How to Make Your Own Gameport to MIDI Cable

Written by matt gerrard
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How to Make Your Own Gameport to MIDI Cable
Joysticks use the same type of analogue input signals as MIDI instruments, meaning the female port on the PC is compatible with either. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

MIDI signals are one of the fundamentals of PC-based music creation, and it's far easier to program and manipulate MIDI if you have appropriate hardware. Keyboards, drum pads and studio control surfaces all use the MIDI protocol, and while many possess USB ports, older devices may require you to use your sound card's joystick port as an input. Using your joystick port may also allow you to add an extra instrument, or negate the need for a bulky MIDI interface. With some integrated circuit experience, it is possible to create a MIDI interface using a 15-pin D-Sub connector.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • MIDI cable with 5 Pin female DIN connectors
  • Wire cutters/strippers
  • Self-adhesive labels
  • Soldering Iron
  • Solder
  • Electrical wire
  • 1N4148 Diode
  • 4 220E Resistors
  • HP 6N138 Optoisolator
  • DB15 15-Pin D-Sub Connector

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  1. 1

    Fold the MIDI cable in half and cut it using the wire cutters. Strip half an inch of insulation from ends of both cut cable segments. Designate one half of the cable as the MIDI "In," and the other half as MIDI "Out." Use small adhesive labels to mark each cable.

  2. 2

    Heat the soldering iron, and solder a pair of wires to pins four and five on the MIDI "In" connector. Connect one of the resistors to the wire running from pin five. Solder the diode between the wires, so they resemble a capital "H." Its positive contact should be connected to the pin four wire, and the negative to the pin five wire. Connect the ends of the two wires to push sockets two and three on the Optoisolator board.

  3. 3

    Connect socket number five on the Optoisolator to the ground contact on the circuit board. The Optoisolator will have a Voltage Collector line attached to it. This is similar to the ground contact in function, but it carries a voltage in order to balance the voltages over the whole circuit. All three plugs are connected to the VCC line directly or indirectly. The D-Sub connector and the "Out" plug each have a pin wired directly to it, the "In" plug just passes through the Optoisolator first.

  4. 4

    Connect the VCC line to pin 15 on the D-sub connector. Solder a resistor into the VCC line, and connect a wire to the other side of the resistor. Connect the wire on the D-Sub side of the resistor to socket six on the IC, and the wire on the VCC side to IC socket eight.

  5. 5

    Connect pin two from the MIDI "Out" connector to the ground contact on the circuit board. Solder resistors to MIDI pins four and five. Connect pin four to the VCC line, and pin five to pin 12 on the D-Sub connector. Connect pin five on the D-Sub connector to the ground contact.

Tips and warnings

  • Always use hand and eye protection when working with a soldering iron, hot solder can throw off tiny hot fragments of metal.

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