Because no one envisioned
sound as a business necessity, the only provision early PCs made for
sound was a $0.29 speaker driven by a square-wave generator to
produce beeps, boops, and clicks sufficient for prompts and warnings.
Reproducing speech or music was out of the question. Doing that
required an add-on
sound card, and those were
quick to arrive on the market as people began playing games on their
PCs. The early AdLib and Creative SoundBlaster sound cards were
primitive, expensive, difficult to install and configure, and poorly
supported by the OS and applications. By the early
’90s, however, sound cards had become mainstream
items that shipped with most PCs. By 2001 most motherboards included
at least basic embedded audio.
Properly, the term sound card applies to expansion cards, while sound adapter applies to any component used to provide PC audio, whether as an expansion card or as a device embedded on the motherboard. But like most people, we use these terms interchangeably.
With a sound adapter and appropriate software, a PC can perform various tasks, including:
Playing audio CDs, either directly or from compressed digital copies of the CD soundtracks stored as MP3 files on your hard disk.
Playing stereo music, sound effects, and/or voice prompts in games, education, training, and presentation software, as well as for operating system prompts, warnings, and other events.
Capturing dictation to a document file, adding voice annotations to ...