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The PC to MIDI Connection


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The PC to MIDI Connection


To use MIDI with a personal computer, a PC to MIDI interface product is generally required (there are a few personal computers which come equipped with built-in MIDI interfaces). There are a number of MIDI interface products for PCs.

A D V E R T I S E M E N T
The most common types of MIDI interfaces for IBM compatibles are add-in cards which plug into an expansion slot on the PC bus, but there are also serial port MIDI interfaces (connects to a serial port on the PC) and parallel port MIDI interfaces (connects to the PC printer port). Most other popular personal computers will use a serial port connection.

The fundamental function of a MIDI interface for the PC is to convert parallel data bytes from the PC data bus into the serial MIDI data format and vice versa (a UART function). However, "smart" MIDI interfaces may provide a number of more sophisticated functions, such as generation of MIDI timing data, MIDI data buffering, MIDI message filtering, synchronization to external tape machines, and more.

The specific interface design used has some specific importance to the multimedia market, due to the need for essentially transparent operation of games and other applications which use General MIDI. GM does not define how the game is supposed to connect with the synthesizer, so sound-card standards are also needed to assure proper operation. While some PC operating systems provide device independence, this is not true of the typical IBM-PC running MS-DOS, where hardware MIDI interface standards are required.

The defacto standard for MIDI interface add-in cards for the IBM-PC is the Roland MPU-401 interface. The MPU-401 is a smart MIDI interface, which also supports a dumb mode of operation (often referred to as "UART mode"). There are a number of MPU-401 compatible MIDI interfaces on the market, some which only support the UART (dumb) mode of operation. In addition, many IBM-PC add-in sound cards include built-in MIDI interfaces which implement the UART mode functions of the MPU-401.

PC Compatibility Issues

There are two levels of compatibility which must be considered for MIDI applications running on the PC. First is the compatibility of the application with the MIDI interface being used. The second is the compatibility of the application with the MIDI synthesizer. For the purposes of this tutorial we will be talking only about IBM-PC and compatible systems, though much of this information can also be applied to other PC systems. Compatibility considerations under DOS and the Microsoft Windows operating system are discussed in the following paragraphs.

MS-DOS Applications

MS-DOS applications which utilize MIDI synthesizers include MIDI sequencing software, music scoring applications, and a variety of games. In terms of MIDI interface compatibility, virtually all of these applications support the MPU-401 interface, and most only require the UART mode. These applications should work correctly on any compatible PC equipped with a MPU-401, a full-featured MPU-401 compatible, or a sound card with a MPU-401 UART-mode capability. Other MIDI interfaces, such as serial port or parallel port MIDI adapters, will only work if the application provides support for that particular model of MIDI interface.

A particular application may provide support for a number of different models of synthesizers or sound modules. Prior to the General MIDI standard, there was no widely accepted standard patch set for synthesizers, so applications generally needed to provide support for each of the most popular synthesizers at the time. If the application did not support the particular model of synthesizer or sound module that was attached to the PC, then the sounds produced by the application might not be the sounds which were intended. Modern applications can provide support for a General MIDI (GM) synthesizer, and any GM-compatible sound source should produce the correct sounds.



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Keywords: The PC to MIDI Connection, MIDI, MIDI, MIDI tutorial, MIDI tutorial pdf, history of MIDI, Custamizing Style Sheet, learn MIDI

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