Enthusiast recreated the sound card Sound Blaster 1.0 - tell us how remarkable the project is

    A DIY project appeared on GitHub , the author of which conducted reverse engineering of the sound card of the 1990s Sound Blaster 1.0. We tell you what the features of the device are. Photo schlae / CC BY-SA

    Snark Barker Project

    A project with circuitry and firmware for creating a clone of a Sound Blaster (SB) sound card was published under the name Snark Barker. The replica is 100% compatible with old computers that support the original device, but built on modern electronic components.

    SB 1.0 was released in the 1990s, and now it is quite rare, which is why at online auctions its price can reach hundreds of dollars. The Snark Barker project allows fans of vintage computers to try out a once-popular device in business and spend several times less: the most expensive part of the system is the board. You can order ten pieces for about $ 45 (plus shipping).

    Why Sound Blaster 1.0?

    Original SB 1.0 was released in 1989 by Creative Technology. Sound Blaster was not the first PC audio card on the market, but the first to combine digital audio support, two different types of synthesis, and a MIDI interface.

    In other devices, analog oscillators with frequency modulation of the waves were responsible for the synthesis of sound . SB 1.0 introduced a new method for which the Intel 8051 controller was responsible . To create digital sound, pulse-code modulation was used . At the same time, the card provided the natural sound of the instruments.

    Due to its advantages, Sound Blaster 1.0 became popular in computers of the early 1990s. Map supportedMicrosoft itself. The corporation noted that the device most closely met the Multimedia PC standard , which determined the recommended PC configuration.

    Photo Wdwd / CC BY-SA

    About replica

    The author of the project reproduced all the functions of the original card: FM synthesis, support for incoming signals from a computer, MIDI instruments and microphones. Two ways of playing sound supported by the original Sound Blaster have been taken into account.

    The principle of operation of the first is similar to that used in the Covox Speech Thing device : the sound was regulated by the driver, which in turn sent information about the samples to the card. In the second case, the sound was controlled by a DMA controller on the motherboard. He provided the audio card with direct access to the memory, after which the Sound Blaster received information about the samples with a given frequency.

    The original Sound Blaster did not have an analog-to-digital converter. To record sound, the method of successive approximation was used, which was implemented using a signal processor and a comparator. The author of the project provided the corresponding code on his website :

    mov	p1,#80h	; Start DAC at the halfway point, 1000 0000
    mov	c,t1	; 1 Put comparator output into carry bit
    mov	p1.7,c	; 2 If greater, then leave MSB as is. If less, clear MSB
    setb	p1.6	; 1 Set DAC to upper or lower halfway point
    mov	c,t1	; 1 Check comparator output again
    mov	p1.6,c	; 2 Rinse and repeat
    setb	p1.5
    mov	c,t1
    mov	p1.5,c
    setb	p1.4
    mov	c,t1
    mov	p1.4,c
    setb	p1.3
    mov	c,t1
    mov	p1.3,c
    setb	p1.2
    mov	c,t1
    mov	p1.2,c
    setb	p1.1
    mov	c,t1
    mov	p1.1,c
    setb	p1.0
    mov	c,t1
    mov	p1.0,c
    mov	a,p1	; We are done, copy DAC code into accumulator.

    The project developer accurately reproduced the characteristics of the card on modern components. The author suggests using any microcontroller from the 80C51 family as a controller for processing sound. The original firmware for it can be found in the project repository .

    On GitHub there is a list of other components that are necessary to implement the SB 1.0 replica - almost all of them are available in online electronics stores. For your convenience, the table shows Mouser catalog numbers. However, one spare part - the volume switch - is no longer available. It is proposed to print it yourself on a 3D printer.

    The news about Snark Barker became popular on Hacker News. Commentators rated the project as important, with a cultural andeducational point of view - it helps to introduce new generations of people to the history of computers and the culture of creating audio equipment with their own hands. The replica in terms of characteristics and sound is no different from the original.

    Similar projects

    The author of Snark Barker previously made a replica of another popular sound card of the early 1990s - the AdLib Music Synthesizer Card, better known as just AdLib . The device at one time was one of the analogues of SB 1.0, which supported only an analog sound synthesizer.

    According to the engineer, he needed an AdLib replica to repair a 1980s IBM XT series computer . The engineer was able to recreate the map from photographs and reproduce not only the AdLib functions, but also its appearance. The result is fully compatible with old computers of that time. You can find the firmware code and photos of the device in the GitHub repository .

    Another project from another audio enthusiast was dedicated to Gravis Ultrasound(GUS). The card differed from its analogues in that it synthesized sound based on samples of real musical instruments. The sound of GUS seemed less artificial than that of other cards, and therefore Gravis Ultrasound was in demand among musicians.

    The Gravis Ultrasound replica assembly project started in 2015 and is called ARGUS. In two years, the author managed to create a working copy of GUS and start selling it.

    The project development process is reflected in a special thread.on the forum about old VOGONS games and computers. In the topic you can find sound card circuits and information about the equipment necessary for its implementation. The thread is still active: in it, enthusiasts offer ideas for improving the device. In general, participation in such projects is a great opportunity to nostalgia and learn more about the design of computers of a bygone era.

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