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The forgotten IBM PS/1 Audio Card (with IBM PCjr / Tandy 1000 sound)

vwestlife

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This seems to be a forgotten sound card in the history of PC audio:

IBM PS/1 press release said:
AUDIO CARD DESCRIPTION:

The Audio card, which fits into the system unit, includes the following:

· 3 voice synthesizer plus noise generator
· Joystick connector for one Joystick
· Microphone connector
· MIDI interface connector

The MIDI cable, provided with the Audio card and Joystick option, splits the single audio card midi connector into the industry standard MIDI in/out/through.

Since this card has been designed exclusively for the IBM Personal System/1 Computer, applications wanting to take advantage of all its capabilities have to be written specifically for the IBM PS/1 Computer.

MIDI applications available today in the market will not run on an IBM PS/1 Computer unless re-written to the IBM PS/1 hardware interface (device driver).

The "3 voice synthesizer plus noise generator" sounds an awful lot like our old friend, the IBM PCjr / Tandy 1000 sound system... and the microphone connector and joystick port implies that it has the functions of the Tandy DAC audio, too.

The "Sound Cards That Time Forgot" thread says "IBM PS/1 Audio/Joystick Card: This is not an ISA card, but connected to a special connector on the early IBM PS/1 systems. It is capable of three-voice music (like a Tandy 1000?) and digitized sounds. More than that is unknown. It also a gameport and a midi port."

I found this video on YouTube, and indeed, the PS/1 audio card sounds identical to PCjr / Tandy 1000 sound on Silpheed, plus DAC audio for the digitized speech:


In addition to having DOS in ROM, it sure looks like IBM was trying to copy Tandy, and also to keep the best feature of their own PCjr!
 

badmofo

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Apr 4, 2012
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Melbourne, Australia
I think that sounds pretty good! I bought a 2011 model a little while back but didn't do my homework, I didn't realise that they don't have ISA slots, and that my only option for expanding the sounds is one of these impossible to find "sounds cards that time forgot".

I saw a thread a while back in which someone described making their own, it may even have been here??
 

nestor

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Spain
Yes, I built an AdLib compatible sound card based on the OLP3 chip that plugs on that connector. The PS/1 Audio Card is supported only in a few games, having an AdLib compatible card is a better option.
 

vwestlife

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According to the list on Mobygames, the PS/1 Audio Card was supported by 60 games, mostly by Sierra. Silpheed was updated to support it (in version 3.2), and was bundled with the card:

SilpheedSoundCard.jpg


It can also be used in Sierra games in conjunction with a Roland MT-32 synthesizer connected to the MIDI/joystick port, with the 3-voice/DAC chip providing the sound effects and the MT-32 providing the music.
 

NeXT

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Ah yes, I remember that card. I saw it as part of an overpriced kit deal in ebay years ago. Always wanted to see how well it performed.
 

Maverick1978

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Man, I wish I had that Silpheed original floppy... ;) One of the few from that era that I'm missing from the collection! hehe... but - it's something left to hunt!!
 

Maverick1978

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Thanks for the link, cloud, then and now! :) I actually saw that quite awhile back. I'm just a Sierra nut after the disk for my collection...
 

vwestlife

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I finally got the PS/1 audio card, New In Box! I paid more for it than I did for the PS/1 computer itself, but such is life. :)

But mine came bundled with "Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?" instead of Silpheed, and Cloudschatze's link above is now dead. :( Does anyone have a copy of the PS/1 version of Silpheed?


(click to embiggen)
 

Cloudschatze

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...Cloudschatze's link above is now dead.
http://www.symphoniae.com/misc/SILPHEED/silpps1.zip


I bought this bundle back in 2013:


Wasn't aware that IBM had a separate bundle for parents who hate their children. ;)

By-the-way, here is a driver package that extends support of the PS/1 audio card (both MIDI and "4-voice") to Sierra's SCI0-based adventure games, along with Thexder II. You're probably already aware that Sierra's later titles (up until SCI32) shipped with PS/1 audio card support.

ftp://ftp.oldskool.org/pub/IBM_PC_BBS/ps1/instdrv.exe
 

ClassicHasClass

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So what's the sound chip under the hood? I'm suspecting a clone of the TI SN76489, maybe in that big VLSI array, since that sound architecture was what was in the PCjr and Tandy 1000.
 

digger

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Interesting and fascinating little piece of retrocomputing history! I keep learning new things here. :)

But what I don't understand is if the hardware was so similar to the sound systems in the PCjr and Tandy 1000 anyway, why didn't IBM take just a little more effort to make it hardware compatible with that as well? It would have made it useful in so many more existing games... :huh:
 

Great Hierophant

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Interesting and fascinating little piece of retrocomputing history! I keep learning new things here. :)

But what I don't understand is if the hardware was so similar to the sound systems in the PCjr and Tandy 1000 anyway, why didn't IBM take just a little more effort to make it hardware compatible with that as well? It would have made it useful in so many more existing games... :huh:

Because the sound chip in the PCjr. and Tandy 1000 sits at the same registers that the 2nd DMA controller used. That was IBM's fault too.
 

alex_theman45

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Nov 15, 2013
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Florida
Maybe they could have done the Sound Blaster 16 PCI solution, use a program that stays resident in memory and changes the Tandy/PCJR audio calls to the IBM PS/1 sound card. But that was most likely not possible then.
 

Trixter

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There are no "calls" to hook. There are port writes, and a 386+ could run programs in V8086 mode and trap the port writes and redirect them, I suppose.

You have another problem to deal with: Roughly half of all Tandy/PCjr games auto-detect when to use that audio based on the model byte of the system. So even if you put that hardware into a new system, and can somehow trap and redirect port writes, the game won't use it since it won't detect a Tandy or PCjr system. 386s and higher can get around this using the same mechanism described above. The alternative would be patching the game binary.
 
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