Sound Cards

Sound is a relatively new capability for PCs because no-one really considered it when the PC was first designed. The original IBM-compatible PC was designed as a business tool, not as a multimedia machine, so it’s hardly surprising that nobody thought of including a dedicated sound chip in its architecture. Computers, after all, were seen as calculating machines; the only kind of sound necessary was the beep that served as a warning signal. For years, the Apple Macintosh had built-in sound capabilities far beyond the realms of the early PC’s beeps and clicks, and PCs with integrated sound are a recent phenomenon.

By the second half of the 1990s PCs had the processing power and storage capacity for them to be able to handle demanding multimedia applications. The sound card too underwent a significant acceleration in development in the late 1990s, fueled by the introduction of AGP and the establishment of PCI-based sound cards. Greater competition between sound card manufacturers – together with the trend towards integrated sound – has led to ever lower prices. However, as the horizons for what can be done on a PC get higher and higher, there remain many who require top-quality sound. The result is that today’s add-in sound cards don’t only make games and multimedia applications sound great, but with the right software allow users to compose, edit and mix their own music, learn to play the instrument of their choice and record, edit and play digital audio from a variety of sources.

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