Making A Vintage 1990s Sound Board Do Rapid Fire Silently

Sometimes a mix of old and new is better than either the old or new alone. That’s what [Brad Carter] learned when he was given an old 1990s sound board with a noisy SCSI drive in it. In case you don’t know what a sound board is, think of a bunch of buttons laid out in front of you, each of which plays a different sound effect. It’s one way that radio DJ’s and podcasters intersperse their patter with doorbells and car crash sounds.

Before getting the sound board, [Brad] used a modern touchscreen table but it wasn’t responsive enough to get a machine gun like repetition of the sound effect when pressing an icon in rapid succession. On the other hand, his 1990s sound board had very responsive physical buttons but the SCSI hard drive was too noisy. He needed the responsiveness of the 1990s physical buttons but the silence of modern solid state storage.

And so he replaced the sound board’s SCSI drive with an SD card using a SCSI2SD adaptor. Of course, there was configuration and formatting involved along with a little trial and error to get the virtual drive sizes right. To save anyone else the same difficulties, he details all his efforts on his webpage. And in the video below you can see and hear that the end result is an amazing difference. Pressing the physical buttons gives instant sound and in machine gun fashion when pressed in rapid succession, all with the silence of an SD card.

A SCSI2SD card is a nice off-the-shelf solution but if you want something a little more custom then there’s a Raspberry Pi SCSI emulator and one which uses a Teensy with a NCR5380 SCSI interface chip.

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The Tiny SCSI Emulator

For fans of vintage computers of the 80s and 90s, SCSI can be a real thorn in the side. The stock of functioning hard drives is dwindling, and mysterious termination issues are sure to have you cursing the SCSI voodoo before long. Over the years, this has led to various projects that aim to create new SCSI hardware to fill in where the original equipment is too broken to use, or too rare to find.

[David Kuder]’s tiny SCSI emulator is designed for just this purpose. [David] has combined a Teensy 3.5 with a NCR5380 SCSI interface chip to build his device. With a 120MHz clock and 192K of RAM, the Teensy provides plenty of horsepower to keep up with the SCSI signals, and its DMA features don’t hurt either.

Now, many earlier SCSI emulation or conversion projects have purely focused on storage – such as the SCSI2SD, which emulates a SCSI hard drive using a microSD card for storage. [David]’s pulled that off, maxing out the NCR5380’s throughput with plenty to spare on the SD card end of things. Future work looks to gain more speed through a SCSI controller upgrade.

But that’s not all SCSI’s good for. Back in the wild times that were the 80s, many computers, and particularly the early Macintosh line, were short on expansion options. This led to the development of SCSI Ethernet adapters, which [David] is also trying to emulate by adding a W5100 Ethernet shield to his project. So far the Cabletron EA412 driver [David] is using is causing the Macintosh SE test system to crash after initial setup, but debugging continues.

It’s always great to see projects that aim to keep vintage hardware alive — like this mass repair of six Commodore 64s.