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My letter to Ad Lib MultiMedia, Inc. in 1994

Back in 1993, I saw the following ad in Sierra On-Line's InterAction magazine:

Ad Lib MultiMedia, Inc. ad in Interaction magazine

I'll write a lot more about this specific ad and the Ad Lib (pun not intended, I think...) company and products, in future The Vault articles. I have done quite a bit of research on them over the years.

Around 1994 it was already clear that Ad Lib MultiMedia, Inc. had lost the soundcard market, that they (or at least their predecessors at Ad Lib, Inc.) helped creating themselves, to Creative Labs with their Sound Blaster range of cards. I think I sent my letter mere months before they closed the doors for a second time.

Some history lessions: Ad Lib, Inc., the company that released the popular AdLib Music Synthesizer Card and developed the Ad Lib Gold card, folded shortly before they could release the Gold card. The company re-emerged as Ad Lib MultiMedia, Inc. around 1992 and it was this company that finally released the Ad Lib Gold 1000 card to the market. I believe they let go of all original hardware engineers, software developers and possibly (about) all other personnel as well, during the takeover.

PS: I really should scan those documents properly one day. Sorry for the poor quality of the photographs. If you're an archivist and/or simply still would like to share the photos on your own site, post them on a forum, and/or even place them on social media, feel free to do so. I'd appreciate it greatly if you'd credit me and link back to my site. Note that I can gladly provide links to higher-resolution images on request.

In my letter to them (which is lost in time), I recall I asked if they had plans to release a Visual Composer and Instrument Maker for the Ad Lib Gold card. And I asked about the availability of an Ad Lib Gold Software Developers Kit (SDK), and I believe some more specific questions about developing for the Gold card.

A few weeks (or months, I really don't remember, but international mail used to be slow in those days...), the following envelope was delivered to my (then) home address:

Photo of the envelope

As we will quickly see, my questions were about all ignored.

I have learned since, that Ad Lib, Inc. developed AdLib Visual Composer II (very likely, solely for MS-DOS) internally to compose the RL2 songs supplied with the card. RL2 ("ROL version 2") songs used both the stereo FM chips and 12-bit digital audio features of the Gold and could only be played back with the JukeBox Gold DOS text-mode program, that was part of the software supplied with the card. I don't think there was ever any other software that could read or play back those files. It's possible that Ad Lib, Inc. originally planned to release Visual Composer II as a commercial product to the general public later, but that release never happened. This software was never leaked to the public, to the best of my knowlege.

I'm pretty sure that the Instrument Maker II package was actually part of the DOS software suite, that was bundled with the Ad Lib Gold soundcard. Interestingly enough, Instrument Maker II apparently retained its original low-res black/white CGA graphical user-interface from the original Ad Lib Instrument Maker product from 1986!

Back to the response of Ad Lib MultiMedia, Inc. from Canada to my letter...

Photo of the letter

My specific questions were ignored, but at least they sent me some information on the Ad Lib Gold soundcard.

One of the signs that they didn't have a big marketing budget at this point anymore (although I bet those magazine ads weren't that cheap!), is probably that they sent me a cheap black/white Xerox'd copy of their brochure. I assume they ran out of officially printed ones. To their credit, they still replied to a snail-mail letter from a potential Dutch customer, that showed some interest in their products.

Photo of the brochure (front)

See the misspelled "With Soud Blaster Simulator" caption. Is it possible this text was added after the brochure was originally printed?

I believe there's more to be said about this Sound Blaster Simulator. I never personally owned the card, unfortunately, but I remember finding unzipped Ad Lib Gold floppy disks floating around on the web and reading its documentation, mentioning it was beta and hearing reports that it worked rather poorly in practice. It was not developed by Ad Lib, Inc. or Ad Lib Multimedia, Inc., from what I understood, But don't quote me on this, I never have even seen the card and/or the supplied software running in person myself.

Photo of the brochure (back)

As a hi-fi enthusiast, I absolutely adore the "Don't BLAST your SOUND anymore" branding!

Interestingly, they still mentioned the Surround module in this brochure. It is believed that not many of those curious add-on modules were produced and sold to the public. No mention of the SCSI module (unless that's part of the mentioned CD-ROM Adapter Kit), or telephone voice module, that were announced originally, but likely never officially released at all.

"DOS based applications supporting Ad Lib Gold are becoming so numerous that we're losing count"... yikes!

I don't have much else to say about this part of the brochure.

Photo of the included offer

Amusingly, they consistently misspelled their own soundcard, "MCS" vs "MSC" (Music Synthesizer Card). Also, kinda wonder why they did not accept credit cards for that particular offer.

I thought some of you would find this somewhat interesting. Probably not that many people that kept their mail from the early '90s from now long defunct consumer companies!