This section attempts to document what Atari did with the 3D technology after I, Robot was released.

Dave Sherman continued to develop the design, with the goal of developing a system suitable for use in both as a serious CAD workstation as well as a high end video game system. Eventually they spun off a division known a ShoGraphics, and raised $8M from VCs. Very little information still exists related to that project. I've compiled what I could find here.

Oral History

Here's a transcript from a recent interview with Dave Sherman on The Ted Dabney Experience, where he talks about what happened after I, Robot was released.

Dave Sherman: Actually as I, Robot was wrapping up..  I mentioned I don't want to do the same thing twice... But I was extremely enamored of 3D, and I had proved to myself that I could design what I considered to be a world-class solution for it, given the constraints. So I got it in my head that I was going to create a new division inside Atari coin-op... the remnants of it...

TDE: That's a bit of ambition there.

Dave Sherman: Well I did.. I convinced that the president at that... when Namco bought the remnants of [Atari coin-op]...  So [Hideyuki] Nakajima was like the president then, and so we... Dave [Theurer] wanted to move on, he had something called the De-Babelizer he sold to people would do color type conversions or something... and he he went off and I so I lost track of him a little bit... but I worked with Morgan Hoff who was the project manager and Sam Lee came along, who I mentioned already. And we formed a project team and sold Atari management that we could design a cheap 3D CAD system that would also double as a very high-end video game system.

TDE: Okay.

Dave Sherman: And I architected it out, and we negotiated a contract with the Atari management that would pay us handsomely if it, you know, worked.

TDE: And... did it, Dave?

Dave Sherman: Actually the hardware worked great... but the thing is they [Atari] were dying... It was like this was whole era of limited resources. So yeah... like my hardware worked fine. It produced more 3d vectors than even the CAD systems that were selling from Silicon Graphics produced. It did texture mapping, in 1986...

TDE: I was gonna say, give us a date. So it's '86 and you've got textures...

Dave Sherman: This is 1986, when the hardware was basically the firmed up. I did two full custom chips myself from all of it. I laid it out, I'd architected it, I went to... so they couldn't afford to buy decent CAD tools from VLSI technology, which is the technology we're using... so I went to VLSI technology and I begged them for free time. At night. And one of their engineers was gone on sabbatical for a month. I said, "Give me his CAD system".

TDE: Okay

Dave Sherman: And so I spent 20... I swear to god 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, designing these chips and getting them just done before the guy came back from sabbatical. Because Atari wouldn't pay for it, and I was just so driven to just get this thing done. And it worked.

TDE: So this is texture mapped polygons in 1986? So this is a good 8 years before Sony kind of made that popular?

Dave Sherman: Right. Yeah. Yeah.

TDE: Oh my god.

Dave Sherman: And it worked... it worked... I architected some chips to do the texture mapping, Sam implemented them as chips.

TDE: Wow.

Dave Sherman: So we had a four chip system, and it did a full million 3D vectors a second in a pipeline. There's patents for it. It's like the whole nine yards.

TDE: So what happened? So I mean, you say you made these chips... I mean did you make some demos? Was there some early games made?

Dave Sherman: Yeah.. there was... yeah actually... I would say... so I mentioned that they're like resource poor... so we were like struggling... struggling... and we had a working hardware and they would not dedicate... Nakajima didn't like me, okay?

TDE: Okay. Any reason why?

Dave Sherman: Well because I was... I was full of myself.

TDE: Did you beat him at Go?

Dave Sherman: No no no... But I had negotiated very hard for the turn of this... if we were going to create a whole new division for them you know... and then it stuck in his crock because he was a Japanese manager. And people just didn't do that. Engineers to do what they were told.

TDE: Interesting. Culture clash.

Dave Sherman: I know. So that was a whole mess like that. And then finally... so we had a demo... and there's a guy, Jim Morris, who was a programmer at Atari, you know... good smart guy... he did some CAD tools for us to import onto it... And so we had a full miniature CAD system going... and eventually I just went to Nakajima and his henchman Dennis and I said "Look guys you know if you're not going to do anything let's just spin it out as a startup" you know? And so.. and eventually it did. It spun out as a startup... and I raised eight million dollars from some VCs.

TDE: So hang on this is... so at what point... so they're not going with what sounds like groundbreaking technology... So is this when you leave Atari?

Dave Sherman: I know I was yeah... that's I actually... I had sort of mental-emotionally left Atari after I, Robot, right? It's like I was a whole... I was sort of off as a wart on the side... trying to get this division started... so I didn't work on work on games... I was working hardware so we could do games.

TDE: I See.

Dave Sherman: So yeah... and that's when I left. I left in '89 and started this startup..

TDE: I mean this podcast does focus on coin-op games from the classic period. But we've got to ask, is that this startup... did it go places?

Dave Sherman: Okay. Obviously you haven't heard of it.

TDE: Yes. Sorry about that... so you're not calling us from your mansion in the Caribbean then, right?

Dave Sherman: No I'm not.. Okay so you know also I was like very aggressive, and I styled it with the VCs "We're gonna compete with Silicon Graphics and Sun and Apollo"... but without putting too fine a point on it. It was... even though 8 million sounds like a lot of money, it's not a lot of money to do something like that... and so we did actually go to SIGGRAPH, which was the graphics conference, and we had a product... and then... but it was too expensive... so... to make a long story short.. we tried to re-spin it... this is actually sort of interesting. We tried to re-spin it as an add-in card for PCs.

TDE: Oh, OK.

Dave Sherman: ..for a 3d graphics add-in card. This was in 1992. We said look you know, let's go... because instead of a CAD workstation, that's expensive, right? You got all the monitors, and all the... so you just go leach off of the PCs that were... there was a PCI bus, right? And all that stuff. And we had a whole architecture, it was in development, and then the VCs... I try not to be bitter. They killed it. They stole all the engineers and went, and took them over to a company called Chromatics, which was a big, sexy, well-funded startup... And yeah... so that's what happened to it in the end.

TDE: I'm sorry if that was painful revisiting that.

Dave Sherman: It was.


The company they tried to spin off was called ShoGraphics. And the workstation was called ShoView.  Later on they released a series of workstations known as the PEXstation. I've compiled what information I can find on that company here.

Technical Manuals

Atari coin-op documentation refers to a few technical manuals that were published.  They were:

So for sure this was being done inside the coin op group.

Key Dates

An Atari corporate history site shows a few key dates related to the new division.

July 5, 1989: Atari Games announced their new division, Sho Graphics, and the division's ShoView external graphics coprocessor for PC and compatibles with SCSI interface.  Rich Moore was Atari Games Vice President/Engineering.

July 31-August 4 1989: Atari Games' Sho Graphics division introduced ShoView at the SIGGRAPH '89 Conference in Boston.  ShoView was to ship with the HOOPS graphics software from Ithaca Software, and sell for under $12,000.  Jim Morris was Sho Graphics staff engineer.


Atari email archives have a copy of the press release for the new division.

From: BERT::LTURNER      10-AUG-1989 16:16:35.31



Subj: Sho Graphics Press Release

The following press release was placed in several computer 

graphics publications prior to the SIGGRAPH '89 Conference.



MILPITAS, Calif., July 5, 1989 --  A new high-performance 3-D       

graphics engine, promising advanced capabilities at a fraction

of the cost of similar products, will be on display at the 

upcoming SIGGRAPH '89 Conference, July 31 - August 4 in Boston.

     The new graphics engine, dubbed ShoView, is under

development by Sho Graphics, a division of Milpitas, Calif.-

based Atari Games Corporation.  According to Rich Moore,

Vice President/Engineering, ShoView will compete with a

growing category of solid modeling engines designed for

CAD/CAM, architectural, simulation, video animation and

other sophisticated 3-D applications.  ShoView will operate

with an IBM PC and other IBM-compatible systems, Moore said.

     ShoView's impressive solid modeling performance allows

a wide variety of users to create more complex and highly

realistic 3-D scenes and images.  The power of the ShoView

architecture allows 1 million 3-D matrix transformations

per second, breaking major price/performance barriers.

In excess of 190,000 clipped and projected polygons per

second can be processed.

     In contrast to other systems, Gourand shading and

texture mapping are fully supported by the unique 

ShoView architecture without loss of frame fill rate.

Application programs can use a high-level 3-D graphics

library, allowing greatly enhanced levels of 

interactivity when dealing with complex 3-D objects

and scenes.

    ShoView will interface with any standard multi-

sync monitor having VGA line resolution, and displays

over 65,000 simultaneous colors from a palette of 16         

million.  Lighting is automatically calculated using

up to four independent white light sources.  Also,

each pixel has a 16-bit z buffer, and the system

features a double-buffered display screen and fast

screen clear.

Sho Graphics expects to ship small quantities of

ShoView systems to the field by fourth quarter 1989,

with full scale production and shipping beginning 

in first quarter 1990.  Specific marketing and

distribution plans have not been finalized, Moore


     "Our overall plan is to bring a product to

market that will offer far greater processing

power and more advanced features for less than 

half the cost of other advanced graphics products

now entering the market," he said.

     Moore reported that Sho Graphics's primary

goals at SIGGRAPH will be to demonstrate ShoView

to industry insiders, as well as to continue the

process of encouraging software developers to

write new ShoView applications for other computer

systems and workstations via the HOOPS library.

     "Our basic message at SIGGRAPH will be that

we have developed a highly cost-effective hardware

solution which allows a broad range of applications

to tap the power of interactive 3-D graphics,"

Moore said.  "We believe this product offers an

extraordinarily high level of performance that 

will bring quality 3-D graphic capability to users

previously priced out of interactive 3-D graphics,

or those who were dissatisfied with existing systems."

     This year's SIGGRAPH conference is expected to

draw up to 30,000 visitors to Boston's Hynes 

Convention Center.  Sho Graphics will demonstrate 

ShoView in booth #2355.  In addition, the firm will

offer a hospitality suite, allowing software

developers and other interested conference-goers

a chance to meet with the ShoView development team

and company officials.

     Sho Graphics is a new division of Atari Games

Corporation, one of the world's leading video game

software and hardware developers, and is headquartered

at 675 Sycamore Drive, Milpitas, Calif., 95035-1110;

(408) 434-3700.  Atari Games Corporation is a

privately held company, is not affiliated with Atari

Corporation, and should be referred to as Atari Games.

News Articles

I've found a few news articles related to ShoGraphics and their workstations.

Infoworld article from August 7, 1989

Infoworld article from October 23, 1989

Infoworld article from July 27, 1992