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Pre-AdLib PC sound

Xacalite

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Once upon a time I found this video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a324ykKV-7Y
But it isn't complete, so I'm trying to do a better list of the early era, before AdLib (1987):

1981 - IBM PC Speaker
1983 - IBM PCjr SN76489, also in Tandy 1000 (1984)
1984 - IBM PCjr Speech Adapter
1984 - MPU-401 with MIF-IPC or MIF-IPC-A
1985 - Mockingboard from the Bank Street Music Writer package
1985 - NEC SAR-10, "Audio Response Board"
1986 - Tecmar Music Synthesis System / Music Magic Synthesizer
1986 - Yamaha FB-01
1986/87, probably never released but supported in games - Microprose The Entertainer

Also possibly released before AdLib:

1987 - Covox Speech Thing
1987 - Covox Voice Master
1987 - IBM Music Feature Card
1987 - IBM PS/2 Speech Adapter
1987 - Roland MT-32
1987 - Street Electronics' Echo PC+
1987? - Yam Educational Software SoundBuster

Anything else?
 
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Xacalite

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OK, and according to Wikipedia, MT-32 was also in 1987, so I've conditionally added them both.
 

Scali

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Well, depending on how you look at it, the first games with AdLib sound didn't arrive before 1988 anyway (AdLib was initially aimed at musicians, not gamers, as were the IMFC and MPU401/MT-32 by the way).
Sierra was one of the first to support AdLib, and I believe they supported IMFC and MT-32 at the same time.
Only the PC speaker and PCjr audio were really 'pre-AdLib' in that sense I suppose, as in actually being used in games.
 

Xacalite

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This list is not supposed to be limited to games.
Anyway, Covox was also supported in games, though first such games were from 1989.
 

CarlosTex

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There's Microprose "The Entertainer" which was a SID card much like the Innovation SSI-2001, which we can speculate should be the spiritual successor (or the actual final product). Th Entertainer was advertised in some Microprose games but it seems it was never a commercial product. If someone can contact Ken Lagace (sound programmer for Microprose back in the day) maybe we can shed some more light about these cards. He should definitely know something.

"The Entertainer" it seems, was a card that would most certainly meant to be a commercial product by the end of 1986/early 1987, instead only in 1988/89 the Innovation card was a SID PC commercial product. The fact is, patching the games, you can hear SID sound on Innovation card, so it seems there should be a relationship.

I made a video about this (i'm sorry for the neverending rant):

 

Cloudschatze

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There's Microprose "The Entertainer" which was a SID card much like the Innovation SSI-2001, which we can speculate should be the spiritual successor (or the actual final product). Th Entertainer was advertised in some Microprose games but it seems it was never a commercial product. If someone can contact Ken Lagace (sound programmer for Microprose back in the day) maybe we can shed some more light about these cards. He should definitely know something.
I'd corresponded with Ken Legace and Roland Rizzo about the "Entertainer" board back in late 2013. Ken couldn't recall much more than the general idea of the card, but was near-certain that it was never commercially produced/released.


Anyway, Covox was also supported in games, though first such games were from 1989.
Covox introduced the Speech Thing in late 1987, for what it's worth.


Here are a few other honorable mentions:

1985 - NEC SAR-10, "Audio Response Board" - Intended for individualized "voice response" computing purposes, but allows for uploading up to 250 digitized samples of varying length into a 256KB sample-RAM space, which can then be played-back via simple routines
1986 - Tecmar Music Synthesis System / Music Magic Synthesizer - 16-voice AM synthesis.
1987 - Street Electronics' Echo PC+ - LPC speech, 8-bit PCM playback, gameport.
1988 - Tandy PSSJ (IC) - Enhanced SN76496 PSG, 8-bit PCM playback, gameport.

There are also a number of "speech-synthesis-only" cards/solutions that have not been mentioned. Are those of interest?
 
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Xacalite

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Covox introduced the Speech Thing in late 1987, for what it's worth.
Source?
According to Wikipedia, "the circuit was marketed around 1986", so indeed, 1987 may be true.

And I'm adding the rest, "Entertainer" conditionally.

Edit: and YES, I'm also interested in those "speed synthesis only" products.
Looks like the list is going to be pretty short anyway.
Hey, a list of pre-VGA video adapters would be probably two orders of magnitude longer!
 
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Cloudschatze

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Source?
According to Wikipedia, "the circuit was marketed around 1986", so indeed, 1987 may be true.

Quoting an older post of mine:

  • The applicable patent, US4812847, lists a filing date of Oct. 2, 1987.
  • The "Speech Thing" trademark, 1506939, lists a filing date of March 1, 1988.
  • Finally, a company profile from September, 1991, re-posted from the Covox BBS, states that, "In late 1987, the IBM PC version of Voice Master made its debut along with the popular "Speech Thing"".
 

eeguru

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There were also some simple D/A-outputs pluggable on the parallelport. Not real soundcard, but makes digital sound as well.

That is essentially what a Covox is. You blast mono 8-bit PCM samples 8000 times a second to a parallel port and the Covox has an R2R ladder and op-amp. The Voice Master Key added a A/D to go the other way on bi-directional parallel ports and rudimentary speech detection based on pattern matching to pre-recorded samples. Some software like CubicPlayer has support for running two Covox units on separate parallel ports to generate stereo.
 

Xacalite

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That is essentially what a Covox is. You blast mono 8-bit PCM samples 8000 times a second to a parallel port and the Covox has an R2R ladder and op-amp. The Voice Master Key added a A/D to go the other way on bi-directional parallel ports and rudimentary speech detection based on pattern matching to pre-recorded samples. Some software like CubicPlayer has support for running two Covox units on separate parallel ports to generate stereo.

With a Covox, you can do it much faster than 8 kHz. Of course, it all depends on CPU speed, but I recall being able to play samples via Covox faster than via any sound card, as sound cards were limited to 44 or 48 kHz.
And there's more to Covox than stereo - you can connect four such DACs and play in quadro, IIRC Modplay Pro supports this. There's a little problem installing four LPT ports in PC, as only three I/O addresses are standardized, but there were LPT cards (eg. with scanners) allowing to select non-standard I/O ports as well.
 

GeoffB17

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Does the MT-32 count for this list. It's just a 'tone module' connected via midi.

If it does count, then you should include any similar external midi enabled unit, i.e. keyboard, synth, module, whatever?

Geoff
 

commodorejohn

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With a Covox, you can do it much faster than 8 kHz. Of course, it all depends on CPU speed, but I recall being able to play samples via Covox faster than via any sound card, as sound cards were limited to 44 or 48 kHz.
Presumably the parallel-port DAC is just a plain resistor-ladder DAC (and maybe a basic filter,) plus possibly a latch? That would mean that it'd be the parallel port itself that presented the bottleneck.

Does the MT-32 count for this list. It's just a 'tone module' connected via midi.

If it does count, then you should include any similar external midi enabled unit, i.e. keyboard, synth, module, whatever?
You could make an argument for that view, but the MT-32 and the FB-01 were the first MIDI synthesizers I'm aware of that were marketed specifically as multitimbral tone generators for personal computers, and I don't think there are too many others that predate the Adlib.
 

Xacalite

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Does the MT-32 count for this list. It's just a 'tone module' connected via midi.
If it does count, then you should include any similar external midi enabled unit, i.e. keyboard, synth, module, whatever?

True, but MT-32 was so widely supported in PC games that I can't possibly omit it here.
There was at least one game with FB-01 support, but when was FB-01 released?
If there were other external devices connectable to PC via MIDI, released until 1987, with explicit support in PC software, I'm willing to add them as well.
 

Xacalite

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Presumably the parallel-port DAC is just a plain resistor-ladder DAC (and maybe a basic filter,) plus possibly a latch? That would mean that it'd be the parallel port itself that presented the bottleneck.

Yes.
Only there was no latch in Covox, the latch was a part of the parallel port.
 

commodorejohn

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The FB-01 was from 1986; the main reason it's supported in some PC games is because it formed the actual synthesizer guts of the IBM MFC, which was essentially just a MIDI controller stapled to an FB-01. There were some other MIDI modules like the Proteus/1 that saw some support (and of course the Roland Sound Canvas and later General MIDI devices,) but as far as I know they all post-dated the Adlib.
 
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