Parallax Graphics, Inc., was an American developer and manufacturer of high-specification computer graphics cards for various platforms, and of supporting software. The company was founded in 1982 as Parallax Systems by two Cornell University graduates.

Parallax Graphics, Inc.
IndustryComputer graphics
FoundedNovember 1982; 41 years ago (1982-11) in Sunnyvale, California
FounderMartin "Marty" Picco (co-founder)
DefunctNovember 30, 1998; 25 years ago (1998-11-30)
ProductsDisplay adapters and software
Number of employees
40 (1987)
ParentDynatech Corporation (1989–1998) (archived)



Parallax Graphics was founded as Parallax Systems in November 1982 by two Cornell University graduates, including Martin "Marty" Picco.[1][2]: 13  The company's first products were built on the duo's electrical engineering thesis paper and were developed and testbenched from within one of their garages.[1][3] They soon hired five other engineers, all former employees of graphics controller manufacturers.[3]: 368  Parallax soon moved into a proper office building in Sunnyvale, California, by mid-1983.[3]: 368  The founding duo lacked business and marketing acumen, and hired a chief executive officer to manage the company that year.[1]

The company's first product family is the Rampage Graphics Terminal.[4] The initial entry, the 600 Series,[5] and was unveiled at the National Computer Graphics Association Conference in mid-1983 at the McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois.[3]: 383  Rampage is a color graphics controller designed around a proprietary bit-slicing drawing processor capable of drawing 12 million pixels per second. Its instruction set comprises 85 primitives,[4] including single operations for polygon, box, circle, and vector drawing commands, and modes for opaqueness–transparency, solid flood fill, stippling, outlining, and cut-and-pasting.[3]: 368  It was released initially for Digital Equipment Corporation's Q-Bus–based computers and was lauded for its high speed.[1][3]: 368  The company later developed in 1984 a variant of Rampage, the 1000 Series, for Multibus systems and for Q-Bus.[1] This rendition of Rampage increased the drawing operations per second speed to 88 million.[5]

Starting with the 1200 Series in 1986, Parallax dropped the Rampage name and began developing entries in the yet unnamed family around VLSI CMOS gate arrays,[1][6] with the 1280 Series possessing one and the 1280 Series[clarification needed] possessing three.[6][7] The 1280 Series is compatible with Q-Bus machines and IBM PC compatibles.[7] It can display graphics at 1280 × 1024 pixels, and has a mode emulating NTSC video at 640 × 482 pixels. In windowed mode, the card can generate real-time NTSC video at 30 frames per second; in fullscreen mode at NTSC resolution, the card can generate 60 FPS video.[8]

In February 1984, the company renamed from Parallax Systems to Parallax Graphics and raised US$1.75 million in venture capital from Hambrecht & Quist and Bay Partners.[9] In May 1989, Dynatech Corporation of Burlington, Massachusetts, announced its acquisition of Parallax Graphics for an undisclosed sum. Dynatech had purchased Cromemco the year before.[10] Parallax remained an independent subsidiary of Dynatech, and in July 1989, it contracted with Sony Microsystems of Palo Alto, California, to license the Viper VMEbus display adapter for Sony's NEWS Unix workstation.[11]

By 1993, Parallax targeted its products at the burgeoning video on demand (VOD) segment of the media industry, and business and engineering teleconferencing, telemedicine, and video editing workstations. Its primary technology to this end was VideoStream, which they adapted to PowerVideo, and MultiVideo, XVideo to the specific segments they targeted.[12] XVideo, featuring a 24-bit-color framebuffer, was particularly popular in medicine, scientific research (for experimental models), finances (for real-time tracking of stock tickers), and government markets.[13] PowerVideo and MultiVideo—JPEG-lossy-compressed and uncompressed EISA video boards respectively—had previously been popular for teleconferencing and VOD.[14] Initially developed for Sun Microsystems's SPARCstation, Parallax ported its VideoStream-based products for the HP 9000 in late 1993.[12] Parallax's VideoStream products were described as highly portable due to their basis in the Motif widget toolkit.[15] Following a pact with IBM for the development of VideoStream products for the PowerPC architecture (which IBM had co-engineered within the AIM alliance),[16] XVideo was soon ported to IBM PC Power Series workstations running the AIX operating system,[17] and Parallax later added support for the Solaris OS.[18]

Dynatech Corporation shut down Parallax Graphics on November 30, 1998. The parent company continued to support RMA requests on Parallax's products until December 31, 1999.[19] Dynatech renamed to Acterna Corporation sometime between then and 2003, when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.[20]



One of Parallax Graphics's 40 employees in 1987 was Mike Judge, who proceeded to a successful career in animation and live-action film and television, creating the television series Beavis and Butt-Head and King of the Hill. Hired as a test engineer, Judge described his employment as particularly unpleasant: "The people I met were like Stepford Wives. They were true believers in something, and I don't know what it was." He recalled one reluctant coworker refusing to relinquish schematics over concern that Judge might fail to return it, which Wired compared to the character of Milton in Judge's feature film Office Space (1999). He quit after only three months.[21] He called Parallax a distant influence on his HBO workplace comedy Silicon Valley, and a more direct influence on Office Space.[22]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Reghbati, Hassan K.; Anson Y. C. Lee (1988). Tutorial: Computer Graphics Hardware – Image Generation and Display. Computer Society Press. p. 23. ISBN 9780818607530 – via the Internet Archive.
  2. ^ Staff writer (May 2010). "Peopleware". EContent. Vol. 33, no. 4. Information Today. pp. 13, 15 – via ProQuest.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Pournelle, Alexander (October 1983). "The Fourth National Computer Graphics Association Conference". Byte. Vol. 8, no. 10. Byte Publications. pp. 366–378 – via Internet Archive.
  4. ^ a b Staff writer (1983). "Parallax Systems". Digital Design. Vol. 13. Benwill Publishing Company. p. 117 – via Google Books. Unknown month.
  5. ^ a b Lewell, John (1985). A–Z Guide to Computer Graphics. McGraw-Hill. p. 228. ISBN 0070374570 – via the Internet Archive.
  6. ^ a b Wilson, Andrew C. (January 1987). "DEC Graphics-Board Vendors Provide Low-Cost Alternatives". ESD. Vol. 1, no. 2. Sentry Technology Group. p. 35 – via Gale.
  7. ^ a b Staff writer (May 1986). "Videographics processor – Parallax Graphics". Computer Graphics Today. Vol. 3, no. 5. Media Horizons. p. 41 – via Internet Archive.
  8. ^ Bellamah, Pat (February 3, 1987). "Processor Combines High-Res Graphics and Real-Time Video". PC Week. Vol. 4, no. 5. Ziff-Davis. p. 11 – via Gale.
  9. ^ Staff writer (February 1984). "Top-of-the-Wire". S. Klein Newsletter on Computer Graphics. Vol. 6, no. 2. Technology & Business Communications. p. 9 – via Google Books.
  10. ^ Staff writer (May 5, 1989). "Minigrams". Computergram International. GlobalData – via Gale.
  11. ^ Staff writer (July 10, 1989). "Sony picks Parallax video boards". Computergram International. GlobalData – via Gale.
  12. ^ a b Gold, Steve (December 8, 1993). "UK: new phone codes in". Computergram International. GlobalData – via Gale.
  13. ^ Staff writer (May 17, 1993). "Video-in-a-window: Parallax Graphics cuts price on low-end system". EDGE. Vol. 4, no. 156. EDGE Publishing. p. 30 – via Gale.
  14. ^ Emigh, Jacqueline (April 7, 1994). "Parallax video boards for HP 9000 Series 700". Newsbytes. The Washington Post Company – via Gale.
  15. ^ Garry, Greg (January 3, 1994). "Parallax moves VideoStream graphics on to HP". Digital News & Review. Vol. 11, no. 1. Reed Business Information. p. 3 – via Gale.
  16. ^ Staff writer (February 20, 1995). "Parallax Graphics, IBM Form Unix Alliance". Electronic News. Vol. 41, no. 2053. Reed Business Information. p. 22 – via the Internet Archive.
  17. ^ Bowers, Richard (June 21, 1995). "Parallax Graphics Video Boards for PowerPCs". Newsbytes. The Washington Post Company – via Gale.
  18. ^ Emigh, Jacqueline (June 21, 1995). "PC Expo: Apps & Hardware Add-Ons for IBM's PowerPC". Newsbytes. The Washington Post Company – via Gale.
  19. ^ "Parallax Graphics Shutdown Notification". Parallax Graphics. 1998. Archived from the original on December 12, 1998.
  20. ^ Seymour, Mike (May 22, 2003). "Hard times in the telecine industry". fxguide. Archived from the original on November 17, 2020.
  21. ^ Leckart, Steven (April 2, 2014). "Mike Judge Skewers Silicon Valley With the Satire of Our Dreams". Wired. Condé Nast. Archived from the original on April 2, 2014.
  22. ^ Davies, Dave (April 17, 2014). "Silicon Valley Asks: Is Your Startup Really Making the World Better?". New Orleans Public Radio. Archived from the original on June 17, 2018.