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Pre-AdLib PC sound

GeoffB17

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OK, on that basis, I'll accept the MT-32.

Note, I have a Roland LAPC-I card in one of my older PCs - this is a sort of 'built-in' MT-32, in that it's very similar in most midi regards (actually it's closer to the CM-32, a successor to the MT-32).

I understand that back then, some PCs were sold as a 'games' package, including the MT-32 and the connecting (MPU-401) card.

Sierra (On-Line ?) were very involved wih the MT-32, most of their games had very strong support for the MT, and I think they also did packages of game + MT-32 (and PC as well ?).

There are sites now releasing files of the music/midi for Sierra games. They do GM versions as well, but the specific MT-32 versions are 'The Real Thing'. If I download the MT versions, I can play them via my LAPC card. Some are really pretty good musically. I found one game where the music files were composed by Jan Hammer (Police Quest 4 ?). Many of the midi composers created unique sounds to be uploaded to the MT-32 to replace ROM sounds.

Geoff
 

Xacalite

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Added Yamaha FB-01.
Now I'm wondering what was that game where I saw "FB-01" option? Perhaps Silpheed? Mobygames doesn't mention this sound device.
 

Scali

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Added Yamaha FB-01.
Now I'm wondering what was that game where I saw "FB-01" option? Perhaps Silpheed? Mobygames doesn't mention this sound device.

Various Sierra games either have an FB-01 driver, or the driver can be copied from another game. See the Nerdly Pleasures blog I mentioned earlier, it contains a list of games.
Note that the FB-01 driver is somewhat buggy... The IMFC uses a newer revision of the firmware, which supports some SysEx commands that the FB-01 does not.
They did not backport the SysEx commands to the FB-01 properly in some cases, causing missing instruments and such.

(NB: The IMFC MIDI interface is proprietary, not compatible with the MPU401. The FB-01 driver from Sierra can only be used with an MPU401 or compatible interface).
 
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commodorejohn

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On the subject of obscure Sierra-supported MIDI synthesizers, the Casio MT-540 and CT-460 both date from 1987, although I don't think that SCI support for them predated Adlib support.
 

VileR

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There's also the mysterious SoundBuster (yes...) by Yam Educational Software from around 1987:
https://archive.org/stream/COMPUTEs...tions_US#page/n81/mode/2up/search/soundbuster

SoundBuster.jpg

All that's been turned up so far about it is this rather confusing description of the Apple II version.
Apple II + / IIe card for a digital synthesizer system. 20 tracks of music and rhythm devices used in the synthesis, and can create and modify sounds. SoundBuster equipped with a slot 2 at a time, and the control box, and other accessories, including sound, and provides software-only system.
 
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Great Hierophant

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If we include the likes of the FB-01, the Casio MT-540, 460 and CSM-1, the Roland D-10, 20 & 110 we might as well include every MIDI device released between the years of 1983-1987, inclusive. Sierra and Accolade had "generic" MIDI drivers available that could theoretically work with any MIDI-compatible sound device. These devices may not have sounded very well because the MIDI was composed for the MT-32 unless you did a lot of tweaking.
 

commodorejohn

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Yeah, it is a good question of where to draw the line. The FB-01/MFC at least had some support outside of just Sierra, but the others...not so much.

Though the straight General MIDI drivers wouldn't count for this exercise as the standard wasn't even established until 1991.
 

Xacalite

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Tandy 1000

Added it as the same device as in PCjr, but I'm not sure if that's correct...
PCjr has SN76489
Tandy 1000 has SN76496
How different are these two chips? Is there any software that makes use of these differences?

Casio CSM-1
Roland D110 D10 D20

Did they have native support in some PC software?
 

Xacalite

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Added SoundBooster.

As for devices supported by generic MIDI drivers, I think they are covered by the "MPU-401" entry, so no point in listing them all.
However, MIDI devices supported by dedicated drivers (eg. MT-32, FB-01) definitely belong in the list.
 

Scali

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As for devices supported by generic MIDI drivers, I think they are covered by the "MPU-401" entry, so no point in listing them all.
However, MIDI devices supported by dedicated drivers (eg. MT-32, FB-01) definitely belong in the list.

Not 'generic MIDI' drivers, but "General MIDI" drivers.
Since General MIDI wasn't around until 1991, these drivers did not exist.
You *had* to use dedicated drivers for each MIDI device. Try hooking up an FB-01 and start up a MT-32 game.
Nothing's going to happen, because the FB-01 has its own very peculiar way of mapping instruments to MIDI channels. Even trying to program a working mapping manually isn't going to work. For starters, the FB-01 has no concept of a 'drum map' like the MT-32 does, and then there's the problem of it having only 8-voice polyphony, and requiring manual assignment for the number of voices that each instrument can use (as opposed to automatic allocation).

Only a handful of devices were ever supported. MT-32 being by far the most popular one, FB-01 a distant second, and then there were some others here and there.
Not before 1987 though.
 

Great Hierophant

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Added it as the same device as in PCjr, but I'm not sure if that's correct...
PCjr has SN76489
Tandy 1000 has SN76496
How different are these two chips? Is there any software that makes use of these differences?

The PCjr used a TI SN76496, as did early Tandy 1000 models. None used the TI SN76489. The differences between these two chips are unimportant for sound purposes. Later Tandy 1000 models also used the NCR8496 (discrete then integrated into the Tandy DAC), which is a clone of the TI SN76496 that does have some audible differences : http://nerdlypleasures.blogspot.com/2015/10/the-journey-of-pcjrtandy-sound-chip.html

The Casio CSM-1 does have some native support in certain Sierra games, musically it is identical to the CT-460. Certain games came with drivers for the Casio devices in the box. Roland D-series devices always had to have patches downloaded from Sierra's BBS, which was not a simple thing back in 1990.
 

Cloudschatze

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Sound Buster: "Breaking the Sound Barrier"
Sound Blaster: "Blast Away the Sound Barrier"

That's an interesting coincidence.
It definitely feels like there's more to this story.

While it's unclear as to whether the Sound Buster was ever commercially released, a short biography of Dr. Lloyd Yam, the creator, purports that he "invented computer music in 1987." Given current knowledge and understanding of the overall "PC soundcard timeline," this could be a history-altering assertion, if true.
 

commodorejohn

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While it's unclear as to whether the Sound Buster was ever commercially released, a short biography of Dr. Lloyd Yam, the creator, purports that he "invented computer music in 1987." Given current knowledge and understanding of the overall "PC soundcard timeline," this could be a history-altering assertion, if true.
Hardly that history-altering, considering that "computer music" dates back to the '50s.
 

Cloudschatze

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The context, in this case, can be reasonably constrained to just "PC soundcards." Even then, it's still a mostly hyperbolic statement, as other music-producing cards existed prior to 1987. Still, where the Ad Lib MSC and Sound Blaster are largely thought of, and referenced, as being "pioneering" products, the Sound Buster might yet be deserving of mention.
 
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Great Hierophant

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It definitely feels like there's more to this story.

While it's unclear as to whether the Sound Buster was ever commercially released, a short biography of Dr. Lloyd Yam, the creator, purports that he "invented computer music in 1987." Given current knowledge and understanding of the overall "PC soundcard timeline," this could be a history-altering assertion, if true.

This reminds me of another Dr. who has made a history-altering assertion of inventing a certain kind of computer software technology, Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai, "the inventor of email."
 

Trixter

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Various sources claim it's from 1985, where's the truth?

The software that came with my Bank Street Music Writer card has files with dates that range from 3/25/1986 to 7/24/1986. Since the software and card were sold together, I think it's safe to say 1986 is the correct year.

As for devices supported by generic MIDI drivers, I think they are covered by the "MPU-401" entry, so no point in listing them all.

Is this limited to games? Music Studio came out in 1986 and supported MIDI-attached devices. I don't know exactly which ones because my copy is still sealed. (Music Studio 3.0 came out in 1988; I have unsealed copies of this I could look at, but the year is after your 1987 cutoff.)
 

b44ccd21

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Edit: and YES, I'm also interested in those "speed synthesis only" products.

Here's another early speech synthesis card for you...

1983 - Standard Microsystems PC-Talker

https://books.google.com/books?id=q8fwTt09_MEC&pg=PA636

As the advert mentions it is definitely "low-cost", being
pretty much a Votrax SC-01 reference design consisting of
74xx and an LM386 amp hooked to the pc bus.

Despite hailing from 1983 it still works flawlessly in an
ISA slot on a 440BX board!

Attached are a text transcription of the manual and some
example C code I knocked up to test my card's functionality
 

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