Glossary of Terms
This page provides brief definitions of terms used throughout the site.
rendering - The process of drawing a 2D or 3D scene in a computer program.
frame - A single rendered image. Displaying many frames in quick succession creates the impression of smooth motion.
demo (1) - A program created to demonstrate the capabilities of some technology, such as a video card or game engine. Demos usually allow little or no interaction.
demo (2) - A limited version of a game, distributed free of charge for promotional purposes.
benchmark - A program used to measure hardware performance. Games and demos are often used as benchmarks.
timedemo - A type of benchmark that measures system performance by rendering a fixed number of frames as quickly as possible.
engine - The program that powers a game, distinct from the game's content. A single engine is often used to build many games.
API - Application Programming Interface, a collection of subroutines that facilitate some programming task, distinct from the programming language.
DirectX - A set of multimedia APIs created by Microsoft, used to access a computer's graphics, sound, and input devices.
Direct3D - A 3D graphics API created by Microsoft as part of DirectX. Used by many games from 1997 onwards.
OpenGL - A cross-platform API for generating 2D and 3D graphics. Mostly used by id Software game engines.
Glide - A proprietary 3D graphics API created by 3dfx Interactive. Used by many games between 1997 and 2000.
Glide wrapper - A program that allows non-3dfx video cards to run Glide games by translating Glide to Direct3D or OpenGL.
motherboard - The component in a computer system to which all other components are connected.
CPU - Central Processing Unit, the primary component in a computer system responsible for executing programs. Distinct from memory, storage devices, and add-on components like sound cards and video cards.
processor - See CPU.
RAM - Random Access Memory, volatile short-term memory in a computer system that stores programs and data currently in use.
memory - See RAM.
hard drive - Non-volatile long-term storage device in a computer system that stores programs and data for later use.
sound card - The component in a computer system responsible for playing back sound.
video card - The component in a computer system responsible for generating and displaying graphics.
graphics card - See video card.
GPU - Graphics Processing Unit, a marketing term coined by Nvidia to describe the GeForce256 chip. Often used as a synonym for video card or graphics card.
PCI - Peripheral Component Interconnect, a standard used to connect add-on components to computer systems. Used by sound cards, early video cards, and many other types of components.
AGP - Accelerated Graphics Port, an older standard used to connect video cards to motherboards. Used by video cards from 1997 to around 2004.
PCI Express - A newer standard for connecting video cards to motherboards. Used by video cards from 2004 to present. Abbreviated as PCIe or PCI-e.
driver - A program that allows other programs to interact with a piece of hardware, such as a sound card or video card.
FPS - Frames Per Second, the number of video frames rendered in a second. Used as a performance metric in games.
refresh rate - The rate at which a display devices changes its image, measured in Hertz (Hz). Distinct from FPS.
CRT - Cathod Ray Tube, an electronic component used in older televisions and computer monitors. Also used to refer to monitors built using CRTs.
LCD - Liquid Crystal Display, the display technology used by most modern flat panel monitors and televisions. Also used to refer to monitors built using LCD panels.
MIDI - Musical Instrument Digital Interface, a standard used by early sound cards for music reproduction. MIDI files store only the instructions for playing a music track, and sound different when played on different sound cards.
texture - In graphics, a two-dimensional image applied to a three-dimensional polygon.
bilinear - A type of texture filtering where textures are smoothed but "steps" are visible when viewing textures edge-on.
trilinear - A type of texture filtering that eliminates the "steps" produced by bilinear filtering when viewing textures edge-on.
anisotropic - A type of texture filtering that sharpens textures when viewed edge-on. Can be combined with bilinear or trilinear filtering.
antialiasing - In graphics, a filtering technique that smooths jagged lines in an image.