In case you have never seen it, 1991's Hellcats was a seminal release on the Mac. It ran at full 8-bit color and could, on a newish machine, drive three 1024x768 screens at the same time. Nothing on the Mac or PC came remotely close.
I recall when I learned how the magic worked... I got up from the game for a moment and returned with the "screen saver" (ahh, the old days) was running. I flicked the mouse to clear it and unpause the game, and noticed the only part of the screen that updated was the horizon. It was reaching high speeds by carefully designing the screen so only certain portions would change as the aircraft moved, and then updating only those portions.
Now you can imagine, in 1991 this was no trivial task on its own. Graphics cards were generally frame buffers driven by the CPU, actual accelerators were just coming to market. So I was always curious how he managed this trick.
Long after I had an email exchange with the author and he explained it. He set aside two screen buffers in memory, and drew into alternate frames. He then compared the two and sent only the diffs over the bus to the card. Because the CPU was much faster than the bus, this provided greatly improved performance.
He also noted that the idea came to him on the SPARC1. This platform had the general problem of having a fast CPU but with a slowish bus. His first app spun a cube at 60 fps. He ended up doing Hellcats on the Mac because it shared this limitation, whereas PCs of the era generally used 320x240 for color, and the advantage of this technique was washed out.
So, the question..
I suspect that this idea of incremental updating may pre-date Mr. Parker's 1989-ish Sun version. Does anyone know of examples of this being used earlier?