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NewRisingSun
January 7th, 2014, 09:44 AM
The PC version of MicroProse's Gunship in version 429.04 includes an advertisement for a sound card called "The Entertainer". Until now, no information on what it is and what it sounds like has been available. Having disassembled the game executable, it becomes obvious that The Entertainer must have been an earlier (but not completely compatible, see below) version of the Innovation SSI-2001, the sound card with the SID chip from the C64. As the "Entertainer" predates the Innovation by about a year, it would be the earliest PC sound card (save for the Mindscape Music Board, which seems to have been bundled with the only game that supports it).

The Innovation SSI-2001 has all 29 SID registers individually mapped at jumper-selectable I/O addresses 0x280-0x29D (default), 0x2A0-0x2BD, 0x2C0-0x2DD, 0x2E0-0x2FD. It also has a game port at the usual I/O address 0x201, which can be disabled.

The Entertainer on the other hand must have had all the SID registers fixed at 0x280-0x29D, as the game has those values hard-coded into the program code. But unlike the Innovation SSI-2001, it also must have had an I/O address for autodetection purposes: reading from I/O address 0x200 will return the value 0xA5. It is this value that causes Gunship to output data to the SID chip, with any other value returned causing it to play PC speaker (or Tandy/PCjr) sound instead. Since the Innovation SSI-2001 does not have this autodetection feature, Gunship does not use its SID chip. By patching the game's program files EGAME.EXE/CGAME.EXE/TGAME.EXE and TITLE.EXE replacing BA 00 02 EC with B8 A5 00 90, SID music can be heard with the Innovation SSI-2001 as well as DosBox SVN's emulation of the latter board. This patching method only works with game version 429.5 because previous versions have their program files encrypted as part of the copy protection scheme. (It will work with 429.4 once the encrypted program files have been decrypted.) The same patching procedure seems to work with all versions of Pirates! that I have checked (432.1, 432.2, and 432.3).

DosBox SVN's Innovation emuation should be updated to support said autodetection feature. This should be simple enough: when Innovation emulation is enabled, just make reads from I/O address 0x200 return 0xA5.

Trixter
January 7th, 2014, 10:19 AM
Excellent detective work, thank you!

Cloudschatze
January 7th, 2014, 12:16 PM
This is a pretty significant discovery, and I personally appreciate your efforts. :)

commodorejohn
January 7th, 2014, 06:11 PM
Interesting. Bob Yannes has said that he had thought Commodore could sell the SID chip to other hardware manufacturers, but I hadn't realized that that had reached a point where any developers were treating it as a serious prospect.

Cloudschatze
January 7th, 2014, 06:25 PM
For what it's worth, and per prior correspondence, at least one former MicroProse employee has said that he believes the "Entertainer" card never went to market. With its mention in Gunship 429.04 being the only known reference anywhere, this seems entirely likely, and could help to explain why the references weren't included with Gunship 429.05.

Maverick1978
January 8th, 2014, 07:30 AM
Makes me curious to know whether "The Entertainer" drivers would be compatible with the Jens's Catweasel MK4Plus with SIDs installed.

Not that I have one, mind you (wish I did)

NewRisingSun
January 8th, 2014, 07:55 AM
Hardly, given that the MK4Plus is PCI, not ISA, so it doesn't have a fixed port address.

Stiletto
January 8th, 2014, 10:02 AM
Serious congratulations are involved. This has been on my "must research" to-do list for AGES. Kudos! :smile:

commodorejohn
January 8th, 2014, 10:03 AM
Hardly, given that the MK4Plus is PCI, not ISA, so it doesn't have a fixed port address.
I wouldn't be too certain of that. There's plenty of PCI sound cards that are compatible with software expecting an ISA Sound Blaster clone, so there at least has to be a way for drivers to trap/remap accesses to particular ports.

geoffm3
January 8th, 2014, 10:10 AM
Interesting. Bob Yannes has said that he had thought Commodore could sell the SID chip to other hardware manufacturers, but I hadn't realized that that had reached a point where any developers were treating it as a serious prospect.

Well, if you can read anything into this, if you look at the SID datasheet it reads more like a component datasheet would if it were targeted toward system integrators rather than part of a specific system:

"The 6581 Sound Interface Device (SID) is a single-chip, 3-voice electronic music synthesizer/sound effects generator compatible with the 65XX and similar microprocessor families. SID provides wide-range, high-resolution control of pitch (frequency), tone color (harmonic content) and dynamics (volume). Specialized control circuitry minimizes software overhead, facilitating use in arcade/home video games and low-cost musical instruments"

Cloudschatze
January 8th, 2014, 11:35 AM
A review of the "Innovation Sound Standard," in the August, 1989 issue of Compute! (https://ia600701.us.archive.org/BookReader/BookReaderImages.php?zip=/35/items/1989-08-compute-magazine/Compute_Issue_111_1989_Aug_jp2.zip&file=Compute_Issue_111_1989_Aug_jp2/Compute_Issue_111_1989_Aug_0069.jp2), asserts that the Innovation card was "developed jointly by Innovation Computer and MicroProse." If true, this might explain the carryover of 0x280 as the default address.

NewRisingSun
January 8th, 2014, 11:59 AM
What a badly-written review. It completely avoids the question how the Innovation compares to the AdLib, even though the latter was already an "established standard", wasting precious space with the authors' cheesy little BASIC hackeries.

Cloudschatze
January 8th, 2014, 01:51 PM
What a badly-written review. It completely avoids the question how the Innovation compares to the AdLib, even though the latter was already an "established standard", wasting precious space with the authors' cheesy little BASIC hackeries.

Joey Latimer wrote an article in the April, 1990 edition of Compute! (https://archive.org/stream/1990-04-compute-magazine/Compute_Issue_119_1990_Apr#page/n23/mode/2up) that seems to be slightly more of a comparison feature at least. Though written just eight months after the earlier review, the Innovation card isn't mentioned at all, which should provide some insight as to its brief availablility in the marketplace.

Caluser2000
January 8th, 2014, 01:54 PM
Did any one else actually see one of these mythical beasts other than a journalist out in the wild?

NewRisingSun
January 8th, 2014, 02:40 PM
From the 1990 article that Cloudschatze linked:

"I was eager to see how the MT-32 handled the theme music to Leisure Suit Larry. After reinitializing the program to recognize the MT-32, I experienced the most beautiful music I'd ever heard coming from a computer program. The sounds reminded me of the New Age CDs I've heard."

WTF?

"To my ears, the Game Blaster sounds much like the Ad Lib, but in stereo---which is an improvement."

This guy can't be serious.

That's the second-dumbest sound card review I have ever read.

commodorejohn
January 8th, 2014, 03:17 PM
"I was eager to see how the MT-32 handled the theme music to Leisure Suit Larry. After reinitializing the program to recognize the MT-32, I experienced the most beautiful music I'd ever heard coming from a computer program. The sounds reminded me of the New Age CDs I've heard."

WTF?
I...I guess he's saying this because of the MT-32's being the little brother to Roland's legendary D-50, which was big in New Age music for close to a decade (especially the "Fantasia" preset which made into the GM set as #89 "New Age Pad,") but...uh, really? Is there any other point of comparison between New Age music and the Leisure Suit Larry soundtrack!?

Trixter
January 8th, 2014, 07:41 PM
That's the second-dumbest sound card review I have ever read.

Joey Latimer's strength was writing BASIC programs (see his extensive work in Family Computing magazine), not necessarily being a soundcard reviewer. He is also a guitar player, which may or may not influence your opinion of him.

There are a few games I remember as having CMS sound that competed closely with the Adlib version of the same soundtrack. For example, Times of Lore makes use of stereo, so while the instruments themselves are worse, the stereo separation is used quite nicely. TOL remains the only game I prefer CMS to Adlib. I also remember Taito's Qix making very good use of CMS. But yes, obviously Adlib is going to sound better 99.9% of the time.

There are Adlib-is-worse exceptions too... The soundtrack for Lollypop (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Vh4wnHCeNI) (listen to only the title tune in that link) was written for Adlib first, by guys (http://www.vibrants.dk/) who were truly OPL2 masters, and then the MT-32 was converted from that and sounded worse. But, same thing: MT-32 usually sounds better, roughly 90% of the time.

And then there are games where the soundtrack sucks for ALL supported devices, like E-Motion/The Game of Harmony :-)