Video And Audio Playback On Low-End MS-DOS Machines

For most people the phrases ‘MS-DOS’ and ‘video playback’ probably aren’t commonly associated, yet it was quite normal as those of us who were watching full-motion video with games like Command & Conquer can attest to. These audiovisual experiences did however require somewhat more capable hardware than something like an original, 4.77 MHz IBM PC. More recently, however, the removal of these limitations has been turned into a challenge that has been gleefully accepted by hackers, including [Scali] whose recent tinkering with getting not only real-time video but also audio working on these old beasts has been documented on their blog.

Unlike existing early video formats like FLIC from the 1990s, the XDC format developed over the past years enables real-time, 60 FPS video and audio playback on an 8088 IBM PC that has a SoundBlaster 2 and CGA card installed. As [Scali] notes, the SB2 card is convenient, because it enables DMA transports for the audio data, which saves a lot of precious CPU cycles. Unlike the original SB card, it also fixes some teething issues, but an SB2 is hardly ‘low-end’ for an early 1980s PC, so it has to go.

Continue reading “Video And Audio Playback On Low-End MS-DOS Machines”

Decker Is The Cozy Retro Creative Engine You Didn’t Know You Needed

[John Earnest]’s passion project Decker is creative software with a classic MacOS look (it’s not limited to running on Macs, however) for easily making and sharing interactive documents with sound, images, hypertext, scripted behavior, and more to allow making just about anything in a WYSIWYG manner.

Decker creates decks, which can be thought of as a stack of digital cards that link to one another. Each card in a deck can contain cozy 1-bit art, sound, interactive elements, scripted behavior, and a surprisingly large amount of other features.

Curious? Check out the Decker guided tour to get a peek at just what Decker is capable of. Then download it and prototype an idea, create a presentation, make a game, or just doodle some 1-bit art with nice tools. Continue reading “Decker Is The Cozy Retro Creative Engine You Didn’t Know You Needed”

Get MOST Into Your Pi

When looking the modify a passenger vehicle, the Controller Area Network (CAN) bus is a pretty easy target. In modern vehicles it has access to most of the on-board systems — everything from the climate control to the instrument cluster and often even the throttle, braking, and steering systems. With as versatile as the CAN bus is, though, it’s not the right tool for every job. There’s also the Media Oriented Systems Transport (MOST) bus which is increasingly found in automotive systems to handle multimedia such as streaming music to the stereo. To access that system you’ll need to approach it slightly differently as [Rhys] demonstrates.

[Rhys] has been working on replacing the dated head unit in his Jaguar, and began by investigating the CAN bus. He got almost everything working with replacement hardware except the stereo, which is where the MOST bus comes into play. It provides a much higher bandwidth than the CAN bus can accommodate but with almost no documentation it was difficult to interact with at first. With the help of a Raspberry Pi and a lot of testing he is able to get the stereo working again with a much more modern-looking touchscreen for control. It is also able to do things like change CDs in the car’s CD player, gather song information from the CD to display on the panel, and can perform other functions of the infotainment center.

For more detailed information on the MOST bus, [Rhys] also maintains a website where he puts his discoveries and other information he finds about this system. Unfortunately car stereo systems in modern vehicles can get pretty complicated these days, but adapting car stereos in older vehicles to modern technology carries some interesting challenges as well.

Continue reading “Get MOST Into Your Pi”

SOUL Wants To Process Your Audio

Abstraction is the core of nearly all progress in computing. Unless you are fabricating your own semiconductors and drawing wire, we all create with building blocks ranging from components like CPUs, to operating system functions, to specialized libraries. Just as you wouldn’t want to spend your time deblocking disk records or rendering fonts for output devices, you probably shouldn’t have to think too much about audio data. While there are some powerful audio processing libraries out there, a new embeddable language called SOUL (SOUnd Language) is now in version 1.0 and wants to help you create efficient code for processing audio.

The goal of SOUL is to target a runtime that can run on CPUs, but is better on DSPs. The code aims to be secure and real time with no pointers, garbage collection, and other things that typically interfere with audio processing or security.

Continue reading “SOUL Wants To Process Your Audio”

BeOS: The Alternate Universe’s Mac OS X

You’re likely familiar with the old tale about how Steve Jobs was ousted from Apple and started his own company, NeXT. Apple then bought NeXT and their technologies and brought Jobs back as CEO once again. However, Jobs’ path wasn’t unique, and the history of computing since then could’ve gone a whole lot different.

In 1990, Jean-Louis Gassée, who replaced Jobs in Apple as the head of Macintosh development, was also fired from the company. He then also formed his own computer company with the help of another ex-Apple employee, Steve Sakoman. They called it Be Inc, and their goal was to create a more modern operating system from scratch based on the object-oriented design of C++, using proprietary hardware that could allow for greater media capabilities unseen in personal computers at the time.

Continue reading “BeOS: The Alternate Universe’s Mac OS X”

Medium Over Message: A CD-ROM Multimedia Bubble Survivor’s Tale

Sometimes in the never-ending progression of technology, people take wrong turns. They pursue dead-ends they believe represent a bright future, often in spite of obvious indications to the contrary. IBM doggedly insisting Micro Channel Architecture was the future of PC hardware, for example, or Nokia’s seeming inability to recognise that the mobile phone experience had changed for ever when the first iPhones and Android devices appeared.

Every once in a while, that collective delusion grips an entire industry. All the players in a particular market nail their colours to a technology, seemingly without heed to what seems with hindsight to have been a completely obvious threat from the alternative that sidelined them. It is a tale of personal experience that prompts this line of thought, for the industry that tempted me away from hardware to a career in electronic publishing in the early 1990s was CD-ROM multimedia.

Continue reading “Medium Over Message: A CD-ROM Multimedia Bubble Survivor’s Tale”

Video From Audio And Pure Data

Although graphical programming languages have been around for ages, they haven’t really seen much use outside of an educational setting. One of the few counterexamples of this is Pure Data, and Max MSP, visual programming languages that make music and video development as easy as dropping a few boxes down and drawing lines between them.

A few years ago, [Thomas] and [Danny] developed a very cool Pure Data audio-visual presentation. The program they developed only generated graphics, but though clever coding they were able to generate a few audio signals from whatever video was coming out of their computer. The project is called TVestroy, and it’s one of the coolest audio-visual presentations you’ll ever see.

The entire program is presented on three large screens and nine CRT televisions. With some extremely clever code and a black box of electronics, the video becomes the audio. Check it out below.

Although this is a relatively old build, [Thomas] thought it would be a good idea to revisit the project now. He’s open sourced most of the Pure Data files, and everything can be downloaded on the project page.

Continue reading “Video From Audio And Pure Data”