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Modplay

ModPlay

ModPlay was the first Protracker Module player that supported the PC speaker and soundcards other than the SoundBlaster. It let you play Amiga soundtracker, noisetracker, and protracker module files on a 10MHz 286 system or better. Modplay was written entirely in assembler code, running to over 11,000 lines of source code taking around 400 hours to produce. Modplay came with details and circuit diagrams for building parallel port DAC devices, amplifiers, and more. Although I didn't give out the source code, it was a completely freely distributable program.

Download Modplay v2.19b (101k)
Download Modplay v1.12 (10k)

The first coding on Modplay started on the 17th February 1991 and in April 1991 the first public version, 1.12, was released. Version 1.12 was pretty basic and didn't have an extensive user interface, but it did manage to do a good job of playing most mod files through a PC speaker or hardware attached to a parallel port.

Figure 1:
Users could move around directories and select which module to play. In later versions it displayed more information about a module and let you tag them in order to be played
Figure 2:
When playing, a simple bar graph would appear showing the four channels and the instruments being played

By September 1991 we were up to version 2.0 with a user interface and spectrum analyser display. I coded the analyser whilst I was meant to be studying for my degree, but it came in useful as a whole question on fast fourier transforms came up as one of my final paper questions.

The final public release was 2.19b which had the addition of a VGA graphical waveform viewer, configuration file support, and the ability to play mod files in the background. A customized version of ModPlay was also distributed with Covox soundcards in the USA, until they went bust and with the Infocom game "Leather Goddesses of Phobos II"

Figure 3:
A text based real spectrum analyser that could even keep up on an old 286 processor

I still did some work on Modplay every now and again, and internally I had version 2.49 released in August 1992 which had better handling of the mod commands, conversion from a .com to a .exe (thats a big internal change), and more configuration file work. I also added a mode to dump a mod file to a stereo WAV file so that I could convert mod files to listen to in my car CD player.

Figure 4:
The main user interface. Text boxes would pop up to give help or change output device
Figure 5:
When playing a file the bar graph looks similar to version 1.12 but with the addition of a scrolling music chart (like one of those automatic pianos)
Figure 6:
You could load any GIF file and have it as the background whilst watching the graphical waveform display, here each channel is shown seperately

By 1992 sound cards had become cheaper, and Windows was getting popular, so working on Modplay didn't make much sense. Many friends spent time helping out with bits of Modplay, testing it, or making suggestions; particular note goes to U4ia (Now called f8), whose mod files inspired me and tested ModPlay to destruction, also Paul Sutton and Phil Copeland who shared a student house with me whist all this was going on.

Created: 01 Jan 2003