Hackaday Links: Not A Creature Was Stirring, Except For A Trackball

Hey, did you know Hackaday is starting an Open Access, peer-reviewed journal? The Hackaday Journal of What You Don’t Know (HJWYDK) is looking for submissions detailing the tools, techniques, and skills that we don’t know, but should. Want to teach everyone how to make sand think? Write a paper and tell us about it! Send in your submissions here.

Have you noticed OSH Park updated their website?

The MSP430 line of microcontrollers are super cool, low power, and cheap. Occasionally, TI pumps out a few MSP430 dev boards and sells them for the rock-bottom price of $4.30. Here ya go, fam. This one is loaded up with the MSP430FR2433.

lol, Bitcoin this week.

Noisebridge, the San Francisco hackerspace and one of the first hackerspaces in the US, is now looking for a new place. Why, you may ask? Because San Francisco real estate. The current price per square foot is triple what their current lease provides. While we hope Noisebridge will find a new home, we’re really looking forward to the hipster restaurant that’s only open for brunch that will take its place.

The coolest soundcards, filled with DOS blips and bloops, were based on the OPL2 and OPL3 sound chips. If you want one of these things, you’re probably going to be digging up an old ISA SoundBlaster soundcard. The OPL2LPT is the classic sound card for computers that don’t have an easily-accessible ISA bus, like those cool vintage laptops. The 8-Bit Guy recently took a look at this at this neat piece of hardware, and apart from requiring a driver to work with any OPL2-compatible game, this thing actually works.

NVIDIA just did something amazing. They created a piece of hardware that everyone wants but isn’t used to turn electricity into heat and Bitcoin. This fantastic device, that is completely original and not at all derivative, is sold in the NVIDIA company store for under five dollars. Actually, the green logo silk/art on this PCB ruler is kinda cool, and I’d like to know how they did that. Also, and completely unrelated: does anyone want ten pounds of Digikey PCB rulers?

A Reproduction Vintage Sound Card

Before the AdLib sound card, sound on PCs was in a terrible shape. Since the dawn of IBM, all PCs included a speaker, but this PC speaker was only capable of sounding one note at a time. Chords on the PC speaker produced a weird ‘bubbling’ effect. Just a few years later, 8-bit sound could be created with the Covox Speech Thing, effectively a resistor ladder, with the parallel port on one side, and an 1/8″ plug on the other. These solutions for PC sound sucked.

It wasn’t until the first AdLib cards that superior sound showed up on the PC. Recently, [eric] had been fixing up an old IBM XT and quickly realized the original AdLib sound cards were collector’s items and far too expensive for what they were. He decided to build a reproduction Ad Lib. completely compatible and nearly identical to the original 1990 version of the best sound card on the market.

The first Ad Lib sound card is a relatively simple circuit based on the Yamaha YM3012 (OPL2) and YM3014B chips. These chips are frequently available on eBay, and [Sergey] already has a complete circuit for turning these chips into an ISA sound card. While this modern card is compatible with the AdLib Music Synthesizer Card, it doesn’t look like one. [eric] wanted a card that looked like the real thing, and sounded like one, too.

PCB design has come a long way in a generation, and where the AdLib card was once a wonder of modern technology, anyone with enough patience can now design an identical board, send the file off to China, and receive a reproduction of the first successful sound card. All the files are up on Github should you want to build your own. Now all we need is someone making modern 486 motherboards.


MIDI And Vintage FM Synthesis


Before the days when computers could play and record audio that far surpassed the quality of CDs, sound cards were very, very cool. Most audio chips from the 80s, from the Commodore SID is pretty much a synth on a chip, but you can also find similar setups in ancient ISA sound cards. [Emilio] pulled one of these cards with an ADLIB OPL2 chip on it, and used a PIC micro to create his very own FM synthesis synth (IT, translatatron, although Google is screwing up the formatting).

The Yamaha YM3812 chip, otherwise known as the OPL2, was a fairly complete synthesizer in a very tiny package using FM synthesis for some very unique sounds. Once [Emilio] had the PIC sending commands to the sound chip, he added MIDI support, allowing him to play this vintage ‘synth on a chip’ with a keyboard instead of a tracker.

Judging from the video below, it sounds great, and that’s with [Emilio] mashing the keys for a simple demo.

Continue reading “MIDI And Vintage FM Synthesis”