What isVESA modes

VESA’s Super VGA programming interface provided a mechanism for DOS programmers to directly set resolution and colour depth, as well as inquire about a graphics card’s capabilities. A VESA software driver was required to integrate with the card’s BIOS from VBE 2.0, allowing resolutions to be chosen by pixels. The graphics card’s query capability also enabled the creation of a universal driver that requests supported commands before executing them.

What is the Super VGA programming interface?

The Super VGA programming interface was developed by the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) and provided programmers of DOS games and programs with a way to directly set resolution and colour depth. Additionally, it allowed them to inquire about a graphics card’s capabilities. To use the interface, a VESA software driver needed to be supplied by the maker of the card or game and integrated into the card’s BIOS as of VESA BIOS Extension (VBE) 2.0. With the updated version, resolutions could now be chosen by pixels like 640×480 or 800×600.

What was the purpose of the interface?

The Super VGA programming interface had a few key purposes. It gave programmers a way to directly set resolution and colour depth and inquire about the graphics card’s capabilities, allowing for more advanced graphics in DOS games and programs. Prior to the interface, graphics card capabilities were determined by a set of mode numbers, limiting the available options. With VBE 2.0, resolutions were selectable by pixels, greatly expanding the possibilities for graphics.

What is the Common Driver?

One key benefit of the Super VGA programming interface was the ability to query the graphics card, which made it possible to create a universal driver that could request the commands the graphics card supported before executing them. This universal driver is known as the Common Driver and it allowed for greater compatibility across a wider range of graphics cards and games. With the Common Driver, game developers no longer had to create custom drivers for specific graphics cards, simplifying the development process.

The gist

The Super VGA programming interface revolutionized the world of DOS games and programs by providing a way for programmers to directly set resolution and colour depth, inquire about graphics card capabilities, and choose resolutions by pixels instead of mode number. Additionally, the ability to query the graphics card allowed for the creation of a universal driver, known as the Common Driver, which greatly increased compatibility across a wider range of graphics cards and games. While it may seem outdated now, the impact of the Super VGA programming interface on the world of graphics and game development is undeniable.

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