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Modern GPUs are very efficient at manipulating computer graphics and image processing, and their highly parallel structure makes them more efficient than general-purpose CPUs for algorithms where the processing of large blocks of data is done in parallel.
In a personal computer, a GPU can be present on a video card, or it can be embedded on the motherboard or—in certain CPUs—on the CPU die.
for per-scanline palette switches, sprite multiplexing, and hardware windowing), or driving the blitter.
In 1986, Texas Instruments released the TMS34010, the first microprocessor with on-chip graphics capabilities.
It could run general-purpose code, but it had a very graphics-oriented instruction set.
The NEC µPD7220 was one of the first implementations of a graphics display controller as a single Large Scale Integration (LSI) integrated circuit chip, enabling the design of low-cost, high-performance video graphics cards such as those from Number Nine Visual Technology.
It became one of the best known of what were known as graphics processing units in the 1980s.
A graphics processing unit (GPU), occasionally called visual processing unit (VPU), is a specialized electronic circuit designed to rapidly manipulate and alter memory to accelerate the creation of images in a frame buffer intended for output to a display.
GPUs are used in embedded systems, mobile phones, personal computers, workstations, and game consoles.
Fujitsu's MB14241 video shifter was used to accelerate the drawing of sprite graphics for various 1970s arcade games from Taito and Midway, such as Gun Fight (1975), Sea Wolf (1976) and Space Invaders (1978).
The Atari 8-bit computers (1979) had ANTIC, a video processor which interpreted instructions describing a "display list"—the way the scan lines map to specific bitmapped or character modes and where the memory is stored (so there did not need to be a contiguous frame buffer).
Arcade system boards have been using specialized graphics chips since the 1970s.
The key to understanding early video games hardware is that the RAM for frame buffers was too expensive, so video chips composited data together as the display was being scanned out on the monitor.