The ISA bus contained signals that were very important to the communication between the sound card and the rest of the system. Some of these signals were no longer available on the PCI bus. In order to get around this limitation, many PCI sound card manufacturers employed virtualization, which required a TSR: a program to be loaded into memory and stay running there to relay the signals.
Creative went further and developed a hardware solution: take the signals that are normally fed to ISA cards and send them via a special cable to the PCI card. This is called by one of two names: PC/PCI or SB-LINK. The connector itself isn't proprietary. It's a standard 3x2 pin array.
3x2 IDC ribbon cables should be available online. Just be sure to get cables that are female on both ends.
PCI Sound Card Support
Despite developing a solution for the ISA signal problem, Creative only used it on one type of card: the Sound Blaster AWE64D. However, many Yamaha YMF724/744/754 based cards include the header as well. Some cards have pads for the PC/PCI connector, but lack the header. These cards may be capable of being modified to work with an added header.
|Labway||LWHA301J8, XWave 6000, A301-J8||YMF754||Header|
A few motherboard manufacturers provided these connectors on their products. Many of the entries in this list are added courtesy of a Vogons forum post on the subject.
They are most often found on motherboards with the VIA MVP3 and 440BX chipsets. It can be found on some motherboards with 845 chipsets, but this is far less common. Below, I've included some guidelines for particular companies.
It appears that Asus stopped putting these on their motherboards after the P3 product line. Only the P2 and P3 lines appear to have these connectors, and even then it's no guarantee. Definitely check photos.
QDI is one company that frequently used the PC/PCI connector, even through their first Pentium 4 boards. The BrillianX and PlatiniX product lines are two to look out for.
The QDI PlatiniX series of motherboards, which is entirely Intel 845 based, tends to have this connector. However, there are a few caveats. Here are some of the PlatiniX line that do not have the connector:
- Any of the motherboards that support 800 mHz FSB
- 7LI/C (the non-C variant appears to have it)
It's far more likely to find the connector on ATX boards and less likely on Micro ATX boards. Almost all variants of the 2 and 8 line will have it, except for those with 800 mHz FSB support. These boards will be easy to discern: they all have 800 in the name (e.g. PlatiniX 8GE/800.)
Additionally, QDI manufactured a number of motherboards with at least one ISA slot. These boards have "I" after the base model name (e.g. PlatiniX 2DI-AL/C.) ISA slots are not particularly important for the scope of this article, but it is interesting nonetheless.
|ECS||P6BAT-Me Rev:1.1||VIA VT82C596A||Header|
|Legend QDI||P6I440BX||Intel 440BX||Header|
|Legend QDI||P6V693A/A9||VIA VT82C693||Pads|
|Legend QDI||PlatiniX 2A||Intel 845||Header|
|Legend QDI||PlatiniX 2DI-AL/C||Intel 845GL||Header|
|Legend QDI||PlatiniX 2E/333||Intel 845PE||Header|
|Legend QDI||PlatiniX 2S||Intel 845||Header|
|Legend QDI||PlatiniX 7LI-A||Intel 845GL||Header|
|NMC||6BAX+ Rev:0.5||Intel 440BX||Header|
|NMC||6BCX+ Rev:0.3||Intel 440BX||Header|
|Soyo||SY-6BA+ IV||Intel 440BX||Header|
It's a real shame that this connector only began to appear just as the ISA bus was (finally) being phased out. Sound devices were the last major holdout for the transition to PCI, and for good reason: PCI just didn't have the signals needed in order to properly support DOS gaming. Windows slowly pushed DOS gaming out of the spotlight over time. At the turn of the millennium, most people had already moved to Windows, and sound support was provided through more sophisticated virtualization than was ever available through DOS. Most games moved to utilizing DirectX or WinMM.
While this connector was very short lived, it does provide a very useful bridge for gamers who are looking to build the most "modern" retro gaming machine possible while retaining hardware compatibility for the sound devices they love so much.
Many thanks to the active Vogons users who make gathering this information possible.