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MPC stands for Multimedia PC and represents a three-element series of standards for computers capable of running multimedia applications. Long-since outdated and superseded by even some handheld computers today, the MPC is nonetheless significant as a signpost in computer history. In addition, many multimedia peripherals still come marked as "MPC compliant" or are labeled with their MPC "level". The MPC logo (and a level number, once MPC 2 was released) was commonly found on multimedia applications (such as CD-ROM encyclopedias) and on game software, indicating that the title would work on a computer whose hardware met the applicable MPC specification.


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The MPC levels were initially created by the Multimedia PC Council, and was later taken over by the now-apparently-defunct MPC Working Group of the U.S.'s Software Publishers Association, a group whose primary purpose seems to have been to prevent software piracy. The Software Publisher's Association appears to have been subsumed by the Software & Information Industry Association, which makes no mention of the MPC standards on their website.

There have been three MPC standards, MPC, MPC 2, and MPC 3, 3 being the latest. Each new version of the MPC standard does not supersede the previous version, but rather signifies a new standard which defines greater capabilities. In other words, it was considered reasonable to release an MPC 2 title after the advent of MPC 3.

MPC (1)

Minimum requirements are a 16 MHz 386SX with 2 megabytes of RAM, a 30 MB hard disk drive, and a CD-ROM drive with a sustained data transfer rate of 150 KB/s (single speed) at no more than 40% of CPU bandwidth and reading at least 16 KB blocks. The maximum average seek time is 1 second and the Mean Time Between Failure (or MTBF) should be no less than 10,000 hours. The drive need only support Mode 1.

The computer must have 8-bit digital sound and an 8-note synthesizer with MIDI playback. Sample rates of 22.05 and 11.025 kHz must be supported while using no more than 10% of CPU bandwidth, preferably 44.1 kHz at no more than 15% of CPU bandwidth. The synthesizer must support multi-voice, multi-timbral generation of six simultaneous melody notes and two simultaneous percussive notes with internal mixing capabilities to combine input from three sources and present the output as a stereo, line-level audio signal at the back panel.

The video display must have a resolution of at least 640 x 480 in 16 colours.

The specification mandates that MIDI, I/O (serial and parallel), and joystick ports must be provided.

MPC 2

Minimum requirements are a 25 Mhz 486SX with 4 MB of RAM and at least a 160 MB hard disk drive. The CD-ROM drive must support a sustained data transfer rate of 300 KB/s (double speed) using at most 60% of CPU bandwidth on a 16 KB minimum block read size. Its average seek time must be 400 milliseconds maximum. The drive must support Mode 1, Mode 2 form 1, Mode 2 form 2, and multisession discs. It must be CD-ROM XA-ready.

The computer must have 16-bit digital sound, an 8-note synthesizer, and MIDI playback. A sample rate of 44.1 kHz must be available on stereo channels while using no more than 15% of the available CPU bandwidth.

A video display with a resolution of 640 x 480 in 65,536 colours (16 bpp) is required.

As with MPC 1, MIDI, I/O, and joystick ports must be provided.

MPC 3


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MPC3, being the latest version of the standard, is the closest to what we are using today without external compulsion from a standards body. While today it seems minimalistic at best, at the time of its advent it was more than many PCs had to offer.

Processor

The CPU must pass the MPC Test Suite. The MPC Test Suite can be passed by a 75 MHz Pentium(R) Processor with only level one cache.

RAM

8 MB required

Floppy Drive

3 1/2 inch, 1.44 MB floppy drive

Hard Drive

CD-ROM Drive

  • Sustained 600 KB/sec transfer rate (quad speed)
  • Average access time of 250 ms (in 4x mode)
  • No more than 40% of the CPU bandwidth may be consumed while maintaining a sustained transfer rate of 600 KB/sec and no more than 20% of the CPU bandwidth may be consumed while maintaining a transfer rate of 300 KB/sec. The CPU usage requirement should be achieved for read block sizes no less than 16 K and a lead time of no more than is required to load the CD-ROM buffer with 1 read block of data.
  • Must be capable of reading Compact Disc Audio (Red Book/CDDA) discs, as well as Compact Disc Mode 1 and Mode 2 discs, including mixed mode and multisession media as well as CD-ROM, CD-ROM XA, Photo CD, CD Recordable, Video CD and CD-i disks. Data must be transferred to the host system in block sizes of 2048, 2336 and/or 2352 bytes, as appropriate for each CD format. In addition, the drive and included driver software must be compatible with Microsoft's MSCDEX version 2.2 or later (or equivalent), implement the extended audio APIs and be capable of reading Q channel information.
  • CD-ROM drive with CD-DA (Red Book) outputs and volume control.
  • CD-ROM drive must have on-board buffers and implement read-ahead buffering.
  • Sequential access time: An application via the standard operating system access methods must have the ability to read sequential, error free, 16K blocks every 33.3 ms with each read taking no more than 13.3 ms.
  • Background CPU utilization: The driver must not use CPU cycles except in response to a host system request.

Audio

  • 16-bit Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) with: Linear PCM sampling; DMA or FIFO buffered transfer capability with interrupt on buffer empty; 44.1, 22.05 and 11.025 kHz sample rate mandatory; stereo (two) channels; no more than 10% of the CPU bandwidth required to output 22.05 and 11.025 kHz; it is recommended that no more than 15% of the CPU bandwidth be required to output 44.1 kHz.
  • 16 bit Analog-to-Digital Converter (ADC) with: Linear PCM sampling; 44.1, 22.05, and 11.025 kHz sample rate mandatory; DMA or FIFO buffered transfer capability with interrupt on buffer full; microphone input.
  • Wavetable capability required.
  • CPU utilization for 16 bit stereo sound and wavetable cannot exceed 10%.
  • Internal synthesizer capabilities with multi-voice, multi-timbral capacity , 6 simultaneous melody voices plus 2 simultaneous percussive voices.
  • Internal mixing capabilities to combine input from three (recommended four) sources and present the output as a stereo, line-level audio signal at the back panel. The four sources are: CD Red Book, synthesizer, DAC (waveform), and (recommended but not required) an auxiliary input source. Each input must have at least a 3-bit volume control (8 steps) with a logarithmic taper. (4-bit or greater volume control is strongly recommended.) If all sources are sourced with -10dB (consumer line level: 1 milliwatt into 600 ohms=0dB) without attenuation, the mixer will not clip and will output between 0 dB and +3 dB. Individual audio source and master digital volume control registers and extra line-level audio sources are highly recommended.
  • Speakers: If external speakers are included in the system, the following are required:
    • Must be at least a two-piece system.
    • Frequency Response from 120 Hz to 17.5 kHz.
    • Power rating must be measured and tested at a minimum of 3 watts/channel at 100Hz, 1kHz and 10kHz at 1% THD; 6 watts RMS (3W+3W) into 4 ohms, at 1% THD, at 1kHz, with both channels driven.
    • Sound pressure level must be measured at 1/2 -meter on axis from speaker and should be capable of an SPL of 92 dB from 250 HZ to 7.5 kHz.
    • Input connectors are as follows: 3.5 mm stereo jack where tip is left channel, sleeve is right channel and body is ground or audio input using 3.5 mm stereo jack with industry standard channel orientation, supplied with at least a six foot cable to attach to computer sound source. Speaker connector must be mono type where tip is positive and body is ground or left speaker output 3.5 mm mono jack where tip is positive and case is negative. If stereo headphone output jack is included, it must mute the speaker when headphone is used.
    • Noise ratio must be at least 65 dB
    • Input sensitivity requires no more than 300 millivolts for rated power output
    • Volume, treble and bass controls included
    • Input impedance must be greater than 5000 ohms
    • In a three-piece system, the satellites shall have the same requirements as above.
    • Subwoofer Requirements:
      • Frequency response must be at least 40 Hz to 250 Hz (+/- 3 dB)
      • Power minimum is 15 watts at 1% THD
      • Power ratings should be measured at 40 Hz and 100 Hz at 1% THD
      • Input sensitivity must be adjustable from 300 millivolts to one volt for maximum output power
      • Both inputs must be mixed in the woofer circuitry
      • Input impedance must be greater than 1000 ohms

Graphics Performance

  • Color space conversion and scaling capability are required.
  • Direct access to frame buffer for video-enabled graphics subsystem required with a resolution of 352 x 240 at 30 fps (or 352 x 288 at 25 fps) at 15 bits/pixel, unscaled, without cropping.
  • Test suite will test for acceptable graphics performance.

Video Playback

  • MPEG1 (hardware or software) with OM-1 compliance required
  • Direct access to frame buffer required with a resolution of 352 x 240 at 30 fps (or 352 x 288 at 25 fps) at 15 bits/pixel, unscaled, without cropping.
  • All codecs--hardware and/or software--must support a synchronized audio/video stream with a resolution of 320 x 240, 15 bits/pixel, 30 frames/second, unscaled, without dropping a frame.
  • Test suite will test for acceptable video playback performance

User Input

  • Standard 101 key IBM-style keyboard, with standard DIN connector, or keyboard which delivers identical functionality utilizing key-combinations.
  • Two-button mouse with bus or serial connector, with at least one additional communication port remaining free. I/O
  • Standard 9-pin or 25-pin asynchronous serial port, programmable up to 57.6K baud, switchable interrupt channel.
  • Standard 25-pin bi-directional parallel port with interrupt capability.
  • 1 MIDI port with In, Out, and through, must have interrupt support for input and FIFO transfer.
  • IBM style analog or digital joystick port.

System Software

  • Multimedia PC system software must offer binary compatibility with Windows 3.11.
  • System must offer binary compatibility with DOS version 6.0 or higher.

Systems, Upgrade Kits, and Components

The MPC 3 specification requires different pieces of the standard to be present before certifying either a complete system, an upgrade package, or just an individual component.

Minimum Full System Configuration

A full Multimedia PC Level 3 system requires the following elements and components, all of which must meet the full functional specifications outlined above.

  • CPU
  • RAM
  • Hard Drive
  • Floppy Drive
  • CD-ROM Drive
  • Audio
  • Graphics Performance
  • Video Playback
  • User Input
  • I/O
  • System Software

Minimum Upgrade Kit Configuration

A Multimedia PC Level 3 Upgrade Kit requires the following elements and components, all of which must meet the full functional specifications outlined above:

  • CD-ROM Drive
  • Audio
  • I/O

(Providing system software with Upgrade Kits is optional.)

Upgrade Components

Upgrade components must meet the full functional specifications outlined above.

  • Sound Card
    Must use MPC audio cable. (See below)
  • CD-ROM Drive
    Must use MPC audio cable. (See below)
  • Video Playback Card
  • Speakers

CD-ROM/Sound Card Audio Cable Standard for MPC Components

The following cable standards apply only to MPC components (CD-ROM drives or sound cards sold separately). Full systems and upgrade kits are not required to observe the following specification:

  • A Multimedia PC CD-ROM drive component must include a minimum 24 inch cable to connect the drive's analog audio output connector to an MPC sound card's analog audio input connector. The cable's open sound card connector must be a female 4 pin Molex 70066-G, 70400-G, or 70430-G connector with 2.54 mm pitch, or the equivalent, with the following pin assignments: pin 1- left signal, pin 2- ground, pin 3- ground, pin 4- right signal.
  • A Multimedia PC sound card component must be capable of mating with the CD-ROM audio cable by having a 2.54 mm pitch Molex 70553 male connector on the card (or the equivalent), or by including a short patch cable. The patch cable must plug into the non-standard sound card connector and have an open male connector (Molex 70107-A, or the equivalent) for attaching to the CD-ROM cable female connector. The pin assignments on the sound card connectors must be complementary to the CD-ROM audio cable connector.


References:

  1. Foldoc: MPC Level 1 Specification. (http://burks.brighton.ac.uk/burks/foldoc/20/76.htm)
  2. Foldoc: MPC Level 2 Specification. (http://burks.brighton.ac.uk/burks/foldoc/21/76.htm)
  3. Multimedia PC Level 3 Specification (Release 1.1). (http://www.trigon.com.au/mpc_3.htm)
  4. Disctronics Manufacturing Inc., MPC Standards. Disctronics Manufacturing Inc., 2000. (http://www.discusa.com/cdref/cd-rom/mpcspecs.htm)

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