5150: Setting up SoundBlaster


Overview of 8-bit ISA SoundBlaster

SoundBlaster 2.0 = CT1350B 8-bit ISA (with joystick port). These same notes should apply to the SB 1.0 and 1.5 ISA cards. Like a Model F keyboard, original 8-bit SoundBlaster cards can be hard to find.

I keep the SoundBlaster in the system for two reasons: (1) that an audio player was created that can play MOD music faster enough even on a 4.77mhz 5150 and (2) the board also has a game controller adapter.

The best source of info for anything about the SoundBlaster (including driver support) is the VOGONS website.


The earliest IBM PC title with Adlib/SB support is KING’S QUEST IV (1988). There is an AGI and SCI version of this game, both developed in parallel at the same time. The AGI was for packaging on 5.25″ disks and for “less capable” systems. The SCI version includes the Adlib/SB support, but will struggle to run on a 4.77 MHz IBM PC 5150 (very slow to play)

Lemmings is another early software title (1990) that supports the SoundBlaster, and also Commander Keen 4.

Playing MOD Music

There are two excellent 8088 compatible MOD music players. Actually there are many such players (I tried about 20 of them), but only two are well written enough to function on a 4.77 MHz original IBM PC 5150. They are:

  • MOD Master
  • GLX

Both have interesting features. I do prefer MOD Master because it does a better job of making play lists. However, I read through the GLX manual and found a very interesting feature: Pressing S to Shell to DOS, which I’ll describe a little bit further below.

Below is what GLX looks like… (run it with “GLX /oSB /m11” command line arguments for a SoundBlaster on a 4.77mhz system)

The Shell to DOS feature is very amazing, since it effectively lets you multi-task while playing MOD music files. The MOD playback essentially becomes like a TSR (Terminate Stay Resident) background program. From the DOS shell that is spawned, you can navigate directory folders, manage files. You can even run “light” application – like EDITOR or LIST to view a text file (I was reading the GLX.DOC text document while in a Shell). You can play some simple text-resolution games (text-games themselves or games that use text-modes, like BEAST or Tetris). You can use certain applications, like early versions of Lotus 1-2-3 and VisiCalc, perhaps even TheDRAW. I didn’t try the mTCP applications (telnet, IRC, etc.), but there is a chance they might work.

So that’s really amazing, that you can play MOD music (at 11khz) and still have left over performance. Which, of course, is what the 8088 Domination demo was all about.

MOD Master is also a very excellent audio file player. Remember, these are audio formats from the Amiga scene, or formats that pre-date formats like MP3 and WAV. MOD Master has mouse support, and lets you select a group of files to play. So I see MOD Master as better for using the machine as a Music Jukebox, while I think GLX might be better suited for real-time mixing (you can select the next song to play while the current one is playing).

Here is what MODM (MOD Master) looks like:

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