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Newly made PCMCIA sound card

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Reply 160 of 209, by yyzkevin

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I have not given up on this just keep being too busy to get to it, but there is somebody else working on a PCMCIA SoundCard and making what looks like good progress:

https://twitter.com/yottatsa/status/1465720915065516044?s=20

https://github.com/yottatsa/card_barker

Reply 161 of 209, by bjwil1991

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Hot diggity dog. If there was a way to make a GUS PCMCIA sound card, that'd be cool, however, chips are scarce and won't fit in a PCMCIA slot very well if it's a single PCMCIA slot.

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Reply 162 of 209, by creepingnet

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Schweet. More of these, the better. I totally get the lack of time, that's me with a lot of these kinds of projects. Was tempted to build my own cards as well at some point. Just need to get better at my SMD Soldering.

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Reply 163 of 209, by yyzkevin

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I am putting some time this weekend into finishing this off to order PCBs for this week. To make this possible I need to simplify the design. Not that it is impossible to have everything all at once, it just really challenges my beginner layout skills and absolutely pushes it up to a 4layer pcb which I would like to avoid if possible for cost and lead time reasons given that I know I will need a few iterations, and would like to keep some momentum.

So, I am going to drop the HardMPU implementation as this adds quite a few chips. Instead, I will just drive the VLSI 1053 midi chip from the SoundBlaster DSP's midi output, as well as provide external access to the same midi in/out. This is going to be fine for most games right? What situation is not having an MPU-401 and only having SoundBlaster midi going to be an issue, just some of the older sierra games that needed intelligent mode?

Reply 164 of 209, by creepingnet

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yyzkevin wrote on 2021-12-11, 11:12:

I am putting some time this weekend into finishing this off to order PCBs for this week. To make this possible I need to simplify the design. Not that it is impossible to have everything all at once, it just really challenges my beginner layout skills and absolutely pushes it up to a 4layer pcb which I would like to avoid if possible for cost and lead time reasons given that I know I will need a few iterations, and would like to keep some momentum.

So, I am going to drop the HardMPU implementation as this adds quite a few chips. Instead, I will just drive the VLSI 1053 midi chip from the SoundBlaster DSP's midi output, as well as provide external access to the same midi in/out. This is going to be fine for most games right? What situation is not having an MPU-401 and only having SoundBlaster midi going to be an issue, just some of the older sierra games that needed intelligent mode?

From a user perspective I see the lack of hardware MPU as fine, especially considering how much you've already achieved on this project. For the era of hardware that these most likely will end up being the most useful in (very very high end 386SL to low-end 486 DX4 laptops), I think a lot of people to start with will be very happy with just a standard SoundBlaster compatible MIDI And digital audio in a PCMCIA format since that's something that's extremely hard to come by for a reasonable price these days. Even without the hardware MPU and just regular SB MiDI, it's still vastly widening the pool of laptops for full-on Multimedia DOS gaming.

Personally I've used Hardware MPU before in the past and it's not really that big of a deal to me. What really draws me to your design is the fact it's a SOundBlaster compatible in PCMCIA format and outputs through the internal speaker of the laptop, so I'm not having to drag around a $200 vintage sound card with some kind of dongle with 30 year old wires in it that will probably require replacement/resoldering anyway, or being limited to my dock with a ISA card in it for sound. For some of us, such as myself, who have older laptops with WSS and active matrix panels, it makes for the ultimate portable DOS rig. So overall, MPU or not, this is an awesome project that's been helping me learn as it unfolds as well.

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Reply 165 of 209, by Bondi

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I'd also say that dropping the intelligent mode is not a big deal.
And maybe it can be compensated by using SoftMPU. Yet, not sure all these TSRs can coexist.

PCMCIA Sound Cards chart

Reply 166 of 209, by digger

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I guess it's indeed not really a big deal, since there are no protected mode games in existence that require Intelligent Mode support for MIDI output, at least as far as I know. So something like SoftMPU would indeed suffice for those few real mode games that do require it.

That's not to say that it wouldn't be nice to see it added in some future revision. It would prevent slowdown due to emulation on older 386(sx) laptops and not having to load a TSR would save on RAM use and potential incompatibilities, in addition to just working natively out of the box with everything.

But by all means, please drop any non-essential stuff like this, to simplify the design and development as much as possible. Your project is already challenging enough as it is. 😅

Reply 167 of 209, by yyzkevin

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In the future I think it would be cool to use a YMF715 or other highly integrated chip, I was reminded of this chip by @yottatsa on twitter. For this initial version I use the 8501 based SoundBlaster DSP because thanks to @TubeTimeUS Snark Barker project I have the assembly source code and was able to make some very small changes to facilitate my DMA emulation working smoother. Now that I am using a bigger cpld vs the smaller GALs and have more registers available I think I can improve the logical design to not need those dsp modifications for autoinit mode "alignment" which paves the way for the single chip sound systems as an option. That is something I can play with in parallel without hardware design change.

Gameport is going to depend on the authenticity/functionality of these 555 and 558 chips I have ordered from china, i ordered them some time ago I expect them any day now.

Reply 168 of 209, by yyzkevin

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i've moved this project forward a little bit more. pcb fits into the frame nicely. This only has the SoundBlaster DSP as that is the complicated part and I did not want to waste time routing the other stuff, I know they work (gameport,OPL,MPU) and will put it on after, I have already done rough layouts to make sure I could physically fit it all.

This is now using the bigger cpld that allowed me to implement proper configuration registers on the board to control i/o ranges, midi sources etc.

It is starting to look like I have enough resources left on the CPLD that I can include the MPU-401 after all. As I learned how poor the midi interface is on this DSP it started to seem important to include.

I need a name for the card, and as I get closer here I need to decide how to release this.

1. Get some test cards to a few reputable users here to play around with and test and provide any feedback.
2. Figure out what a fair price is to charge.
3. Setup a pre-order
4. Ship the physical pre-orders and publish all the design information at the same time.

-or-

I just skip all the steps and just publish the information. Ideally I would like to make a bit of money off this to justify buying a massive stockpile of pcmcia frames and connectors for future projects, as they are going to become a lot harder to get soon, I have been getting last call notices from mouser/digikey etc and I have not seen too much consistency in parts on aliexpress etc.

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Reply 170 of 209, by Bondi

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Great news, Kevin!
I think not many peolpe have the skills and parts to build a card themslves. So the steps above and info release can be done in parallel.
Given the IBM 3D card was the inspiration for this project and also the five main features of your card (SB, OPL, MIDI, MPU , game port), I'd suggest 5D Portable Sound Card or 5D PC Sound Card or sonething like this.
As for the price, as a reference point you could multiply the net cost by 2 or 3 and see which result you like better.

PCMCIA Sound Cards chart

Reply 171 of 209, by Pickle

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couldnt the frame be 3d printed, but the connector would still be an issue.
looking forward to see what comes about from this. Ive been trying to find the best way to get MIDI on a laptop and never found a universal solution. I think this project might be the one.

Reply 172 of 209, by yyzkevin

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Bondi wrote on 2022-01-04, 13:03:
Great news, Kevin! I think not many peolpe have the skills and parts to build a card themslves. So the steps above and info rele […]
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Great news, Kevin!
I think not many peolpe have the skills and parts to build a card themslves. So the steps above and info release can be done in parallel.
Given the IBM 3D card was the inspiration for this project and also the five main features of your card (SB, OPL, MIDI, MPU , game port), I'd suggest 5D Portable Sound Card or 5D PC Sound Card or sonething like this.
As for the price, as a reference point you could multiply the net cost by 2 or 3 and see which result you like better.

That is one to think about, thanks!

Pickle wrote on 2022-01-04, 14:13:

couldnt the frame be 3d printed, but the connector would still be an issue.
looking forward to see what comes about from this. Ive been trying to find the best way to get MIDI on a laptop and never found a universal solution. I think this project might be the one.

On the topic of midi, having the HardMPU ISA Card implementation inside a pcmcia card is a quite easy task. The aspect to this card that has required some thinking is the SoundBlaster DMA component. That is to say, a midi only card would be very easy to produce and would be done with a much smaller cpld.

On the topic of 3D printing, there are features that are very thin, way too thin for 3D printing even professional sla type printing. In terms of the main covers you could closely model all the chips on the board to vary the thickness and minimize the thin spots, kind of molded around the chips but I still feel like it could be a problem around the connectors. I am sure somebody could come up with something but it would likely cost more than an an actual pcmcia frame kit as we are talking sla printing etc. There are some other connector types that would be better suited for 3d printing, and I believe we will see some 3d printed pcmcia type stuff soon from the other user I mentioned that is working on a OPL3 only card currently.

Byrd wrote on 2022-01-04, 10:23:

Looks amazing - off topic I’m super interested in the PC110 TFT kit you have blogged about - would that also reach saleable status? Thanks

Yeah I am close to calling it complete.

Reply 174 of 209, by yyzkevin

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Pickle wrote on 2022-01-04, 18:18:

is the tsr needed for all features (i only saw you use it for sb transfers)? Do you expect this to work for everything (i.e protected mode games)?

no TSR is needed for the other functions, just the point enabler and the i/o ranges will be where you expect. Although my focus is on pure dos, it will be possible to use these functions in any o/s. Once you are into windows though you have existing choices for other cards anyway so I have not focused a lot of energy on it.

as for the tsr, yes it works for protected mode games, I have mostly tested with duke3d and doom. I am still playing with different strategies for block transfer size detection. Initially I was trapping these commands and latching the values in the cpld but it was not 100% reliable as I could not with certainty differentiate commands from values. I have another slow approach where on the initial start of dma I feed byte by byte until i get the interrupt and use this to determine what the block transfer size is, it happens quick so it is a pretty short glitch at the start and it seems to be OK with games I tested.

and the ultimate solution which I may or may not end up doing is just sticking another command in the DSP code so I can just request from my TSR directly to the DSP what block transfer size the game set. I was initially avoiding this to use unmodified SB DSP code and keep the door open for using single chip sound systems int he future. my ultimate card ONE DAY would be this sound card with my esp8266 NE2000 emulator, but currently I could not fit them on the same card.

none of this involves software trapping any kind of i/o etc so no issue with protected mode. With my workarounds I have been able to call the protected mode ISR of the game from my real-mode TSR without issue.

tsr can run on a 286 or XT even, but don't it would be needed, do any old games do dma transfers for sb? or if they have SB support just direct playback?

Reply 175 of 209, by Pickle

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my laptops all have reasonable sb/fm support (but the oldest is a original pentium) so that sounds great. The only midi solutions ive come up with is a exp midi pcmcia card, works but the uart is in the wrong mode and only works in windows. The S2P which doesnt work for protected modes, softmpu over serial (same issue with protected mode). My other option is YMF754 midi, but its also windows only. I saw one of those ibm cards on ebay, but went for $140.
Your solution i could hook up my mt32pi or other wavetable cards (which the right adapter) and i wouldnt need softmpu either.

So basically with the esp8266 you have WPA2 for any laptop? I personally just experienced using the module for gbs control. You need to make a double decker card that takes up 2 slots 😉
thanks for the answers.

Reply 176 of 209, by yyzkevin

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MPU-401 Example:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRbkijJc5F8

This is an example using LSL, which I believe requires intellegent mode?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SX59Uvb-qk4

because it is easy to get and easy for me to hand solder, I am using the VLSI midi chip in conjunction with the MPU.

Yeah, it was quite a hassle sending/receiving raw frames with the esp8266, and I had some issues with certain frame types getting rewritten by wifi, I plan to come back to this as my real interest is with networking cards this soundcard thing is a road I accidentally went down. I learned a lot moving to the bigger cpld and using verilog, so I will apply some of this to improving the wifi ne2000 (also serial modem mode)

btw $140 for an IBM 3D Sound card is a steal at recent prices. I had to pay many times that to get to use as a control for testing games as I want to meet or exceed that cards compatibility.

Pickle wrote on 2022-01-04, 19:21:
my laptops all have reasonable sb/fm support (but the oldest is a original pentium) so that sounds great. The only midi solution […]
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my laptops all have reasonable sb/fm support (but the oldest is a original pentium) so that sounds great. The only midi solutions ive come up with is a exp midi pcmcia card, works but the uart is in the wrong mode and only works in windows. The S2P which doesnt work for protected modes, softmpu over serial (same issue with protected mode). My other option is YMF754 midi, but its also windows only. I saw one of those ibm cards on ebay, but went for $140.
Your solution i could hook up my mt32pi or other wavetable cards (which the right adapter) and i wouldnt need softmpu either.

So basically with the esp8266 you have WPA2 for any laptop? I personally just experienced using the module for gbs control. You need to make a double decker card that takes up 2 slots 😉
thanks for the answers.

Reply 177 of 209, by yyzkevin

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In more of my compatibility testing I loaded up FastTracker2 (In-house Triton DOS Extender), and initially I had some issues. I have mostly sort them out and can get full quality playback even on the pc110 486 33sx, but I was wondering about the complications, so I tried it on the IBM 3D Sound and I was unable to get it to make a single peep. So I am wondering have you ever tried or been able to get FastTracker2 to playback on the IBM card?

I suspect some of these issues will not be unique when running into other extenders outside of typical dos/4gw etc , that may be doing things a bit different with how they are rewritting the vector table or making their realmode stub isrs and all that jazz.

I plan to send off for a rev2 pcb this weekend, adding in the gameport now that I have the 558 chips, the atmega for the mpu-401 and the OPL, but still no DAC's for now I will continue to connect off externally for that until I decide how best to handle the analog.

Reply 179 of 209, by yyzkevin

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Here are some examples during my compatibility testing.

https://youtu.be/rXkJjLsbWcI

If you know of any games that you think will be hard I should try let me know. Anything that requires emm386 likely will never work as it interferes with my ability to spy on DMA.