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Written by: David "Spunk" Grampa - January 30, 2000
Last updated by: Dan "Tweak Monkey" Kennedy - December 13, 2002
If you think of any terms to add to this dictionary, please e-mail us!
PCI - Polygon
PCI - Peripheral Component Interface. This is the industry standard bus architecture (how internal hardware connects to you computer) today for add-in cards such as modems, SCSI cards, and network adapters. PCI runs at 33MHz on a 32-bit bus, but a 66 MHz standard exists on a 64-bit bus. However, few cards require such bandwidth to operate properly, so it is not common among home PCs. Unlike ISA, PCI offers bus-mastering and plug-and-play support.
Per-Pixel Mip-Mapping - Mip-mapping at its most precise variant. For faster performance, mip-mapping effects can be made to be at an accuracy of every other pixel, every polygon, etc. With per-pixel mip-mapping, shadows are cast just as detailed as the object they are casting from.
Perspective Correction - Probably the most important attribute to anything 3D, perspective correction is the ability to correctly display a texture from any angle. For example, if you were looking directly at a square texture each side would appear equal (as with most squares). However, if you turned that same square so that one end was closer to you, it would appear skewed. This is what sets the third dimension apart from the 2nd, besides depth. In the real world, any object further away seems smaller. So, if the square was turned to an angle, one side would be further away than the other, allowing one to be seen by the eye as smaller than the other, giving it a rhombus appearance.
Pipeline - The 'line' where instructions will be while waiting to be processed in a microprocessor is called the "pipeline".
Pixelation - When you move too close to a texture in a game and see the actual square elements, this is considered pixelation. For example, try running a large monitor at a low resolution, say 640x480.
Pixel Shaders - Programmable hardware shaders to manipulate individual pixels at a time are called "pixel shaders". The result is a very clean render with reduced work on the CPU, and it allows complex objects such as hair, cloth, glass, and organic materials to be realistically represented in real-time, with less effort than previously required. See this page for more information.
Polygon - A polygon is any closed two-dimensional figure. In terms of 3D gaming, polygons are combined with hundreds of others to make up models in 3D engines. Objects in 3D on a PC are usually represented by triangles.
Process - The term "micron" or "process" will be commonly used in video card and CPU reviews. The fabrication process of a CPU (often measured in "microns", one thousandth of one millimeter) is a measurement of the space between transistors. As PCs reach higher speeds, the fabrication process size must decrease to make up for the extra transistors. For example, the Pentium IV 2.53 GHz is based on a 0.13 micron process and uses 55 million transistors. 386s had around 275,000 transistors and used a 1.0 micron process.