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Hardware Level VGA and SVGA Video Programming Information Page
Overview of Video Hardware Functionality 
        This page contains a general overview of the functionality of VGA and SVGA cards into various sections, and gives a description of the functions of each section.  This is intended to be a general description for those unfamiliar to the functionality and capabilities of graphics hardware.  The basic function of graphics hardware is to allow the CPU to manipulate memory specific to the graphics hardware, and to take the information stored in that memory and output it in a form that a monitor or LCD panel can use.

Frame Buffer
        This is the component of the video hardware that stores the pixels and information to be displayed on the monitor.  This is the center of the video hardware, as nearly all operations are performed on or using this data.  The frame buffer is a form of RAM, which is typically located outside the main graphics chip and are implemented using DRAM chips; however, more sophisticated forms of RAM that are ideal for video hardware applications, such as VRAM.  The amount of video memory that is present determines the maximum resolution that the hardware can generate.  The frame buffer is usually mapped into a region of the host CPU's address space allowing it to be accessed as if it were a portion of the main memory.  For example, in the VGA, this memory is mapped into the lower 1M of the CPU address space, allowing it to be directly accessable to real mode applications, which cannot directly access the remaining memory.  In the VGA, this memory is broken up into 4 separate color planes, which are recombined to produce the actual pixel values at the time of display generation.

Graphics Controller
        This is the video chipset's host interface to the frame buffer, and is part of the main graphics chip or chips.  It allows the host CPU to manipulate the frame buffer in a fashion suited to the task of graphics operations.  It allows certain methods of access that are designed to reduced the CPU requirements for performing standard video operations, particularly in accelerated chipsets, which can have a quite complicated set of access methods which can include line drawing, area and pattern fill, color conversion/expansion, and even 3d rendering acceleration.  For example, in the VGA the graphics controller allows one write by the CPU to its mapped memory region below 1M to affect all four color planes, as well as allowing faster transfers of video data from one region to another in video memory.

Display Generation
        This portion of the graphics hardware is involved in taking the data in the frame buffer, converting the pixel or character information stored by the graphics controller, and converting it into the analog signals required by the monitor or lcd display.  The pixel data is first sequenced, or read serially from the frame buffer, then converted into analog color information, either by a palette look-up table, or by directly converting into red, green, and blue components.  The CRT controller at the same time adds timing signals that allow the monitor to display the analog color information on the display.  For example, in the VGA these components are made up of the sequencer, attribute controller, CRT controller, DAC, and palette table.  The sequencer reads the information from the frame buffer, and converts it into pixel color information, as well as sends signals to the CRT controller such that it can provide the timing signals the monitor requires.  This color information is formatted by the attribute controller in such a way that the pixel values can be submitted to the DAC.  The DAC then looks up these values in its palette table which contains red, green, and blue intensities for each of the colors that the attribute controller generates, then converts it into an analog signal that is output to the VGA connector along with the timing signals generated by the CRT controller.  If the display is an LCD panel such as found in laptops, the DAC and associated support hardware convert the pixel values to signals that the LCD panel displays directly.

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