Not many people today probably remember what ‘Micro Channel Architecture’ was about, though its acronym ‘MCA’ might ring a bell. Created by IBM to replace ISA (Industry Standard Architecture) and presumably claw back some of that sweet, sweet licensing money, it didn’t quite pan out as IBM hoped. As history shows us, PCI ended up replacing MCA in all of IBM’s systems. The IBM PS/2 systems that used MCA didn’t miss out on classic 1990s cards, such as the original Sound Blaster, but today MCA versions of the Sound Blaster are admittedly rather… rare, not to mention expensive.
But, no longer: decades after the last PS/2 users have moved on, [Tube Time] proudly presents the Snark Barker MCA. It’s a fully Sound Blaster compatible sound card. It supports AdLib synthesis, digital sound playback and recording, as well as a joystick input and MIDI. Based around a Xilinx XC9572XL CPLD and featuring what looks like a full-length MCA card, it would have made an original Sound Blaster card proud.
The GitHub repository not only contains the schematics, BOM and Verilog-based HDL for the CPLD, but also extensive documentation on the assembly and programming. As a bonus, there’s a troubleshooting section which covers some of the joys that came with the sloppy implementations of MCA across systems. Definitely worth a read.
If anyone decides to build this project and use it in their IBM PS/2 system, we would love to hear about it.
Of course, if all you need is a garden variety PCI Sound Blaster clone, the original Snark Barker is the way to go.