The Mockingboard is a sound card for the Apple II family of microcomputers built by Sweet Micro Systems. The standard Apple II machines never had particularly good sound, especially when compared to competitors like the SID chip-featuring Commodore 64. With the notable exception of the Apple IIGS, all an Apple II programmer could do was to form sounds out of single clicks sent to the speaker at specific moments, which made the creation of complex sounds extremely difficult to program and made it mostly impossible to do any other processing during the creation of sounds. Early (1978) hardware accessories such as ALF's Apple Music Synthesizer focused on producing only music. In 1981, Sweet Micro Systems began designing products not only for creating music, but speech and general sound effects as well. Its specialized hardware allowed programmers to create complex, high-quality sound without need for constant CPU attention. The Mockingboard could be connected to the Apple's built-in speaker or to external speakers. However, as the quality of the built-in speaker was not high, the instruction manual recommended obtaining external speakers.
The Mockingboard was available in various models for either the slot-based Apple II / Apple II Plus / Apple IIe systems or in one special model for the Apple IIc. Sound was generated through one or more AY-3-8910 or compatible sound chips, with one chip offering three square-wave synthesis channels. The boards could also be equipped with an optional speech chip (a Votrax SC-01 or compatible).
Some software products supported more than one Mockingboard. Ultima V supported two boards, for a total of 12 voices, of which it used eight. Most other programs supported at most one board with six voices.
There was a Mockingboard-compatible sound card from Applied Engineering, called the Phasor. It had 4 sound chips and thus provided 12 audio channels. Few programs supported using it for more than six voices, however.
In 2005, an Apple II retrocomputing hardware company, ReactiveMicro.com, cloned the Mockingboard and offered it for sale. It is also fairly easy to build a clone on a prototyping board, since the Mockingboard contains relatively few components.
- Sound I: one AY-3-8910 chip for three audio channels
- Speech I: one SC-01 chip
- Sound II: two AY-3-8910 chips for six audio channels
- Sound/Speech I: one AY-3-8910 and one SC-01
- Mockingboard A: two AY-3-8913 chips for six audio channels and two open sockets for SSI-263 speech chips
- Mockingboard B: SSI-263 speech chip upgrade for Mockingboard A
- Mockingboard C: two AY-3-8913 and one SSI-263 (essentially a Mockingboard A with the upgrade pre-installed, only one speech chip allowed)
- Mockingboard D: for Apple IIc only, not software compatible with the other Mockingboards, two AY-3-8913 and one SSI-263
- Mockingboard M: Bundled with Mindscape's Bank Street Music Writer, with two AY-3-8913 chips and an open socket for one speech chip. This model included a headphone jack and a jumper to permit sound to be played through the Apple's built-in speaker.
- Mockingboard v1: A clone of the Mockingboard A from ReactiveMicro.com