There once was a little PC 3D-chip company in Silicon Valley comprised of ex-SGI people that tried a comeback in 1997, after it had gotten dangerously close to bankruptcy with its first and very unsuccessful product the year before. The new chip in 1997 had the code name 'NV3', but it is today more known as the 'RIVA128'. The year 1997 saw the real birth of mainstream 3D-hardware. AGP had been born and 3D-chip makers had finally learned what it took to design acceptable 3D-accelerators.
What happened since has long become history. NVIDIA's RIVA128 was pretty successful, though not by far as well performing as a chip called 'Voodoo' from a company by the name of '3Dfx'. It took until spring 1999 that NVIDIA was finally able to produce a chip that was superior to products from 3Dfx, but since that time NVIDIA was unstoppable. 3Dfx lost its capital 'D' and marked with the name change to '3dfx' its slow but certain demise. Finally, 3dfx died and NVIDIA bought what was left of its technology.
Microsoft Handing Out To NVIDIA
The above short history of NVIDIA is missing one important fact. Although NVIDIA has doubtlessly become the most successful player in the 3D-arena, it wouldn't be in a situation as good as it is, if there wouldn't be the most magnificent software company by the name of 'Microsoft'. I am pretty sure you have heard of it. It had taken NVIDIA quite a long and painful process to finally 'go public' (a process that is painful by definition, believe me). Once NVIDIA had made it to the NASDAQ, its stock price remained in the 'usual' area for 3D-chip makers. ATi as well as 3dfx used to be in the same stock price area for quite a while. Then came the moment that should change NVIDIA's history and that should be made into a company internal memorial day. Microsoft chose NVIDIA as the key designer and supplier of the 3D, core logic and sound hardware of its upcoming Xbox. Since this day NVIDIA's stock price went through the roof and doesn't follow the (recently rather disastrous) trend of chipmaker stocks at NASDAQ anymore. NVIDIA had become tremendously rich and powerful over night and its future was suddenly painted in platinum colors.