VOGONS


First post, by jskiba

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3Y4lPTi8ws

Few years back I got myself a GUS Classic card. I've had no experience dealing with non-PnP boards, and thought mine was a dud when nothing showed up during bootup. Re-seated the chips. That didn't help. Spent 2 weeks troubleshooting to find out that IRQ's were clashing with other peripherals. Disabling ISA PnP in BIOS and giving the soundcard manual addresses brought it to life. There was nothing wrong with it to begin with.

Because I was setting up to do a review, but wasn't able to record anything useful, I made a review spoof.

It doesn't reflect my actual opinion on the card. Been using mine for 3 years in a retro rig, and loving it.

Reply 2 of 16, by jskiba

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie

I assumed at least something was going to show up during bootup. Some indication of a new device being present. I didn't know that the process was fully manual. Mistook it for a damaged card. While getting it to work, I realized why so many of them were getting returned back in the day. People must've come to the same conclusion I did. RIP Gravis.

Reply 3 of 16, by jheronimus

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie

Weirdly enough my experience with Classic/Max was much better than with PnP. Especially once I realised I could set it up in half-duplex mode (e.g. 240/7/7/7/7) and save half the resources, even a more compilcated setup (e.g. GUS+AWE32+MPU controller) became quite easy to configure on various machines.

I do have the PnP Pro that I rarely use because it's more frustrating to configure and I don't know if it can do anything a Classic/Max can't.

I actually remember seeing your video on YouTube a while ago 😀

Pentium 166 MMX Overdrive, 32 MB RAM, Ark Logic ARK1000VL, Tekram DC-680C, Turtle Beach Tropez, Gravis Ultrasound Max
Pentium III 1000, 256 MB RAM, Matrox G400 MAX, Adaptec 19160, Yamaha YMF740B

Reply 4 of 16, by jskiba

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie

Yes, once figured out, it all gets easy. I have no regrets. I managed to get mine working in pair with SB64. Not a fan of GUS emulation. It never works right, and everything GUS hogs memory.

I speak Russian, by the way. Been reading Vogons for a long time, but only now decided to join.

Reply 5 of 16, by darry

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t
jskiba wrote on 2021-03-31, 02:17:

Yes, once figured out, it all gets easy. I have no regrets. I managed to get mine working in pair with SB64. Not a fan of GUS emulation. It never works right, and everything GUS hogs memory.

I speak Russian, by the way. Been reading Vogons for a long time, but only now decided to join.

If by "GUS emulation" you are referring to Sound Blaster, Adlib and, to a lesser extent, General MIDI emulation on a GUS, I agree . I do not miss MegaEM and SBOS . In modern times, I like to pretend that they never existed. 😉 No nostalgia for me there.

Reply 6 of 16, by dionb

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t
jskiba wrote on 2021-03-30, 21:51:

I assumed at least something was going to show up during bootup. Some indication of a new device being present. I didn't know that the process was fully manual. Mistook it for a damaged card. While getting it to work, I realized why so many of them were getting returned back in the day. People must've come to the same conclusion I did. RIP Gravis.

Once again, why the focus on Gravis?

Consider that the GUS is a card from 1992. That pre-dates ISA PnP: by two years (ISA PnP 1.0 dates to 1993, but first implementations were with 1.0a in 1994). There is no way any 1992 card could have supported ISA PnP. In addition, early ISA PnP implementations were notoriously buggy, both on motherboard and card/init side. Add to that that DOS software is not PnP aware and most games won't work with arbitrary resource allocation by PnP and there is a reason a lot of more experienced users prefer the certainty of manual configuration to the Plug & Pray effects of PnP, particularly ISA PnP.

I'm afraid this still sounds like your projecting your own inexperience with DOS resources onto a perfectly good bit of hardware, and it's completely inappropriate to single out a particular vendor or card. A contemporary 1992 Sound Blaster 16, Pro Audio Spectrum 16 or AdLib Gold would require exactly the same work; all that would differ is the method (jumpers on some cards, EEPROM config on others, like the GUS).

Reply 8 of 16, by digistorm

User metadata
Rank Member
Rank
Member

I think the biggest “mistake” of Gravis was to not include some sort of clone SB Pro support like all competitors at the time. I don’t know if that would have been possible at the time, and it might have made the card even more expensive than it already was.
It was maybe a bit ambitious and also overconfident that they thought they could solve it with some software. Had it been truly Soundblaster and OPL compatible, or made and marketed as purely an add-on card, it would maybe not have disappointed so many consumers and as a result, not have gained such a negative reputation.
In hindsight, it would have been better had they made what became later the GUS Extreme, with a GF1 chip combined with OPL3 and SB Pro compatibility, as a complete single card solution for any game, and a GUS ACE at a reduced price as an upgrade for users that already had OPL and SB Pro support to add this new and shiny GF1 capability.
But again, maybe that would not have been possible at a economically viable price.

Reply 9 of 16, by pan069

User metadata
Rank Member
Rank
Member

Yeah, the SB simulation on the GUS was horribly flawed. In hindsight Gravis might have been better off just bundling their Ultrasounds with cheap SB knockoffs. I had a GUS Classic with an SB Pro in the same system at the time. It was a pretty good combo. I never realised it until recently but maybe Ultrasounds weren't supposed to replace SB's at all but to augment your audio experience instead. Similar to the first 3dFx cards that you added next to your already existing 2d card.

Reply 10 of 16, by Boohyaka

User metadata
Rank Member
Rank
Member
jskiba wrote on 2021-03-31, 07:59:

Apparently enough people projected their inexperience to bankrupt the company.
How easy was it to figure things out without internet, back when everyone didn't have a PhD in Retro?

You completely missed dionb's point twice 😀 and he's absolutely right. Correct, it was not easy back in the days if you had no experience and no internet to help you, that's exactly the point, but there's no reason to arbitrarily point your finger at Gravis, because it was exactly the same for every single pre-PnP card. There was nothing wrong or more complex with Gravis cards. Gravis' death has absolutely nothing to do with any difficulty setting pre-PnP cards up so you're really firing in all directions here...

Your title should be renamed "Non PnP ISA frustrations".

Reply 12 of 16, by dionb

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t
elfoam wrote on 2021-03-31, 12:44:

The Gravis cards were _very_ expensive compared to your general sound blaster, that's why they didn't sell many

That's actually not true. They were priced near or lower than competing Creative cards. Take a look here for example:

UK, June 1994
https://archive.org/details/pc-format-1994-06 … age/n9/mode/2up
Page 10

SB16: GBP 80
AWE32 GBP 199

GUS 2.1: GBP 90
GUS 3.4 GBP 130

UK, July 1995
https://archive.org/details/pc-format-1995-07 … e/n131/mode/2up
Page 132
AWE32 Value: GBP 129
AWE32 Full: GBP 165

GUS: GBP 98
GUS Max: GBP 142

Pricing vs Creative wasn't the issue. The two biggies were marketing and Sound Blaster compatibility - which also explained why Gravis was so insistent that SBOS was valid Sound Blaster emulation (hardly...) and Creative had the easy job of pointing out it wasn't and their offerings were.

Tbh, I can't blame Gravis for thinking they could win with a non-SB compatible card in 1992. It was just a bit more than two years after the Sound Blaster launched and most people still had PC speakers. No decent AdLib support was probably a bigger issue then than no SB support. In retrospect, everything non-SB was doomed, but at the time that wasn't at all obvious. But... the GUS Max was probably the killer mistake. Gravis gambled on the industry embracing Microsoft's WSS standard and leaving Sound Blaster behind. That didn't happen, at least, not in the gaming arena - so the GUS actually didn't offer anything over the original GUS to most users. It did cost significantly more, and by 1994 not supporting any kind of Sound Blaster was just insane. The PnP just doubled down on this route. Ironically it might have worked a few years later when games had moved to Windows and DOS compatibility was an afterthought - but in its day this was suicide and sure enough, it failed in the marketplace.

Dead shame, but unfortunately entirely self-inflicted (unlike say AdLib and Mediavision, which really suffered unfair if not downright criminal trading practices by Creative). And no, exactly none of this has anything to do with resource management. In fact the GUS is one of the more forgiving cards for that, with a relatively good installer that even tests your resources for you.

Reply 13 of 16, by Grzyb

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie
jskiba wrote on 2021-03-31, 07:59:

Apparently enough people projected their inexperience to bankrupt the company.
How easy was it to figure things out without internet, back when everyone didn't have a PhD in Retro?

No need to figure out anything - it was all described in the manual.

Also, the history of Gravis sound cards was similar to those of other vendors: first regular ISA cards, later ISAPNP cards.

From my experience - mostly based on GUS Max - the only real problem was poor SB compatiblity.
Really, instead of providing options for 16-bit recording and CD-ROM controller daughterboards, they should provide the option of SB compatibility.
Both the 16-bit recording board and the CD-ROM controller board are extremely rare - obviously nobody wanted them.
But I bet there would be plenty of customers willing to pay for hardware SB compatibility.

Reply 14 of 16, by elfoam

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie
dionb wrote on 2021-03-31, 15:34:
elfoam wrote on 2021-03-31, 12:44:

The Gravis cards were _very_ expensive compared to your general sound blaster, that's why they didn't sell many

That's actually not true. They were priced near or lower than competing Creative cards. Take a look here for example:

Yeah sure compared to an Awe32, but I said compared to your general sound blaster, Awe32's are also incredibly rare and again were very expensive. 95% of PCs ran a Soundblaster during that time. The real PC enthusiasts like myself and my friends ran GUS's and AWE32s but this wasn't at all a normal thing to do. Ex Amiga guys generally ran a GUS and the other guys who had never owned an Amiga ran AWE32s.

Reply 15 of 16, by dionb

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t
elfoam wrote on 2021-04-18, 16:10:

[...]

Yeah sure compared to an Awe32, but I said compared to your general sound blaster, Awe32's are also incredibly rare and again were very expensive. 95% of PCs ran a Soundblaster during that time. The real PC enthusiasts like myself and my friends ran GUS's and AWE32s but this wasn't at all a normal thing to do. Ex Amiga guys generally ran a GUS and the other guys who had never owned an Amiga ran AWE32s.

GUS was never intended, priced or marketed to compete with low-end or even mid-range sound cards. It was aimed squarely at the prosumer high-end, with prices and features to match.

Reply 16 of 16, by digger

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie

Well, one particular frustration I remember havin g with the GUS was lack of support in some games. The most egregious example was Theme Park. The setup program had about the longest selection list of sound cards that I had ever seen in a game, including quite obscure ones such as the Sound Master, but no Gravis Ultrasound. "Really, Bullfrog?" I remember being incredibly pissed about that, especially since SBOS didn't work with that game. Ditto with Pizza Tycoon.

On the other hand, it was cool getting other games without out-of-the-box GUS support to work without emulation, by patching the proper Miles drivers in them. Every time that felt like a victory. 😀