WINDOWS Magazine, May 1997
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Mike Elgan
Mike Elgan

3-D: The Next Dimension

That upgrade from DOS to Windows you made years ago was a quantum leap forward, graphically speaking. You moved from a black and lifeless void with no graphical dimensions, to a two-dimensional world with objects like folders and documents you could "open" and move around on a 2-D "desktop."

Well, get ready for the next quantum leap: 3-D computing on Windows is here. Our special report on 3-D will tell you how to experience it for yourself and prepare you for the coming wave of 3-D Windows hardware and software.

I'm not talking about bloody games like Quake or Doom. Nor am I talking about kooky glasses, gimmicks or novelty applications. I'm talking about virtual-reality trade shows, architectural walk-throughs and fast-drawing 3-D business graphics.

That's today. Tomorrow, or, more accurately, within the next year, 3-D will go totally mainstream. Both Microsoft and Intel are pouring massive resources into making 3-D fast, easy and standard.


The next version of Windows, due later this year, will feature a technology called OpenGL-the same technology long used for photo-realistic rendering of CAD/CAM applications on high-powered Silicon Graphics workstations. (See page 194 to find out how you can get a free copy of OpenGL now.)

Direct3D is similar to OpenGL, but is a Microsoft "standard," rather than an industry standard. It's part of the DirectX bundle of technologies and forms the cornerstone of a new hardware platform code-named Talisman that Microsoft has been developing for years. Microsoft won't make the hardware, but it will tune Windows and some application software and multimedia content to run on Direct3D hardware. The goal is 1024x768 true-color 3-D graphics that update 75 times per second!

Meanwhile, Intel is hammering out a hardware spec called Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) that will radically speed up graphics performance, especially 3-D graphics. AGP should be standard equipment on Windows hardware by Christmas.

All these new 3-D technologies will make it easier and more compelling for software makers to create 3-D interfaces for their products. Many are already working on it.

They will also make it easier for you and me to create 3-D. As 3-D becomes the accepted standard, more of us will want to populate our documents and presentations with bona fide 3-D objects.

On the Web, 3-D virtual reality is catching on like wildfire. Flat "pages" will gradually be replaced by virtual reality "spaces" you can fly through. Click on a door, it opens, and you move smoothly through it into another space. That's how the Web should work. And soon, it will. Check out page 184 and find out where you can experience virtual reality on the Web.

And no report on 3-D Windows would be complete without a look at the amazing acceptance of professional 3-D Windows NT workstations.

Microsoft designed NT as a cheaper alternative to UNIX workstations, including systems optimized for CAD/CAM applications and other uses where designers need fast 3-D. OpenGL has been part of Windows NT since version 3.5.

One of the biggest stories in 3-D NT is taking place in Tinseltown. NT is quickly becoming Hollywood's platform of choice for 3-D special effects and animation in the movies. See page 203 for details.

Before 2-D Windows computing became standard, many DOS users wondered, "What's the big deal?" Some may say the same about 3-D. Read our special report and find out why 3-D is the biggest development in Windows graphics since Windows 3.x.

Want to learn more about 3-D Windows computing? Join the editors of WINDOWS Magazine online at starting April 28 for a special month-long 3-D Windows event, including chats, links and more information about the bleeding edge of Windows graphics.

Contact editor Mike Elgan in the "Start" topic of WINDOWS Magazine's areas on America Online and CompuServe, or at the addresses here.

[Ed. Note: Where's Fred? Don't worry, editorial director Fred Langa is still here in the magazine. And he's still bringing you his signature mix of real-world solutions, useful insight and hard-hitting examination of the issues vital to all Windows users. But now he's doing it under The Explorer banner. Meanwhile, you'll find me here each month addressing the major trends in the industry and telling how WinMag puts them in perspective.]

Windows Magazine, May 1997, page 07.

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