From Academic Kids

This page is about the company and products named AdLib. See ad lib for information on the Latin phrase.

AdLib, Inc. was a manufacturer of sound cards and other computer equipment based out of Toronto; AdLib was also the name of its main product. It was the first de facto standard for sound cards on IBM PCs and compatibles. AdLib used the Yamaha YM3812 sound chip from Yamaha Corporation.

AdLib was founded by a former music teacher named Martin Prevel. Martin spent more than a year trying to convince the computer game development community to support his new product but lacking experience in the industry, he found it difficult to reach the right people within the community. He went to several computer shows handing out developer kits that included the AdLib card, several utilities meant to enjoy the card, development tools and instructions for how to develop for the card.

The problem was that these materials were being given out to attendees of the various computer shows. The attendees generally consisted of marketing, sales and press personnel. Instead of taking the developer kits back to their companies, most of these contacts simply took them home to use as personal entertainment or discarded them outright.

Martin later found a small company in southern New Jersey that provided quality assurance services to a wide array of game developers by the name of Top Star Computer Services, Inc., (also known as TSCS). Martin spoke with Top Star's President, Rich Heimlich, about his product and the difficulties he was encountering in getting the product into the hands of the right people. Martin believed that if Top Star saw merit in the product, Rich could make the key introductions to the right people within the industry needed to garner the necessary support.

Rich flew up to Toronto to get a demonstration of the product and shared Martin's enthusiasm. Upon returning home Rich contacted his top customers to convey his belief in the viability of this new product and that helped start the ball rolling. Within weeks a few of these developers started coding support for the card and the AdLib standard was born.

The AdLib standard was unofficially extended by Creative Labs with the addition of a digital effects channel and most importantly, a game port, subsequently branded as the Sound Blaster. Because the Adlib card was based upon a standard Yamaha part, Creative along with other third party clone manufacturers of the period, found no difficulty in producing hardware compatible parts.

Adlib were slow to respond, and instead of copying the updated 8-bit Soundblaster specification, or releasing an equivalent 8-bit refresh part, choose to spend time and money developing a wholly new proprietary 12-bit soundcard called the Adlib Gold. As the established brand name in the soundcard business, Adlib management were confident they could afford to do this. The effort, however, was doomed from the start.

AdLib was not a technology company, and lacked the skills necessary to design their own advanced card, so they chose to turn over development of their most important product offering to Yamaha. It's important to note that by the time of this deal Yamaha's biggest customer for music-based technology was not AdLib but Creative Labs. This conflict of interest played a significant part in the countless delays and problems that surfaced during the Gold's development process.

While a handful of games were produced supporting the Gold, largely based upon the brand name recognition of Adlib, sales were flat. The SoundBlaster card was significantly cheaper, enjoyed superior software support, and retained the dominant position in the marketplace.

Unable to sell significant volumes of their Yamaha-designed proprietary Gold chip, undercut on price by far eastern clone manufacturers on the basic card, and out featured by Creative's SoundBlaster card, in an event that rivals the demise of 3dfx for sheer surprise, Adlib went bankrupt.

As a result, the clone maker Creative Labs went on to become the industry standard by default, and subsequently developed its own proprietary standards based upon the revenues its basic, but wildly successful, Soundblaster product pt:AdLib


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