Before its merger with fellow Japanese electronics company Renesas, NEC was one of the largest semiconductor companies in the world, ranked #1 from the 1980s to 1991, #2 from 1992 to 1999 (surpassed by Intel), and in the top ten during the 2000s. Following the merger with Renesas, the company became Renesas Electronics and is currently ranked #5 in the world as of 2011. The company was also known as NEC Technologies.
In the video game industry, NEC is best known for the following contributions:
- The NEC µPD7720, the first commercial DSP (digital signal processor), released in 1980. It was later used as an enhancement chip in SNES game cartridges such as Pilotwings and Super Mario Kart in the early 90's.
- The 8-bit PC-88 and 16/32-bit PC-98 home computers, launched in 1981 and 1982, respectively. The PC-88 was the first home computer with a high-resolution (640x400) display mode. The PC-98 was one of the best-selling computers of the 20th century, having sold over 18 million units in Japan by the late 90's, rivalling the Commodore 64's ~17 million worldwide sales.
- The NEC µPD7220 graphics chipset, the world's first computer GPU (graphics processing unit), originally released for the PC-98 in 1982.
- The PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 console, which started the 16-bit era of console gaming. It was the first console with dual 16-bit GPU graphics processors and, more importantly, the first home gaming system with CD-ROM support, via the PC Engine CD-ROM / TurboGrafx-CD peripheral. It was very successful in Japan, but was unsuccessful overseas.
- The PC Engine's 32-bit successor, the PC-FX console, was nowhere near as successful as its predecessor, largely due to its limited 3D graphical capabilities compared to its 32-bit systems, the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation.
- Some of the first 3D graphics accelerator cards, including the PC-FXGA for the PC-98 in 1995 and particularly the PowerVR for the PC in early 1996; these were the most powerful computer graphics cards when they first released in 1995 and 1996, respectively. The PC-FXGA's polygon rendering performance exceeded the PlayStation and rivaled the Nintendo 64, while the PowerVR was able to handle a near arcade quality port of Namco's Rave Racer (though this PC port was later cancelled).