Founded by Martin Prevel, a former professor of music and vice-dean of the music department at the Université Laval, Ad Lib, Inc. was a manufacturer of sound cards and other computer equipment. The company's best known product, the AdLib Music Synthesizer Card (ALMSC), or simply the AdLib as it was called, was the first add-on sound card (on compatibles) to achieve widespread game-developer acceptance, becoming the first de facto standard for audio-reproduction.
Today the AdLib's functionality can be recreated with emulators such as AdPlug and VDMSound (the latter is no longer supported but its code has been incorporated into DOSBox).
After development work on the ALMSC had concluded, Prevel struggled to engage the development community with his company's new product. For example when he handed out development kits at trade shows, with the hopes of having them reach development staff at software companies, the attendees simply used the handouts as personal entertainment, or discarded them outright. Needless to say, the Adlib hardware was not reaching its intended audience, developers with the PC gaming industry.
Subsequently, Prevel engaged the assistance of Top Star Computer Services, Inc. (also known as TSCS), a New Jersey company that provided quality assurance services to game developers. Top Star's President, Rich Heimlich was sufficiently impressed by a product demonstration in Quebec in 1987 to endorse the product to his top customers. Sierra On-Line's King's Quest IV became the first game-title to support the AdLib. The game's high audio-production values, including a hired professional composer, riding on an already popular game-franchise, catapulted the AdLib card into mainstream media coverage. Soon, all game developers embraced the Adlib, hoping to give their software a competitive edge.
On the retail-channel side, most retail stores chains and wholesale distributor were selling AdLib sound cards by 1990.
The AdLib used Yamaha's YM3812 sound chip which produces sound via FM synthesis. The AdLib card consisted of a YM3812 chip with off-the-shelf external glue logic to plug into a standard PC-compatible ISA 8-bit slot.
PC software generated multitimbral music and sound effects through the AdLib card, although the acoustic quality was distinctly synthesized. Digital audio (PCM) was not supported, a key feature supported by later competition (such as the Creative Labs Sound Blaster.)
Full article ▸