Modder adds ISA slot to modern PC for retro gaming goodness

Shawn Knight

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Staff member
In a nutshell: Interested in reliving the glory days of DOS gaming but don't have an old computer that supports ISA sound cards and have no interest in going the emulation route? You're in luck as YouTuber TheRasteri has published a guide on how to add an ISA slot to modern motherboards.

The Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) slot was introduced on the IBM PC in 1981 and served as the primary expansion interface for peripherals like graphics and sound cards for years. It was eventually replaced by the PCI slot although some boards retained a legacy ISA slot well into the late 90s.

As the YouTuber explains, DOS games expect a sound card to be in an ISA. That's a problem on virtually every modern motherboard but it's not necessarily insurmountable. With the right combination of components, it's possible to build your own ISA expansion card and connect it directly to your motherboard.

The secret lies in the Low Pin Count (LPC) bus, an often forgotten bus used to handle lower-speed legacy devices like floppy drives. It operates much like ISA and best yet, it is usually accessible via the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) header.

TheRasteri explains how to build your own LPC to ISA bridge adapter dubbed The DISAppointment that can be used to connect a legacy ISA sound card to your modern gaming rig and play DOS games like it's 1995 all over again.

The modder said it's not super hard to create the board but you will need to be able to handle fine-pitch surface mount work. All of the requisite parts can easily be sourced online, and of course you'll want to make sure the target system is supported before diving in. Everything else you might need can be found over on GitHub. From there, there's nothing to it but to do it.

Is this the sort of project you'd be interested in tackling, or is the juice not worth the squeeze? Perhaps it'd just be easier to drag an old machine out of the closet or piece together a retro gaming rig from parts sourced on eBay?

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The glory days of DOS gaming were, if memory serves, and I think it does in this case, figments of highly accelerated hindsight-only imaginations...;)
I'm impressed. But I'm also going to continue using DOSbox whenever I get the urge to play an old DOS game. Which is very seldom these days...