Fahrenheit Graphic Cards

Fahrenheit was another Microsoft initiative eventually to founder in the rapidly changing, quixotic multimedia graphics technology arena. It emerged out of the battle between Silicon Graphics’ and Microsoft’s 3D computer graphics APIs in the mid-1990s. At the time, SGI’s OpenGL had become the de-facto 3D standard for use on workstations and Microsoft’s Direct3D 3.0 was the primary 3D API for Windows 95 and game programming.

Microsoft had licensed OpenGL, to help it in its efforts to position Windows NT as a workstation-class operating system. In late 1997 Microsoft signalled that it saw this as a temporary solution only, starting work with SGI on the Fahrenheit project, which was to eventually lead to unification of Direct3D and OpenGL into a common high-level API for 3D computer graphics.

Fahrenheit was to consist of three components. The first was Fahrenheit Scene Graph, similar in function to Direct3D’s high-level Retained Mode. It enabled the developer to concentrate on overall scene production rather than rendering individual polygons. To be released at almost the same time was Fahrenheit Large Model Visualisation (FLM), a very high-level API designed for CAD and professional applications that would understand structures such as NURBS and curved surfaces. The most significant component, however, was not scheduled for release before 2000. The Fahrenheit Low Level API (FLL) API was concerned with basic control of geometry but, crucially, was destined to replace Direct3D Immediate Mode and sit alongside OpenGL.

Some viewed Microsoft’s willingness to collaborate with SGI as an indication that Direct3D perhaps wasn’t able to live up to their original aspirations. Even if this were true, it had the potential to be a blessing in disguise, since there was no doubt that the collaboration between the two companies offered the prospect of a truly formidable platform for application development in both games and professional software.

However, while Fahrenheit became the primary focus of development at SGI, by 1999 it had become clear that Microsoft had no intention of delivering FLL. SGI was in serious trouble as the average PC slowly but surely encroached on the high-end graphics market, and no longer seen as a competitive threat by Microsoft. As a consequence, Fahrenheit was to wither and die in the same way as Talisman had before it.