VOGONS


First post, by bristlehog

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Rich Heimlich mentioned Hearsay 1000 as something that provided sound to a PC about mid-80s in his interview. There are plenty of Hearsay 1000 cartridges for Commodore 64, but there were doubts that this card even existed for IBM PC.

Today I got the delivery: new old stock boxed Hearsay 1000 for IBM PC and Tandy 1000:

Box front side. 'FOR ALL AGES' - wonder why would one write that on a box with PC hardware...

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Box back side. It says 'copyright 1988' which is kinda late, but this is a revision B card, which could perhaps explain the later-than-Adlib-year.

- 'Compatible with Infocom and Broderbund titles' - looks promising. I guess I'm to find out. If only I knew what Infocom and Broderbund titles to look...
- 'Includes demo disk' - alas, there are no disks in the box, perhaps they were lost. Time for Cloudschatze to appear and magically present an archive of the disk... But considering the rarity of the subject I am afraid this is wishful thinking.

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The card itself, 'IBM HEARSAY 1000 REV B'. Slight traces of insertion on ISA connector, otherwise no signs of usage.

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Speaker (seemingly with a microphone), user manual and brackets. Not sure why there are two of them. Perhaps the shorter one is for Tandy 1000? Why doesn't it have a hole for audio jack? Is audio routed internally in Tandy 1000?

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Hardware comparisons and game system requirements: https://technical.city

Reply 2 of 21, by carlostex

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Ah the missing piece!

I had a slight discussion with Jim Leonard years ago about this card, regarding on what was its purpose. I imagined that so early in the IBM PC days this must have been a speech recognition card.

From what i could understand from a quick Google search is that the General Instrument SP1000 is indeed a Speech recognition/synthesis chip. Not very surprising, but extremely historical, a serious case of oddware.

I had no reason to doubt about Rich Heimlich claims, so i never considered it mythical, but more like a failed product that time erased. Awesome to see one well preserved. Without software, its only a cool museum piece.

Congratulations and thanks Bristlehog!!

Reply 3 of 21, by bristlehog

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carlostex wrote on 2020-02-03, 16:09:

Without software, its only a cool museum piece.

You're right, I just read in the manual that a TSR driver from "Hearsay 1000" disk is needed for the card to operate, while I have no disks. I already contacted the seller, hopefully he can find them, or we can wait 'FOR ALL AGES' (just like depicted on the card box) for another (boxed with disks!) card to appear.

Hardware comparisons and game system requirements: https://technical.city

Reply 4 of 21, by Benedikt

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We might not be able to use it, but we can still build a new one! 😜 (Or at least figure out how this thing works.)

WIP BOM
Designator | Value | Description
-----------|-------|------------
C1 | 1063 | Disc Capacitor
C2 | ? | Electrolytic Capacitor 5mm
C3 | ? | Disc Capacitor
C4 | ? | Disc Capacitor
C5 | ? | Disc Capacitor
C6 | ? | Electrolytic Capacitor 10mm
C8 | 221 | Disc Capacitor
C9 | 1063 | Disc Capacitor
C10 | 1063 | Disc Capacitor
C11 | 1063 | Disc Capacitor
C12 | ? | Disc Capacitor
C13 | ? | Disc Capacitor
C16 | ? | Disc Capacitor
C18 | 1063 | Disc Capacitor
C19 | 473 | Disc Capacitor
C21 | 1063 | Disc Capacitor
C22 | 1063 | Disc Capacitor
C23 | 1063 | Disc Capacitor
C24 | ? | Electrolytic Capacitor 10mm
C25 | DNP | Not Populated
C26 | 1063 | Disc Capacitor
C28 | ? | Disc Capacitor
C29 | ? | Disc Capacitor
C30 | 1063 | Disc Capacitor
C31 | 1063 | Disc Capacitor
C32 | ? | Disc Capacitor
C33 | 1063 | Disc Capacitor
C37 | 1063 | Disc Capacitor
C38 | 1063 | Disc Capacitor
C39 | 1063 | Disc Capacitor
C40 | 1063 | Disc Capacitor
C41 | 1063 | Disc Capacitor
C42 | ? | Electrolytic Capacitor 5mm
C45 | ? | Electrolytic Capacitor 5mm
C46 | ? | Electrolytic Capacitor 10mm
C50 | 1063 | Disc Capacitor
C51 | ? | Electrolytic Capacitor 10mm
C52 | 473 | Disc Capacitor
J1 | ? | Audio Jack
JU1 | DNP | 2.54mm Jumper
R31 | ? | Trimmer Pot "VOL 1"
R32 | ? | Trimmer Pot "VOL 2"
R7 | 10kΩ | Resistor 5%
R21 | 10kΩ | Resistor 5%
R34 | 10kΩ | Resistor 5%
R42 | 10kΩ | Resistor 5%
R43 | 10kΩ | Resistor 5%
R44 | 10kΩ | Resistor 5%
R45 | 10kΩ | Resistor 5%
R46 | 10Ω | Resistor 5% (big)
R48 | 10kΩ | Resistor 5%
R49 | 10kΩ | Resistor 5%
SW1 | ? | Quad DIP Switch
SW2 | ? | Quad DIP Switch
U1 | LM324 | Quad Op Amp
U2 | 4066 | Quad Analog Switch
U3 | M87? | ? (obscured)
U4 | LM386 | Audio Amp
Show last 12 lines
U5 | SP1000 | Speech Recognition/Synthesis IC (obsolete GI part)
U6 | 74LS04 | Hex Inverter
U7 | DAC0800L | 8-bit DAC
U8 | MC1458 | Dual Op Amp
U9 | 74LS86 | Quad 2-input XOR
U10 | 74LS374 | Octal Register
U11 | 74LS32 | Quad 2-input NOR
U12 | 74LS30 | Single 8-input NAND
U13 | 74LS245 | Octal Bus Transceiver
VR1 | 7805 | 5V Voltage Regulator
Y1 | 7.15909MHz | Crystal

Quest Components claims to have a few SP1000 in stock.

Reply 5 of 21, by bristlehog

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Benedikt wrote on 2020-02-03, 16:53:

We might not be able to use it, but we can still build a new one! 😜 (Or at least figure out how this thing works.)

I hope so. I am no engineer, so this is beyond me. All I can do is negotiate with the seller (who already agreed to search for the missing disks), make hi-res photos the card if need be, scan the manual (which has programming part, but that programming part is high level, meant for interacting with already running driver which hooks an interrupt), etc.

WAIT, OH SHI~~

http://cd.textfiles.com/version40/VOICE/ - isn't this what I look for?!

Hardware comparisons and game system requirements: https://technical.city

Reply 6 of 21, by Benedikt

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bristlehog wrote on 2020-02-03, 17:13:

WAIT, OH SHI~~

http://cd.textfiles.com/version40/VOICE/ - isn't this what I look for?!

At least that's what it looks like. Congratulations!

bristlehog wrote on 2020-02-03, 17:13:

I hope so. I am no engineer, so this is beyond me. All I can do is negotiate with the seller (who already agreed to search for the missing disks), make hi-res photos the card if need be, scan the manual (which has programming part, but that programming part is high level, meant for interacting with already running driver which hooks an interrupt), etc.

You could still do that, though. I mean the scans and photos.
This is certainly an interesting piece of hardware.

(I probably won't build a clone, but I'm still interested in how this card works.)

Reply 7 of 21, by bristlehog

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Benedikt wrote on 2020-02-03, 17:24:

I probably won't build a clone, but I'm still interested in how this card works.

Well, here's an article for you, from Byte Magazine Nov'84, about how to assemble a sound card based on General Instrument SP-1000:

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It is in Google Books, search 'Lisner 1000'. Also, here's a related discussion: https://www.electro-tech-online.com/threads/i … s-sp1000.84834/

This Lis'ner 1000 card had seemingly only Apple II and Commodore versions though.

Here's the thread on Commodore forum where the original developer of Hearsay 1000 answers questions (that being said, with 3 years delay): https://www.lemon64.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=46837&start=15

And finally, thanks to Kay from phantom.sannata.org, here's a Hearsay 1000 (C64 version) review (you have to scroll to page 26): https://docplayer.net/120955490-More-more-mor … let-breach.html

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Hardware comparisons and game system requirements: https://technical.city

Reply 8 of 21, by Benedikt

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bristlehog wrote on 2020-02-03, 18:48:

Well, here's an article for you, from Byte Magazine Nov'84, about how to assemble a sound card based on General Instrument SP-1000:

archive.org has a downloadable version.

Reply 9 of 21, by Agrajag27

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Okay, I have not posted on here in a LONG time (since 2009 it appears). This is Rich Heimlich. One of Vogon's users tracked me down on Facebook Messenger (a user named Carlos) to let me know this discussion was going on.

I'm not sure, after all the battles of the 80s and 90s why anyone would have any reason to doubt the history I've laid out, but that's how the world works it seems. The Hearsay 1000 was, in fact, a real product that I wrote about several times over several years including for PC Games (if anyone can find their content). It was in Top Star's testing matrix very early on, but was barely put to use. It showed up much around the same time that the Covox Speech Thing first showed up, and both products were a bit ahead of the curve. At the time, I don't believe more than one or two clients asked us to test it with any of their products. It was more a curiosity in our company and for me personally as it represented a step forward I had been pushing/hoping for. It really made it clear that audio on the IBM PC and its clones was a foregone conclusion and just a matter of time.

It's really something to see it here and that is VERY MUCH the box I recall including the plastic black speaker accessory.

For what it's worth, it's been over 35 years since all of this started and I find that I'm still spending a surprising amount of time having to correct the record about the history of sound on the PC. People are still attempting to rewrite it either based on poor memory or a desire to finally win a decades-old debate. If there's anything I'm thankful for regarding this, it's that I got started in the industry at a very young age so I'm still here to speak to that history.

Glad to stop by again and see that this forum is still here!

Reply 10 of 21, by bristlehog

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Agrajag27 wrote on 2020-02-04, 04:54:

I'm not sure, after all the battles of the 80s and 90s why anyone would have any reason to doubt the history I've laid out, but that's how the world works it seems.

I don't even know who it was, but someone outlined Hearsay 1000 for PC release status as 'unknown' in our Vogons spreadsheet of rare sound cards, thus I mentioned that there were doubts about its existence.

Anyway, time and human mistakes make fun of history sometimes. In Russian section of Wikipedia it is stated that your Top Star Computer Services was an insurance company:

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I think someone watched your interview and mistook quality assurance for quality insurance... Errare humanum est!

Hardware comparisons and game system requirements: https://technical.city

Reply 11 of 21, by Agrajag27

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bristlehog wrote on 2020-02-04, 05:29:

I think someone watched your interview and mistook quality assurance for quality insurance... Errare humanum est!

Well, in a strange way we were an insurance company for our clients. heheheh. Without us there'd have been a lot worse releases going out to the public and a lot more returns.

Reply 12 of 21, by bristlehog

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Agrajag27 wrote on 2020-02-04, 05:38:

Well, in a strange way we were an insurance company for our clients. heheheh. Without us there'd have been a lot worse releases going out to the public and a lot more returns.

Hard to argue with that. It seems that Top Star was the first UX company long before the term 'UX' was invented.

Speaking of business, I have a question that you are perhaps the perfect person to ask: why is that, that some sound cards succeeded on the market, and some failed miserably and disappeared into the void so quickly? Hearsay 1000 for PC is an example, but there were so many sound cards in 80s-90s that rapidly faded into oblivion with nothing left today but scarce magazine article or ad mentions. Is it lack of marketing? Lack of understanding of the market needs and ails? Lack of communication with ones like you who was in the thick of events and could feel the market on fingertips?

Hardware comparisons and game system requirements: https://technical.city

Reply 13 of 21, by Agrajag27

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bristlehog wrote on 2020-02-04, 16:06:

Speaking of business, I have a question that you are perhaps the perfect person to ask: why is that, that some sound cards succeeded on the market, and some failed miserably and disappeared into the void so quickly? Hearsay 1000 for PC is an example, but there were so many sound cards in 80s-90s that rapidly faded into oblivion with nothing left today but scarce magazine article or ad mentions. Is it lack of marketing? Lack of understanding of the market needs and ails? Lack of communication with ones like you who was in the thick of events and could feel the market on fingertips?

Sort of like asking why anything fails, in all honesty. A myriad of reason.

Covox and Hearsay mainly failed because they were ahead of the curve. RealSound (Access Software) failed because it was too little a solution, too late. Others failed because they were too expensive, or two over-engineered (for the market, like the Turtle Beach Multisound). Others failed because of poor marketing in a so many different ways. Gravis failed because their product was little but marketing. What it did well almost no one cared about. AdLib ultimately failed because they didn't really have technical people that understood the industry. It was just a music teacher that had an idea. Ensoniq failed because they were just too late to the game. Roland failed because they refused to be associated with something so low-brow as games. MANY others failed because they were just "me-too" companies with little to really set them apart. Creative failed several times along the way. Their Game Blaster was a complete failure, but without the money it did raise we wouldn't have had the Sound Blaster.

Reply 14 of 21, by bristlehog

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So far so good. The card works (the speech is too fast though in my Pentium II-400 system), the Hearsay Gold drivers work, the external speaker works.

Demo program first screen. (C) 1989 - but remember that this is software from a later 'Hearsay Gold' product, since I've got no original disks:

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List of compatible entertainment products manufacturers. Srerra - On - Line... By the way, doesn't that mean that Sierra was not popular yet, if someone didn't know how to spell it?

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List of compatible entertainment products:

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That 'DEMO.EXE' program doesn't require a Hearsay card. Everyone can run it in Dosbox or otherwise (HEARSAY.EXE driver must be loaded prior), however, the voice functions won't work without an actual card.

Hardware comparisons and game system requirements: https://technical.city

Reply 15 of 21, by Agrajag27

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Sierra was pretty much a known entity by this point. What wasn't all that clear was the whole "On-Line" part of their name. No one knew what to do with that. Almost no one used that part of their name. The next screen is the telling bit. King's Quest II? By that point EVERYONE knew who Sierra was.

Reply 16 of 21, by Cloudschatze

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It would be great to validate some of the mentioned software support, if that's at all possible with the later driver set that you found. I'm afraid I can't help with the original software - I passed on a chance to obtain a complete card several years ago, and have no idea where it might have ended-up.

If the Hearsay 1000 is similar to some of the other text-to-speech hardware/software implementations, the majority of of support may come through use of an LPT redirector, where any text sent to the associated soft-LPT device is spoken through the card/software. This would presumably still require that an application have "printing" functionality. I'm just speculating though; perhaps some other means of text-interception is used instead.

On a semi-related note, Hearsay did produce actual parallel-port devices, such as the 100 and 500, that are apparently little more than LPT DACs, to be used in conjunction with First Byte's SmoothTalker software speech engine. That support is demonstrated in this video: https://youtu.be/R0QvVblCwSE

For what it's worth, Dr. Doom's Revenge likewise mentions explicit supports for the Hearsay 1000, if you're able to try it for comparison.

Regarding one of the contemporaries of the Hearsay 1000 - Rich, I apologize if I've asked this before, but did Street Electronics' Echo PC+ ever come up in any of your industry-related dealings? It preceded both the Covox Speech Thing and the Hearsay 1000 by at least a year (1987), and while seemingly targeted toward the educational market, was not only capable of LPC speech and fixed-rate PCM playback, but also included a standard joystick port to boot: https://youtu.be/jnZ82tIdhP0

Reply 17 of 21, by Agrajag27

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Okay, I started to type one thing and then clicked the video link you posted on the Echo PC+. I was pretty sure I hadn't ever heard of that thing until I looked at the video and the memory of it came fully back. I actually did have one of those, but it was likely sent to me by Street Electronics. No client ever asked or did anything with it. I recall seeing that software run, but it was likely me just running it for my own curiosity back in '87 to see what it did.

The printing on that card is very unforgettable and unique. I definitely remember both the PC+ and PC II. Remember, that given our access to the industry (even before the Sound Blaster books) every would-be manufacturer sent us products, but pre-production and production. It's hard to really recall all of them. It helps immensely to actually see these in full color.

I just asked my old Top Star GM (who is younger than me and has eidetic memory) and he verifies that he never saw one of these in the shop which means that verifies no client ever requested our testing it which likely means no publisher ever supported it. Hope that helps in some way.

Reply 18 of 21, by Cloudschatze

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Agrajag27 wrote:

Hope that helps in some way.

Yes, thank-you! What a shame though. I'm not familiar with Street Electronics' history, but when contemplating PC audio "what-ifs," they probably missed an opportunity or two.

Reply 19 of 21, by Agrajag27

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Well, I don't recall anyone from the company by name, but likely spoke to someone there by phone at some point. They likely called to get our address to ship us the boards. If it was 1987 then that was THE window really. Martin Prevel was, in my very biased opinion, the smartest of that early bunch for thinking of the idea of befriending my company given that we had direct access to all the major players of the day and knew not only the marketing people and owners, but also most of the key coders (before there really were sound engineers in gaming). My guess is that Street Electronics, like so many others, just didn't have the connections to get the support they needed to get the product developed beyond their own uses and that killed a number of products before they really ever got started. The fact that they were around at least three years and had two products suggests they were selling a number of these at retail, but likely measured in the hundreds of units. Just enough to keep an investor investing for a short period, but not enough to sustain anything.

Plus the text-to-speech products were all missing the boat on what the gamer wanted. Remember at this point that Infocom was huge as were the adventure games like King's Quest so many of these companies assumed we wanted to avoid reading and have the products read out to us. That was wrong on several fronts. First, it's not at all what we wanted and second, the voices were so awful then that it wasn't a feature. It was nothing more than a curious novelty. I can't even imagine how horrible it would have been to play Zork with that kind of sound for hours at a time. YUCK. It was much more interesting to have audio just recorded and read out as a voice-over than to have TTS handle everything. Of course, once the Sound Blaster shipped that was the total end for these products. Why would I get a dedicated TTS card when I could have a Sound Blaster?