The job of the audio circuitry in your computer is to set the air in motion, making sounds that you can hear to alert you, to entertain you, and to amaze you. Computers have had sound circuitry from the very beginning. But in the beginning of computers, as in the beginning of life on earth, things were primitive, about the audio equivalent of amoebic blobs bobbing along en masse in black swamps. From humble beginnings, however, computer sound systems have evolved to parity with the stuff in all but the best and most esoteric stereo systems.

From the standpoint of a computer, sound is foreign stuff. Indeed, it's something that happens to stuff—air—while the computer deals with the non-stuff of logical thoughts. Video images are much more ...

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