Graphics-intensive applications have become more and more
the norm in computers today. Whether youre talking about the graphics
necessary to create movies such as Cars, to render 3D objects in AutoCad, or
the emerging graphic requirements coming in Vista, computers have long gone
from text-only to basic GUIs to completely graphical in nature. Along with this
has come an increasing need for faster graphics cards and wider bandwidth to
process the millions of pixels being manipulated.
Weve all seen the progression of graphics in a PC
environment. The first graphics card that was available for a PC-Compatible
could display 4 colors on the screen at a resolution of 320 x 240. You had
choice of a Cyan/Magenta/White palette or a Red/Green/Yellow palette. The first
cards cards were all 8-bit ISA based with a maximum bandwidth of about 8Mbps
(Mega Bits Per Second).
Today, a high-end video card can produce full 32-bit color
with millions of colors at a resolution exceeding 3480×2400. AGP8 slots have a maximum bandwidth exceeding
2Gbps, and newer PCI-Express cards have a maximum bandwidth exceeding 4Gbps.
So, that raises the question, just how much bandwidth would
something as complicated as the human eye require? Apparently not much.
According to a recent article in New
Scientist, human retinas operate with a bandwidth of about 8.75 Mbps. That
means you could easily run it on a 16-bit ISA slot or an old PCI slot. As with
most engineering projects, retina is actually theoretically capable of
processing about 4000 times as much data as it does in practice, but the extra
power needed to do so is too expensive. When you think about how much data that
is, its pretty impressive that the eye is designed in such a way to process
that much information and send it over a data line that today would be
A better analogy may be the amount of bandwidth consumed by
streaming media. In that case, it would take 5Mbps of data to transfer video at
DVD quality. HDTV quality is supposed to take about 15Mbps of bandwidth. The human retina uses far less bandwidth, and
produces a much higher resolution picture.
In any case, whether youre talking streaming media
bandwidth or the amount of bus bandwidth needed to process and display graphics
images, it would seem that man made technology still is pretty inefficient. Whether
youre a fan of evolution or intelligent design, the human eye seems to get the
job pretty well done.