Now Reading
The (Nearly) Definitive PC Sound Card Article (Pre-1990)

The (Nearly) Definitive PC Sound Card Article (Pre-1990)

2023-03-03 03:01:14


PC Speaker (Aug ’81)
Text to Speech Devices
MIDI Interfaces
MIDI Synthesiser Modules
Micro Technology Unlimited DigiSound-16 (Mar ’86)
Mindscape Music Board (Aug ’86)
IBM Music Feature Card (Mar ’87)
Ad Lib Inc. Ad Lib Music Synthesizer Card (Jun ’87)
Creative Technology Creative Music System (Nov ’87) & Game Blaster (mid-’89)
Covox Speech Thing (Dec ’87)
SiliconSoft SoundJr (’88)
Innovation SSI-2001 (Apr ’89)
IBM Audio Visual Connection (Sep ’89)
Covox Sound Master (Sep ’89)
Creative Technology Killer Kard/Card & Sound Blaster (Nov ’89)
Honourable Mentions

(I forgot the LAPC-I. I am going to add that sooner or later.)


There have been many units within the early-to-mid ’80s that expanded the sound capabilities of the PC. Sound for video games, nevertheless, is what most individuals are speaking about after they discuss with ‘sound playing cards’. On this context, you may’t have a sound card with out a recreation that helps it. The primary commercially launched recreation on the PC to assist one thing aside from the PC speaker was Sierra’s King’s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella, launched on 16th August 1988. This recreation supported Roland’s MT-32 synthesiser (through the MPU-401 & MIF-IPC) or LAPC-I, the AdLib, and IBM’s Music Function Card. (Help for Artistic’s Recreation Blaster was added through patch in October, so it does not make the minimize, a lot because it wish to.) That makes these the primary sound playing cards within the context that most individuals discuss sound playing cards. However nobody likes a draw, so allow us to proceed.


The topic of sound playing cards on the PC has been written about many times, for a few years and by many individuals. Most of this data, although glorious, is scattered. Such is the Net. Yvan256 has a museum devoted to early PC sound playing cards; DOS Days, Great Hierophant and others have written extensively about many playing cards, and there are a few very good lists on Vogons and VCF respectively, which map out some chronology and cite some sources. A number of work has been performed on this. This text is an try to assemble all this data collectively and get as exact as doable concerning the historical past of PC sound playing cards. Specifically, I need to pull collectively all of the sources which can be presently availably for courting the discharge of those units. This has been essentially the most irritating factor for me personally, as I’ve seen many conflicting dates attributed to many units.

A difficulty with that is that, resulting from time and useful resource constraints, I’m solely in a position to discuss with on-line sources and people are restricted. As time goes on, nevertheless, I hope to enhance the accuracy of this text by acquiring additional sources, however I positively is not going to be writing in depth about any of the {hardware} mentioned right here: I merely need to set up a timeline and introduce every system. Others have already written detailed articles on the {hardware} itself, which I’ll present hyperlinks to the place doable.

I wish to credit score Great Hierophant, vetz, CarlosTex, Cloudschatze, VileR, Trixter, vwestlife, hightreason, cyclone3d, dionb, swaaye, Fagear, bristlehog, Tronix, hard1k, HunterZ, elianda, keropi, shock__, FGB, JazeFox, Xacalite, Karl’s IT Retro, DonutKing, James-F, chrisNova777 and all the opposite sound card lovers for the work they’ve already put in and whose posts and articles I have been studying and having fun with over time. In a method, I would really like this text to be a tribute to the investigative work they’ve already performed.


The purpose is to pin down as particular a date as doable for every bit of {hardware} so we are able to state with a level of certainty the order by which they had been launched. The date we’re on the lookout for is the purpose at which the {hardware} grew to become usually accessible on the market. There are a selection of the way to get this, however normally we now have to depend on one thing much less correct till one thing higher comes alongside, so I’ve highlighted this the place doable. Every ‘predominant supply’ (the one for courting the {hardware}) is indicated with a superscript quantity subsequent to the date, except one thing is widespread data (such because the IBM PC launch date) by which case there isn’t any want. These are the everyday sources that I’ve ended up utilizing, ranked by goodness:

  1. Press launch. That is the very best supply for a launch date and a worth because it comes from the {hardware} producer themselves. That is normally fairly straightforward for high-profile corporations like Roland or IBM, however tougher even for somebody prolific however 2nd-tier like Tecmar. Generally you will get comparable data from company profiles (as they’re typically primarily based on press launch historical past), however they are typically much less exact or verbose.
  2. Journal preview. These are basically a secondary-source press launch and seem in ‘new in the marketplace’ or ‘first appears to be like’ columns of magazines. They normally point out the value and the anticipated date of launch, however not at all times.
  3. Commerce present. That is nearly pretty much as good as the primary two. It is well-known, for instance, that the AdLib debuted at CES in 1987, so it is very straightforward to search out the precise date for that. We should be conscious, nevertheless, of vapourware bulletins. Although not a sound card, Duke Nukem Without end at E3 2001 is an ideal instance – a whole trailer was proven, depicting what gave the impression to be a virtually full recreation. The sport was by no means launched and incomplete builds had been lately leaked displaying simply how unfinished it was. Fortunately we benefit from hindsight the place such circumstances are involved.
  4. Product handbook. A date from the handbook for a chunk of {hardware} is normally a reasonably good indication of when it grew to become accessible as it will likely be accomplished very close to the top of growth. If this ties up with timestamps on driver or software program information then that is even higher, because it’s no less than inside a couple of months of launch, if not weeks.
  5. Journal evaluation / article / advert. A full evaluation of {hardware}, significantly in a gaggle check, can happen weeks, months or greater than a 12 months after a tool seems in the marketplace, so this can be a much less perfect supply. It’s typically the commonest although. Comparable in vagueness are adverts within the press, although these can seem any time between a preview and a evaluation.
  6. Patents / emblems. These are completely nice for locating out who invented one thing and the way it vaguely works, however aren’t nice for an correct date of availability. There isn’t any typical relationship between a trademark or patent being registered and a product truly changing into commercially accessible. Some by no means grow to be accessible. They’re helpful, nevertheless, when you have already got one other imprecise supply you are unsure about. Equally, manufacturing dates printed on {hardware} similar to PCBs or ICs give us a basic concept as to when one thing was in growth, however probably not a launch date.
  7. All the pieces else is least perfect e.g. the place some particular person has vaguely waved their hand about and talked about a month and even only a 12 months. Typically talking these will not be cited except there’s actually nothing higher.


To determine the scope of this text, we should first outline what a PC is and what a sound card is. The time period PC is used to discuss with any laptop that’s 100% (or close to 100%) suitable with the IBM Private Pc, launched on twelfth August 1981. That is it actually. It got here with in-built audio within the ‘bleeper’ or PC speaker, which most PCs nonetheless possess at this time. I am not occupied with comparable computer systems that had built-in audio such because the PCjr and the Tandy – there isn’t any debate over the discharge date of those machines.

A sound card is technically any system that attaches to a PC and permits it to supply sound over and above its primary performance. There we go. That is a broad scope, although. So, to make my purpose a bit of extra… life like, I’ll give attention to the years as much as, and together with, 1989. Issues went a bit nuts after that and producing a definitive article of any sort on ’90s sound playing cards could be a life-long mission. Gotta begin someplace, although. Some would say that units unsupported by video games do not depend or do not matter. By together with as many as doable, it should enable individuals to make up their very own minds.

PC Speaker (Aug ’81)

For the sake of completeness, I need to write one thing concerning the much-maligned PC speaker. It was actually the primary system I heard music and sound results by after I first acquired a PC and this was the expertise of many others who began gaming within the days earlier than multimedia got here alongside. Because of this its bleeps and bloops are very nostalgic to me.

IBM PCs initially used a programmable interrupt timer, Intel’s 8253 (PC and XT) or 8254 (AT and later), to generate alerts that an hooked up speaker would convert into audio. The method produced a sq. wave, with the sign both being on (5V) or off (0V). This {hardware} couldn’t be upgraded or simply modified, so it was software program that was the important thing to creating it ‘do stuff’. By switching this voltage rapidly sufficient, it was doable to supply easy sound results and music by the built-in speaker. Just one sound could possibly be produced at a time (monophony) utilizing this methodology so, normally, a recreation would have some type of rudimental theme tune at first, then change to sound results throughout the recreation itself. Both method, the PC speaker was by no means designed for use on this method, so its talents had been at all times being stretched.

By means of extra superior coding strategies, it grew to become doable afterward to playback digital audio by utilizing pulse width modulation. The primary time I heard this was when enjoying Pinball Fantasies – I completely couldn’t consider what I used to be listening to on the time. One other instance of this was a product referred to as RealSound, which achieved an identical factor and was used commercially in video games. Different builders used their very own tips to make the PC speaker to play digitised sound of their video games, similar to Mach 3 from 1987. Trixter has a superb write-up of how this was achieved. Later examples of progressive makes use of of the PC speaker to attain what wasn’t considered doable are the MOD participant used within the PC demo 8088MPH (defined by reenigne) and the 1-channel MOD on the finish of Space 5150.

As a facet word, the primary business recreation accessible on the PC was Microsoft’s Journey, although DONKEY.BAS was included with PC BASIC and due to this fact shipped with the PC itself. It additionally boasts PC-speaker sound results, so that is formally the primary recreation to assist PC audio.

The Votrax Candy Talker. (Supply: BYTE Magazine, June ’82, p664.)

Textual content to Speech Units

The earliest units that supplied audio capabilities for the IBM PC and compatibles had been speech synthesisers, however few would name them sound playing cards. Many of those had been primarily based across the Votrax SC-01A chip, which used a financial institution of phonemes (the fundamental constructing blocks of phrases) that allowed a consumer to write down applications to sequence these and create the phantasm of spoken phrases. Functions of this know-how diversified from industrial security (audible warnings for tools controllers) to accessibility options (for the blind, for instance). These units match into an uncommon class as there have been technically simply programmable by the top consumer and did not ship with software program as such. This makes a lot of them platform-agnostic and never explicit to the PC platform.

On the most elementary stage, such a tool was a self-contained field with its personal CPU, which might obtain ASCII (very like a printer), over serial or parallel after which ‘communicate’ these phrases. Different variations hooked up to the parallel port and acquired directions, sometimes in BASIC, whereas others had been designed to occupy a slot within the IBM PC. The earliest of those was the Tecmar Speech Grasp, launched throughout Comdex of November 1981, mere weeks after the IBM PC arrived. The story goes that Tecmar engineers bought the primary two IBM PCs that went on sale at Sears in Chicago and the corporate spent the subsequent six weeks growing the primary add-ons for it. The Speech Grasp was simply certainly one of these.

Listed below are some additional examples of such units:

Votrax Candy Talker ($139, Jun ’825)

Tecmar PC Talker (previous to Oct ’825)

Tecmar PC MATE Speech Grasp ($395, Oct ’825)

GM ParlePC ($199, previous to Nov ’835)

Avenue Electronics Echo PC ($225, previous to Nov ’835)

SMC PC Talker (Nov ‘835)

Votrax Private Speech System ($350, previous to Jan ’865)

Echo PC+ ($179.95, Sep ’895)

One card from this period stands out as a result of it might recognise speech and reply audibly. The NEC SAR-10 Voice Plus (Jul ’855) price $895 and was evidently extra superior than the competitors. However once more, it does not really matter as a ‘sound card’ because it’s technically simply one other speech synthesis system. It was later decreased in worth to $599.

IBM ultimately caught on and developed their very own costly choices for subsequent machines to supply speech performance. The PCjr had its personal pace adaptor and so did the PC Convertible (mannequin 5140) as did the PS/2 when it appeared. These supported a number of varieties of speech replica.

IBM PC Convertible Speech Adaptor ($495, “This autumn” ’861) more info.

IBM PS/2 SpeechViewer {Hardware} Possibility ($700, 30 Dec ’881)

There is a gigantic checklist of voice recognition or text-to-speech units here, although there aren’t any dates in any respect. If I could possibly be bothered, I might analysis all of them. Perhaps one other day.

The Roland MPU-401 & Xanadu IFM-PC card. (Supply: PC Magazine, 14th Oct ’86, p266.)

MIDI Interfaces

The Musical Instrument Digital Interface was conceived at NAMM in 1982 and developed throughout the subsequent 12 months by a consortium of music {hardware} producers. Except for permitting digital musical units to speak with one another, the usual additionally made it doable for these units to grow to be laptop peripherals. Various corporations developed MIDI interfaces for just about each private laptop in the marketplace, which labored in several methods.

Some will argue that these will not be sound playing cards in any respect, provided that they do not produce any sound in themselves. Although that is true, they do lengthen the capabilities of the PC to have the ability to management audio units the place, earlier than, they might not. Such units had been the gateway to permitting recreation builders like Sierra to write down music for his or her video games, together with Roland’s MT-32 synth, launched later. Roland’s MPU-401 (together with the MIF-IPC card on the PC, amongst others) grew to become the de facto commonplace for MIDI on computer systems when it was launched in 1984. Various clones adopted, however there have been different producers, similar to Hinton, who made bins that could possibly be managed through RS-232, for instance.

Roland MPU-401 & MIF-IPC ($200+$110, Nov ’844)

Hinton MIDIC (£300, Jul ’855)

Noteworthy PC to MIDI Card ($250, pre Jan ’865)

Xanadu IFM-PC & Roland MPU-401 ($495+$200, Oct ’865)

Pc Music Provide CMS-401 ($249, Could ’885article)
Voyetra OP-4001 (Could ’875)
Voyetra V-4000 $159.95 (’895)

Voyetra V-4001 ($199, Oct ’885article)
Music Quest PC MIDI Card ($119), MQX-16 ($199) & MQX-32 ($299) (pre Oct ’895)

MIDI Synthesiser Modules

Although not formally (and even unofficially) sound playing cards for the PC, Sierra made use of present synthesisers after they started composing musical scores for his or her video games. Clearly a MIDI interface is a prerequisite, however there have been actually solely two MIDI synths supported on the PC within the days earlier than Common MIDI got here alongside.

Yamaha FB-01 (Jul ’863)

The FB-01 FM MIDI Expander. (Supply: SOS)

Launched on the British Music Honest in July of 1986 and costing £299, the FB-01 (or FB01) was Yamaha’s first multi-timbral FM synth. What introduced it to the PC was IBM commissioning Yamaha to make them a music growth board for his or her PC line, ensuing within the Music Function Card. This system was a type of supported on Sierra’s first recreation together with synthesised music, although its high quality was someplace on a par with the Advert Lib, slightly than the MT-32.

Roland MT-32 (Aug ’875)

The MT-32. (Supply: through Imgur)

First talked about at NAMM in June 1987, the MT-32 price £450 when launched, which was round August 1987 in keeping with a evaluation in Sound on Sound, in order that’s the very best date I can discover from the assets accessible. The MT-32 was the primary system that made any type of wavetable-based audio accessible in PC video games and was gentle years forward of the competitors within the early sound card days. Clearly Common MIDI got here alongside within the early-to-mid ’90s and made orchestral scores ubiquitous on the PC, however the MT-32 was the early chief. Sierra additionally supported its skilled LA brethren, the D-10, D-110 & D-120 and the ISA-bus model, the LAPC-I. They offered the MT-32 by their catalogues and even provided two free games to the worth of $120.

Addional PC-focused merchandise had been launched subsequently, together with the CM-32L, which was supposed as a low-cost model, with its beige color scheme and lack of entrance panel controls. This was complemented  by the CM-32P, a equally cut-down model of the U-110, although it retained the power to have patches loaded into its reminiscence. An additional product, the CM64, was launch combining the performance of the 2.

The unique ’84 launch of MTU’s Digisound-16. (Supply: DB Magazine, June ’84, p48.)

Micro Expertise Limitless DigiSound-16 (Mar ’861)

Value: £2,995 (1984 model)

It would appear to be this one is shoehorned in right here however, contemplating use-cases, it in all probability is the ‘first sound card’ in a literal sense. On the floor it is only a digitiser, which most private laptop platforms had accessible for them, each for pictures and sound. The DigiSound-16 started growth in July 1982, after a necessity was recognized for a 16-bit system that would carry out direct-to-disk recording amenities. The preliminary 1984 launch was designed to interface with MTU’s personal MTU-130 (a 6502-based machine) and nearly any laptop sporting two parallel ports to attain the 16-bit decision. A PC-specific model was launched in March 1986 utilizing a ‘DMA interface’ (presumably the PC-DMA card by Canetics Inc). That is the cardboard I am citing right here as ‘first’.

In July ’87 a correct AT-compatible mannequin was launched, which included a 16-bit interface card and a ‘excessive capability’ exhausting disk (i.e. 100MB or 120MB) for these PCs that lacked one. The cardboard might deal with 16-bit audio at 48KHz, which is insane for a PC in 1987. What made this system greater than only a DAC was an MS-DOS port of Csound, initially developed for DEC’s PDP11, which was a whole composition instrument. This meant that, for the price of a synthesiser, knowledgeable musician might use sample-based devices to supply music on their PC. There’s little or no data about this on the market, so it could be nice to search out an proprietor if any {hardware} nonetheless exists.

The Mindscape Music Board. (Supply: Tales of Bizarre Stuff’s YouTube Channel.)

Mindscape Music Board (Aug ’864)

Value: $150

That is an obscure board that existed solely to assist one piece of software program: Financial institution Avenue Music Author. This composition software program was accessible for different platforms as nicely (Commodore 64 and facilitated by the Mockingboard on the Apple II, for instance) and the {hardware} utilised 3-channel PSG synthesis with the AY-3-8910 chip. I am unable to discover any documentation or a press launch to substantiate the date this board was initially marketed, but it surely seems within the August concern of Household Computing on the backside of this page, described because the PC Mockingboard. Trixter has additionally supplied timestamps from the software program that got here with the board, starting from March to July of 1986, in order that additional confirms the date. It has additionally been considered the primary ‘sound card’ for the PC. Two are recognized to exist in the entire world!

IBM’s Music Function Card. (Supply: Dos Days)

IBM Music Function Card (Apr ’871)

Value: $495

The earliest date that I can discover for this product is March 1987 (present in the manual), whereas the primary point out I can discover within the press is sixth April, in a list of IBM unit costs. That tallies with this list of IBM merchandise – itemizing the date as April – so we are able to say ’round April’ in the mean time.

The factor concerning the PC was that it was a enterprise machine. It was purported to be good at numbers and shit and was by no means supposed as a platform for the creation of music. This was already doable on the Apple II and different private computer systems, so it was by no means actually wanted on a platform the PC. We are able to solely marvel about IBM’s motives to releasing the IMFC, but it surely coincided with the PS/2 model 30 in keeping with an article in PC Journal on twenty sixth Could. It was suitable with the AT, XT and PC that got here earlier than it, however assist appeared to be incidental. IBM had commissioned Yamaha to supply a MIDI growth card for his or her new technology of PCs they usually basically created an ISA model of their FB-01 synthesiser (although the 2 work barely otherwise). This featured the YM2164 chip, which used FM synthesis, and the board included a MIDI interface. The cardboard was costly, at $495, which places it out of the attain of most dwelling customers, regardless of the demonstration software saying it was supposed for “dwelling, faculty or stage”. If you would like to learn extra, there’s a fantastically detailed article about it here.

Advert Lib Inc. Advert Lib Music Synthesizer Card (Jun ’873)

Value: $245

In all probability the least disputed date for any sound card launch, the Advert Lib (additionally stylised as AdLib) was unveiled in June 1987 at CES (although I can solely discover one source saying so on web page 23) and the earliest ad I can discover is from September of that 12 months. At its coronary heart was Yamaha’s YM3812 FM synthesiser aka OPL2, which has in all probability the best legacy of any sound card within the historical past of the PC. Even after Artistic’s Sound Blaster grew to become the usual, different sound playing cards nonetheless needed to be Advert Lib suitable as nicely. Sierra marketed it of their Winter 1988 newsletter with the announcement of King’s Quest IV and provided a $20 rebate coupon inside a few of their video games. 

Yamaha’s chip was improved over time, bringing us the OPL3 and 4 successors, plus many clones and impersonators used on different playing cards. I might write a whole article concerning the Advert Lib itself, however others have already performed this. The preliminary launch, aimed toward musicians, got here geared up with a ‘correct’ phono jack owing to its skilled ambitions. This was then switched to a 3.5mm jack for the 1990 revision, a characteristic Advert Lib hoped would align itself higher with the market. Together with a recreation port would have been extra helpful, because it seems. Authentic playing cards, like most listed right here, at the moment are considerably scarce and due to this fact costly (particularly as Artistic’s US distributor, Brown-Wagh, provided a $100 rebate to individuals who despatched of their Advert Lib!). Various modern reproductions and clones can be found and even an OPL3 growth for the parallel port!

The Artistic Music System. (Supply: Cloudschatze through Vogons)

Artistic Music Lab Artistic Music System (Nov ’871)

Value: $280

The unique date of this card’s official launch is proving to be contentious. It’s usually accepted among enthusiasts that the CM/S was initially launched in August of 1987 in Singapore. It has confirmed robust, nevertheless, to search out any main supply aside from Creative themselves to substantiate this, although I did discover a news article from December ’87 with Artistic’s founder, Sim Wong Woo, saying the CM/S was “first launched on the Comdex Present in Las Vegas final month”. He makes no point out in any respect of availability earlier than that and this was in a Singaporean newspaper, so it could have been an awesome alternative for Sim to toot his horn. Because of this, I am taking the Comdex date as ‘greatest’ till one thing else turns up; it does not have an effect on the cardboard’s place within the checklist both method. Regardless of this, discovering out when it was truly accessible within the US is one other matter totally. Accordingly to this article, it was launched in “Spring” 1989, is described as a separate product to the Recreation Blaster and is marketed as costing $195.

Artistic Expertise was established in Singapore in 1981 by Sim, ultimately producing the Cubic99, an Apple II suitable laptop and, later, the IBM PC suitable Cubic CT when it grew to become clear that this commonplace could be the dominant pressure in dwelling computing. The C/MS used a pair of square-wave-toting Philips SAA1099 to supply stereo sound, although it didn’t promote nicely initially, therefore its shortage in its original packaging. It did barely higher when rebranded because the…

Artistic Recreation Blaster (mid-’895)

Value: $129.95

This rebranding is even tougher to pinpoint as a result of Artistic themselves by no means truly marketed the cardboard exterior Singapore. You’ll read that they struck a cope with Radio Shack to place the cardboard of their shops, but it surely was offered through mail-order by Brown-Wagh earlier than that. This article, from Oct ’89, says the rebranding passed off ‘a number of months in the past’, so that would imply something from Spring to Summer season of that 12 months. Sim’s ebook Chaotic Ideas from the Outdated Millennium might have the reply, however there isn’t any digital model that I can discover and bodily copies are exhausting to accumulate. A textual content search of the ebook through Google offers us the declare that “in the course of 1987, Tandy needed to purchase 20,000 Recreation Blaster for his or her 8,000 Radio Shack shops”. Hmm… possibly that ebook is not essentially the most dependable supply of knowledge, then, as a result of that might be not possible.

The Recreation Blaster was the identical {hardware} because the C/MS, with a minimize down software program bundle and new packaging, therefore the lower cost. When Sierra first used sound playing cards for his or her video games, in August 1988, the Recreation Blaster was not invited to the social gathering and needed to wait till later earlier than a driver was developed. The earliest instance I can discover of that is in October 1988, from the date stamps for the driving force information. Sierra themselves additionally sold the Recreation Blaster, alongside the Advert Lib and MT-32. Silpheed or Hoyle’s Ebook of Video games had been bundled freely with both card and the previous was included with retail packages.

Covox Speech Factor & Voice Grasp (Dec ’876)

Value: $79.95

See Also

Covox beforehand made voice-recognition {hardware} referred to as the Voice Master for dwelling computer systems such because the Apple II, C64 and Atari. This was accessible round April ’84 and made its solution to the PC in “late 1987”. Experiences that the Speech Factor was launched in 1986 appear to be inaccurate, because the earliest documented proof of its existence is from a patent, filed on 2nd Oct ’87. The Wikipedia web page claims 18th Dec ’87 because the date of ‘launch’ (linking to a trademark registration date), however I do not suppose both represents an precise availability date. Till higher data comes turns into accessible, the fairest we are able to say is Dec ’87, particularly as the corporate profile reposted here confirms as such (credit score to Vetz from Vogons for that hyperlink).

Siliconsoft SoundJr. (Supply: Cloudschatze through Vogons)

SiliconSoft SoundJr (’887)

Value: $19.95 with reductions

Disappointingly the one supply I can discover for any type of date is the unique producer’s web page, the place it means that the system has been used “world wide since 1988”, in order that must do for now. That is one other parallel port DAC, with some slight variations to the Covox equal. There may be some extra data here supplied by Cloudschatze.

Innovation SSI-2001 (Apr ’896)

Value: ($129 initially, $69 with reductions)

Additionally known as the SSI2001 elsewhere, it’s stated that Innovation purchased the mental property of The Entertainer from Microprose (see honourable mentions) and really put it into manufacturing. The earliest supply I can discover for this product is a Fidonet post, dated twenty sixth April 1989. For context, the identical consumer (a George Heymann) posted concerning the AdLib and Artistic’s C/MS on the same day, so this isn’t a press launch supply and merely tells us that the board existed right now and will nicely have existed sooner.

For these unaware, this sound card used the well-known SID chip from the Commodore 64, and Innovation truly made claims on the time to attempt to set up this as a normal for recreation sound on the PC. Provided that solely 2 of those boards are recognized to exist within the wild and plenty of have by no means heard of it, we all know how nicely that labored out. This board is supported in DOSBox and there at the moment are mutiple modern replicas accessible, which can be utilized with the MIDI driver that has been developed. Amusingly, somebody additionally made a version designed for a parallel port.

IBM’s Audio Visible Connection. (Supply: PC Magazine, 16 Jan ’90)

IBM Audio Visible Connection (Sep ’892)

Value: £565

There’s a source claiming that the AVC was launched in 1988, however that appears unlikely because it was reportedly unveiled at PC Expo in June ’89. Essentially the most helpful supply is a press release telling us that it was accessible from September, coinciding with the 486-based PS/2 in September ’89.

This was very a lot a business-grade product, designed with skilled displays in thoughts and had a complementary video adaptor for prime decision graphics (at $2,250), whereas the software program package deal itself price $495. Clearly it was by no means supposed for gaming and I do not know if any video games straight supported it. Both method it was a reasonably groundbreaking product, making wealthy multimedia content material doable for the primary time on a PC, options that had been doable for years on the Mac and Amiga platforms. It was a DSP-based card – very like the MWave playing cards that got here later – which dealt with all the pieces together with MIDI synthesis and was accessible in ISA or MCA variations.

Weirdly, the system was deemed perfect to characteristic on the centre of a digital lacking youngsters mission, reported within the April ’93 issue of New Media journal. It earned IBM a ‘Technical Excellence” award from PC Magazine in January 1990 in recognition of its affect on PC-based multimedia they usually described it in its First Looks column as “like having a digital tape recorder, a sound mixer, and a number of other slide projectors and dissolve unit all wrapped right into a single PC”. They adopted up with an enormous feature article in Could. Here can also be a massively tacky IBM gross sales video from 1990 all about it (through YouTube).

The Covox Sound Grasp PC (Supply: DOS Days)

Covox Sound Grasp (Sep ’895)

Value: $89.95

To not be confused with 1985‘s Apple II board of the identical identify, the earliest point out of the Sound Grasp presently accessible is within the handbook for EA’s Sim Metropolis. Though the Wikipedia web page claims a launch date of 2nd Feb ’89, and the game manual is dated as such on (the handbook itself lacks a date), EA’s personal retrospective on the sport collection states the Amiga and Macintosh variations (printed by Broderbund) had been launched first and that the PC model was launched “later that 12 months” (printed by Infogrames). The handbook describes the Sound Grasp because the “new low price sound board for IBM and suitable computer systems”, so that means a date proximal to the sport’s launch. Date stamps from the game files of model 1.02 of the sport present an installer dated 5 Oct, whereas the sport information is 28 Jul. I have no idea what the preliminary launch model was. The earliest article I can discover mentioning it’s the Gamer’s Information to Sound Boards in CGW’s Sep ’89 concern, although this does not assure availability. It seems once more within the October concern of PC Useful resource within the new merchandise column. All issues thought of, I believe it is truthful to position the discharge at September of 1989 for now. (Amusingly the handbook within the photograph is dated Feb ’90.)

One other unusual board, the Sound Grasp’s predominant promoting level was digitised speech and sound. This made it a direct competitor to the approaching Sound Blaster. Although it featured inferior 3-voice synthesis within the type of the AY8930, it might produce digitised sound in stereo. It is also presumably the one sound card to have two joystick ports, albeit Atari-style 8-pin fashion. This card acquired good press coverage round its launch, appeared to be nicely supported by software program and will have performed nicely. Had it been launched a 12 months earlier, it might need stood an opportunity, however with the Killer Kard already being mentioned within the press and the Sound Blaster simply across the nook, it was just about DOA.

Artistic Labs’ Sound Blaster, atop their Cubic CT laptop. (Supply: The Verge)

Artistic Expertise Killer Kard & Sound Blaster (Nov ’891)

Value: $239

So right here it’s, one of many final playing cards to qualify for this checklist however maybe essentially the most important. It was initially introduced at PC Expo in June of 1989 and was recognized on the time because the Killer Kard (additionally spelled Killer Card), as mentioned in CGW‘s Gamer’s Information to Sound Boards of Sep ’89. That is considered a prototype board, because it was by no means offered and samples remained the property of Artistic Expertise, however was actually sent to system integrators.

Clearly some advertising recommendation was acquired concerning the card’s prototype identify and it was dubbed the Sound Blaster in time for its official launch at Comdex Fall in Las Vegas ’89. It was a major enchancment over their earlier product: after recognising the shortcomings of their Recreation Blaster (principally its poor, square-wave synthesis), Artistic went all-out and created what turned out to be the proper card for recreation audio. Although they initially maintained compatibility with the Recreation Blaster (the CM/S chips had been soldered on), Artistic included Yamaha’s YM3812 chip so as to add Advert Lib compatibility, too. Along with this, they added a recreation port and, maybe least considerably, assist for digitised audio, a characteristic primarily supposed for text-to-speech performance. Though it was claimed that the cardboard had 23-voice synthesis, this was merely what number of voices had been theoretically accessible if the CM/S and OPL2 voices had been all used concurrently, however nothing did this besides certainly one of Artistic’s personal demos. Battle Chess II is among the few video games you may run with assist for each playing cards (SFX and music) however that is performed individually not concurrently.

Honourable Mentions

Tecmar Music Synthesis System (Oct ’865)

I believed I used to be onto one thing after I got here throughout this $795 try at a whole music composition resolution for the PC. It was first talked about in Dec ’83, with a projected availability date of ’84 and allowed the consumer to play on their QWERTY keyboard, or use a extra conventional MIDI board of keys. The good a part of this full-length, 8-bit card was that the 16 voice polyphony could possibly be expanded to 64 voices by putting in 4 playing cards into one PC. The synth had a financial institution of presets however was in any other case absolutely programmable, with every voice composed of two waveforms and its personal pitch, pan and quantity envelope. It could not use sampling, nevertheless. The software program included a sequencer and a full evaluation of the system is on the market here. Sadly, I discovered a Usenet publish suggesting this product was by no means truly offered, so this one goes within the vapourware bin.

The Entertainer (Apr ’887)

Till somebody exhibits up with the cardboard itself, this product can also be vapourware. The one clue to its existence is in a single construct of 1 recreation: an advert in Gunship by Microprose. The one method I’ve discovered so far the cardboard is the timestamps for the sport information, which place it at April 1988. In 2014, disassembly of the sport code by VCF consumer NewRisingSun confirmed that the {hardware} would have used the SID chip, made common by the Commodore 64. Fascinatingly, Carlos Teixeira has a YouTube video displaying how sure variations of Gunship and Pirates! might be patched to work with a later card, the Innovation SSI-2001. I am assuming that, as a result of these video games had been ported from different platforms, the sounds already existed. Which means these video games had been launched with sound card assist, however with no {hardware} to assist them!


Understanding Pc Sound by Adam Podstawczyński (
IBM PC Ramblings (previously the unique Oldskool Beat) by Jim Leonard (
Making Stunning Music With IBM’s Music Function Card by Jonathan Matzkin (PC Magazine)
The PC Mockingboard by Trixter (
Recreation Sound: An Introduction to the Historical past, Principle, and Follow of Video Recreation Music and Sound Design by Karen Collins (PDF)
Historical past of Sound Playing cards & Digital Audio on PCs from 1980-89 by Lyndsay Williams (PPT)
The First Soundcard Design for the PC in 1987 by Lyndsay Williams (
Apple II Audio and the Mockingboard by Nicole Branagan (
Will Harvey’s Music Development Set – PC Sound System Help by Nice Hierophant (Nerdly Pleasures)
The PC’s New Frontier: Music by James Langdell (PC Magazine, 29 Apr ’86)
Making Music with MIDI by Selby Bateman (Compute! Jan ’86, p24)
Increasing on the PC by Mark J. Welch (Byte, Nov ’83)
Gamer’s Information to Sound Boards (CGW, Sep ’89, p18)
Hit it, Maestro! by Joey Latimer (Compute! Apr ’90, p22)
Innovation SSI-2001: the story of one of many rarest sound playing cards for the IBM PC (and its reproduction) (Sudonull)
The Sound of One Chip Clapping by Robert Johnstone (MIT)
Technical Documentation – FTL Sound Adapter Schematic (DM Encyclopedia)
Dungeon Grasp for PC (DM Encyclopedia)
Uncommon ISA card with SID chip from 1989 ! (C64 Music)
SID and DOS – Unlikely however True Bedfellows by Nice Hierophant (Nerdly Pleasures)
The First Sound Card by Nice Hierophant (Nerdly Pleasures)
The Value of PC Sound (and another stuff) by Nice Hierophant (Nerdly Pleasures)
The Artistic Music System a.okay.a. the Recreation Blaster by Nice Hierophant (Nerdly Pleasures)
Starflight: How the PC and DOS Exploded Pc Gaming by Jamie Lendino (Google Books)
The Historical past of PC Recreation MIDI by Eric Wing (Quest Studios)
“IRQ: 7” – The Difficult World of early MS-DOS Sound Choices by FatNicK (FatNicK)
The Advert Lib Legacy by Cloudschatze (Quest Studios)

IBM 27F4943XM Speech speak Adapter (VCF)
Roland MIF-IPC/APL Service Notes – First Version (
Roland MPU-401 (1984) + MIF-IPC-A (1988) 2 out / 32 – ISA – channel (
Roland MIF-IPC card (not the -A) (VCF)
MIDI Sound on Your Classic PC (DOS Days)
Replicas of Covox Speech Factor, FTL Sound Adapter and SiliconSoft SoundJr (Vogons)
Innovation SSI 2001 re-engineering and/or conclusions (Vogons)
First dos sound blaster recreation (Vogons)
Advert Lib Music Synthesizer Card (VGMPF)
Sound Blaster (VGMPF)
A Purchaser’s Information to MIDI (Compute! Jan ’86)
MTU Replace, 2nd Quarter ’83, Vol. 1 #4 (
Sierra E-newsletter, Winter 1988 (Museum of Computer Adventure Game History)
Sound Blaster Timeline (Vogons)
Artistic Labs website seize from Dec ’96 (Internet Archive)
Covox PC Speech (The Adaptive Computing Software Project)
Sierra Recreation Extras (The Sierra Help Pages)
CMSLPT : Artistic music system (recreation blaster) on parallel port (Vogons)
Innovation SSI-2001 MIDI driver (Vogons)
Sound-Board Duet (Compute!, Oct ’89, p114)
Who made the AdLib playing cards? (Usenet Archives through Google Groups)
Killer Konfusion (Compute! Mar ’90)
Music Playing cards (Sierra, tenth Anniversary Catalog, p42)
1987 – The true sound (Crossfire Designs)
Common Instrument AY-3-8910 (ProfilPelajar)
MT-32 Useful resource Middle (Quest Studios)
Roland MT-32 (Polynomial)
Konami vs Artistic Labs (

Model Historical past

third March 2023: preliminary publication

Source Link

What's Your Reaction?
In Love
Not Sure
View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

2022 Blinking Robots.
WordPress by Doejo

Scroll To Top