Here's our Hardware Tip for.. July 16, 1999
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Sound cards perform two functions. First they take digital information and turn it into sound, outputting the sound through speakers. Second, they take sound that is input through a microphone and turn it into digital data. Sound cards are well named; they are cards that deal with sound.
In order to play and record sounds, a sound card needs to connect to at least a set of speakers and a microphone. Virtually all sound cards have four sockets for miniature audio jacks: microphone, speaker, line in, and line out. Many sound cards will also have a female 15-pin DB socket that allows you to directly connect to electronic musical instruments.
The microphone and speaker sockets are for connecting to a microphone and speakers. Line in allows a sound card to record from a stereo, tape recorder, etc, and line out allows the sound card to output to those same type of devices. On most systems, only the speaker and microphone sockets are used. Most PCs also have a small cable running between the sound card and the CD-ROM drive, which allows the CD-ROM drive to play audio CD-ROMs through the sound card, in essence turning your PC into a stereo system.