Modder Pairs 3dfx And PowerVR Chips On One Board For The Ultimate Retro Graphics Card
Gather around kiddies for a tale of the bad old days. You see, once upon a time, PC gaming wasn't as unified as it is now. Graphics card vendors (and even individual graphics cards) had their own proprietary APIs, and sometimes games shipped as special versions for a given graphics card, complete with custom assets and wildly varying visual quality.
In those days, it actually wasn't all that uncommon for folks to have one graphics card for 2D graphics and a whole separate graphics card for 3D graphics—then called "3D accelerators." The most famous example would be the 3dfx Voodoo Graphics and Voodoo 2 pass-through cards, but there were also PowerVR add-in cards that served the same purpose.
Still, a lot of this old hardware has ended up in landfills or otherwise destroyed, and even if the card is visually intact, it may have suffered failed capacitors or other physical damage. If you've got to do board-level repairs anyway, why not just transplant the whole thing onto an all-new board? Doing so lets the hardware hacker in question do interesting new things, like make a dual-chip card that's both Voodoo 3 and PowerVR PCX2.
The Voodoo 3 chip on the card is from a Voodoo 3 3500, the top-end Voodoo3 model which originally came with a TV tuner onboard. That functionality is absent on the Lost Joker 2, although the memory on the new card appears to be 4.5ns packages from EtronTech that should in theory support a clock rate all the way up to 230 MHz. It will be interesting to see if the Avenger chip itself can clock that high; the stock clock for the Voodoo 3 3500 was 183MHz (synchronized between graphics core and video memory.)
Arguably the most interesting part of the card is that Anthony has implemented pass-through support. That means even though the Voodoo 3 was designed to be the primary graphics adapter in a system, a buyer could use the Lost Joker 2 as an add-in card with a different primary graphics adapter. While operating systems of the day won't generally play nice with multiple 2D cards running simultaneously, this functionality allows a user to implement a faster AGP card for Windows 2000 or XP games, and then reboot into Windows 9x to play older games using the 3dfx or PowerVR cards.
If you want more information on the pass-through function, you can check out the manual for the card. Folks interested in picking up a Lost Joker 2 for their own retro rigs should contact the modder at his Facebook page, but be prepared to spend out a bit for your extremely exclusive piece of retro hardware: Anthony is apparently asking some $500 USD for each Lost Joker 2 card.