VOGONS


First post, by AlessandroB

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Today I was thinking: until what date did games that specifically required an ISA sound card come out? The games for Win9.x for example, work very well with sound cards supported by windows so ISA and PCI work in the same way? If so, imagining to make a PC dedicated to ISA sound cards, what would be the boundary CPU between ISA and PCI sound cards? I don't know if I explained myself well.

If my reasoning is correct, could a 486 with an ISA sound card be followed immediately afterwards by a P4 with a PCI sound card for absolute fluidity in the most complex games? Quake type etc ...

Reply 3 of 41, by cyclone3d

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How about a P4 with ISA slots? I've got a couple of those.

In any case, depending on what exact 486 setup you have you may need an even slower system or systems for some earlier games that are speed sensitive.

And you need to either make up your mind about what games you want to play and what sound standards you want to have.

Or maybe not... you can have all of them.

Covox / DSS
CMS
OPL2
dual OPL2
OPL3
Sound Blaster
Sound Blaster Pro
Sound Blaster 16
Media Vision PAS
Media Vision PAS 16
AWE32
Gravis Ultra Sound

I'm sure I've missed a few of the main ones... but you should get the idea.

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Yamaha YMF7x4 Guide
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Reply 4 of 41, by The Serpent Rider

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If my reasoning is correct, could a 486 with an ISA sound card be followed immediately afterwards by a P4 with a PCI sound card

No, late DOS games won't run good on any 486. Easy examples - Descent, System Shock, Blood. But you can use DOS compatible PCI card like Yamaha YMF724 in your P4 system.

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Reply 5 of 41, by AlessandroB

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The Serpent Rider wrote on 2020-01-31, 04:42:

If my reasoning is correct, could a 486 with an ISA sound card be followed immediately afterwards by a P4 with a PCI sound card

No, late DOS games won't run good on any 486. Easy examples - Descent, System Shock, Blood. But you can use DOS compatible PCI card like Yamaha YMF724 in your P4 system.

Yea, you hit the point, is exactly what mean.

So there are DOS games (which require an ISA card) but at the same time they require a Pentium class CPU ... if they were very few it would not be worth spending a lot of money to get a DOS compatible pci card . You should have a list, or at least a list of the "unmissable" ones.

Reply 6 of 41, by Cyberdyne

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DOS games ISA card. Windows games any working card. It is that simple.

I am aroused about any X86 stuff that has full functional ISA stuff. I think i have problem.

Reply 7 of 41, by Baoran

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Isn't this more about the OS rather than any date? Dos programs handle the hardware by themselves so they need irq and dma from isa bus and windows programs don't care because the OS and drivers handle everything for them and they just use the MME api in windows 3.1 and directX api in win95.

Having something like P3 dos pc with isa sound card is fine as long as you don't care about speed sensitive games. If you care about speed sensitive games you can't have a single system that would be dedicated to all games that need isa sound cards.

Reply 8 of 41, by dionb

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AlessandroB wrote on 2020-01-31, 06:49:

[...]

Yea, you hit the point, is exactly what mean.

So there are DOS games (which require an ISA card) but at the same time they require a Pentium class CPU ... if they were very few it would not be worth spending a lot of money to get a DOS compatible pci card . You should have a list, or at least a list of the "unmissable" ones.

You can get fully DOS-compatible sound on PCI, but only with a pile of compromises. The most compatible solutions require very specific hardware, which generally is only present on chipsets that support ISA anyway (DDMA, PC/PCI etc). Even then the number of cards/sound chips is limited. You can get sound, maybe good sound even (if you have PC/PCI and a YMF74x-chip, for example), but you're locked out from all the beautiful chaotic diversity of DOS ISA sound. Without those workarounds you're stuck with bulky TSR drivers and flakey compatibility.

So really that's the point: it's not about date, it's about OS. If you want to run Windows only, you could get away with PCI sound in 1995 (if there had been any 1995 PCI sound chips...), if you want to run DOS, ISA is very much recommended, even if you want to run it with an Athlon/P4 from past 2000.

Note that you don't need to spend a lot of money on DOS-compatible PCI sound cards - they tended to be low-end designs, as DOS was low-end legacy in the PCI era. Probably the best DOS compatibility without PC/PCI, DDMA or similar comes from the C-Media CMI8378, which you can even get new for a few EUR. Other designs with acceptable DOS performance are things like the ESS Solo-1 and Ensoniq/Creative ES1371, which are ubiquitous and cheap too. Even the Yamaha YMF74x-designs aren't particularly expensive.

But again, unless you really can't, just stick with ISA for DOS. It's not hard to find first-gen Athlon or last-gen P3 boards with ISA, such a system will be able to run any DOS game easily. If for whatever reason you want more performance, look out for PICMG industrial SBCs +backplanes. You can go all the way up to Core2-era and have multiple ISA slots with those. So long as the PCI-to-ISA bridge supports DMA (which the common ITE designs do), you're good for DOS. Note however that a lot of DOS sound is speed-sensitive, so you're opening yourself up to a whole new world of compatibility issues running DOS with ISA sound at CPU speeds up to 3GHz...

Reply 9 of 41, by imi

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The Serpent Rider wrote on 2020-01-31, 04:42:

If my reasoning is correct, could a 486 with an ISA sound card be followed immediately afterwards by a P4 with a PCI sound card

No, late DOS games won't run good on any 486. Easy examples - Descent, System Shock, Blood. But you can use DOS compatible PCI card like Yamaha YMF724 in your P4 system.

that's the thing about the past, I played Descent on a 386 and can't remember it being bad ^^

but yeah, for DOS I'd say ISA is recommended... but not "needed" per se.

Reply 10 of 41, by appiah4

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There weren't any games released beyond 1996 that required an ISA sound card. For any PC that you don't want to play Pre-1997 games, you don't need an ISA slot.

Retronautics: A digital gallery of my retro computers, hardware and projects.

Reply 13 of 41, by BinaryDemon

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imi wrote on 2020-01-31, 07:51:

that's the thing about the past, I played Descent on a 386 and can't remember it being bad ^^

I was debating about commenting on this as well, although I wouldn’t go as far as you just did. I played many hours online at Kali.net with DX2-66 and DX4-100 486’s. A few years later, I ran Descent2 with the Rendition Verite patch which is of course a whole different level of smoothness (and better resolution) but I wouldn’t say Descent isn’t playable on a decent 486.

Last edited by BinaryDemon on 2020-01-31, 11:35. Edited 1 time in total.

Check out DOSBox Distro:

https://sites.google.com/site/dosboxdistro/ [*]

a lightweight Linux distro (tinycore) which boots off a usb flash drive and goes straight to DOSBox.

Make your dos retrogaming experience portable!

Reply 14 of 41, by appiah4

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Baoran wrote on 2020-01-31, 08:41:

I don't think 1996 was the last year. There was still pure dos games in 1997 like for example one of my favourite games Archimedean Dynasty

Yes but they don't require FM Synthesis and any PCI sound card that has SB Pro compatibility will be fine for these, even better as they will have much better audio quality to be honest.

By the way, I never knew of this game (Archimedean Dynasty) and it seems to be right up my fucking alley, time to go on eBay..

I played Descent 1 and Duke3D on a DX4-100 and they were just fine. I didn't feel the urge to upgrade to a Pentium before Quake.

Last edited by appiah4 on 2020-01-31, 11:16. Edited 1 time in total.

Retronautics: A digital gallery of my retro computers, hardware and projects.

Reply 15 of 41, by sf78

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imi wrote on 2020-01-31, 09:51:

but they will still technically work with a compatible PCI soundcard as well.

only games that simply won't run on newer hardware will actually need an ISA soundcard.

Yes, but many PCI cards require TSR to function in DOS and then you end up with a "working" configuration that takes huge chunks out of conventional memory (CD-drives, audio etc.) and you won't have enough for the games. Then you end up using different memory managers to fix this and soon you realize your Config/Autoexec files are just a bloated mess...

Reply 16 of 41, by The Serpent Rider

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I played Descent 1 and Duke3D on a DX4-100 and they were just fine.

Duke3D performance is acceptable. Descent has many problematic sections which are very slow on DX4, which is unacceptable on high difficulty.

Get up, come on get down with the sickness
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Reply 17 of 41, by appiah4

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The Serpent Rider wrote on 2020-01-31, 11:20:

I played Descent 1 and Duke3D on a DX4-100 and they were just fine.

Duke3D performance is acceptable. Descent has many problematic sections which are very slow on DX4, which is unacceptable on high difficulty.

I finished Doom 1 on a DX33, the framerate was not something people were that stuck up about back in the day 😀

Retronautics: A digital gallery of my retro computers, hardware and projects.

Reply 18 of 41, by The Serpent Rider

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I finished Doom 1 on a DX33

Observation: Ah, period appropriate hardware masochism. But to be fair, you can tone down 3D settings and play it on "cigarette pack" screen more or less comfortably.

Get up, come on get down with the sickness
Open up your hate, and let it flow into me

Reply 19 of 41, by appiah4

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sf78 wrote on 2020-01-31, 11:14:
imi wrote on 2020-01-31, 09:51:

but they will still technically work with a compatible PCI soundcard as well.

only games that simply won't run on newer hardware will actually need an ISA soundcard.

Yes, but many PCI cards require TSR to function in DOS and then you end up with a "working" configuration that takes huge chunks out of conventional memory (CD-drives, audio etc.) and you won't have enough for the games. Then you end up using different memory managers to fix this and soon you realize your Config/Autoexec files are just a bloated mess...

I don't know of any post 1996 DOS game that does not run under Windows 9x and all PCI cards with SB Pro compatibility in Win9x should run those games flawlessly. The only games you really need ISA cards for are those that require Real MS-DOS and they don't exist beyond 1996 AFAIK.

The Serpent Rider wrote on 2020-01-31, 11:32:

I finished Doom 1 on a DX33

Observation: Ah, period appropriate hardware masochism. But to be fair, you can tone down 3D settings and play it on "cigarette pack" screen more or less comfortably.

Well, If I remember correctly I played at high detail but not maximum screen size, possibly one or two notches below Full+HUD.

Retronautics: A digital gallery of my retro computers, hardware and projects.