when PowerVR GPUs were first unveiled in 1995, and launched in products in 1996/1997. Developed jointly by VideoLogic and NEC, PowerVR was touted as the “future of high-quality 3D graphics for the next generation of interactive entertainment”, “whether you are developing 3D systems for console, PC, or arcade systems”. VideoLogic was renamed Imagination Technologies in 1999.

The PowerVR PCX1/PCX2 GPUs were notably used in the Apocalypse 3D/3Dx and Matrox M3D graphics cards with support for Direct3D and playing games such as Tomb Raider or Wipeout XL on Windows PCs. I can remember playing those (and Quake) on a Windows 95 PC equipped with a 3DFX Voodoo graphics card, so no PowerVR for me! If I remember correctly, some of the games would run in DOS mode for better performance. I’m not sure whether any popular arcade systems or game consoles used the Power Series-1 GPUs.

Example of PowerVR Series-1 arcade design

You’ll find the source code on Github under an MIT License. Imagination says the code is only provided as a reference without any guarantees that it will compile or function correctly when compiled. The company was also unable to release some libraries and headers by SciTech Software for “The Universal VESA VBE” due to licensing concerns. But they added that the feature was “only used for the Tomb Raider port in order to tell the PCX hardware the details of the framebuffer”.

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5 Replies to “Imagination open sources PowerVR Series 1 GPU drivers”

  1. I think those cards were marketed as kyro back in the time, when they screamed that tile based rendering is so much faster. Or maybe that was the generation after? Around that time I changed from a matrox mystique to a riva tnt.

    Lon i guess i never again had a top gpu ever since…

    1. Kyro was an integrated GPU rather than a 3D rendering chip a couple generations newer.

      While tile based rendering was efficient, Kyro came out when GeForce and Radeon were already out, and as opposed to those, Kyro didn’t have hardware Transform and Lighting, so you needed a lot more CPU power to go along with it and the performance would be limited.

  2. I’m not sure whether any popular arcade systems or game consoles used the Power Series-1 GPUs.

    The SEGA Dreamcast has a POWER VR from the second gen I think

    1. It’s a modified CLX2, which is one evolution step newer. This driver will sure be an interesting read for Dreamcast folks, though not directly useful.

      PCX2 was used in an early prototype dev kit I think.

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