MSX

From Academic Kids

MSX is the name of a standard for home computers in the 1980s (see also 'The Home Computer Era' in the History of computing hardware).

Missing image
Msx.png
MSX official logo
Contents

Overview

MSX was conceived by Kazuhiko Nishi of Microsoft Japan, now ASCII Corporation, who was attempting to create a single standard by which any company could build a compatible computer. Inspired by the success of VHS as a standard for video cassette recorders, many Japanese electronic manufacturers along with Philips and Spectravideo built and promoted MSX computers. Any piece of hardware or software with the MSX logo on it was compatible with MSX products of other manufacturers.

Nishi's standard consisted primarily of several off-the-shelf parts, the main CPU was the Zilog Z80 running at 3.58MHz, graphics were provided by the Texas Instruments TMS9918, in use in their own failed TI-99 and the Colecovision, and sound by the General Instruments AY-3-8910. None of these were particularly advanced examples of contemporary design, although when Nishi proposed the standard in 1982 they added up to a reasonably competitive machine.

History

In the 1980s Japan was in the midst of a powerful economic awakening that many in the 'western world' thought unstoppable -- a new yellow peril as it were. The large Japanese electronics firms should have been able to crush the early computer market had they made a concerted effort to do so in the late 1970s. Their combined design and manufacturing power would have allowed them to produce better and cheaper machines than anyone else. But they initially ignored the home computer market and seemed to be very hesitant to do any work where there wasn't some sort of standard in place.

Thus when MSX was announced and a slew of big Japanese firms announced their plans to introduce machines, it set off a wave of panic in the US industry. However, the Japanese companies avoided the intensely competitive U.S. home computer market, which was in the throes of a Commodore-led price war. Only Spectravideo briefly marketed an MSX machine in the U.S., which was not successful.

Consequently, MSX never became the worldwide standard that its makers envisioned, mainly because it never took off in the United States. In Japan and Korea, MSX was the major home computer system in the 1980s. It was also popular in several European countries (especially in The Netherlands), South Korea and Brazil and even in Arab countries and the Soviet Union.

The exact meaning of the 'MSX' abbreviation remains a matter of debate. At the time, most people seemed to agree it meant 'MicroSoft eXtended', referring to the built-in MSX-BASIC programming language, specifically written by Microsoft for the MSX system. However, the truth, according to Kazuhiko Nishi during a more recent visit to Tilburg in the Netherlands, MSX stands for 'Machines with Software eXchangeability'. The MSX-DOS disk operating system had file compatibility with CP/M and was similar to MS-DOS. In this way, Microsoft could promote MSX for home use while promoting MS-DOS based personal computers in office environments.

MSX spawned four generations: MSX 1 (1983), MSX 2 (1986), MSX 2+ (1988) and MSX turbo R (1990). The first three were 8-bit computers based on the Z80 microprocessor, while the MSX turbo R was based on an enhanced Zilog Z800 known as the R800. The turbo R was introduced in 1990 but was unsuccessful due to lack of support from any other company. In 1995 the production of this last MSX computer stopped as well. In the end, 5 million MSX computers were sold.

In 2001, Kazuhiko Nishi initiated an 'MSX Revival' around an official MSX emulator called 'MSX PLAYer'. This is the one and only official MSX emulator. All MSX copyrights are maintained by the MSX Association (http://msxa.fcm.co.jp/). As the MSX Revival was a Japanese-only event in the beginning, many people didn't really have faith in the MSX Revival. In 2004, the Dutch company Bazix (http://www.bazix.nl/) announced they had become the representatives of MSX Association (http://msxa.fcm.co.jp/) in Europe. Apart from being the English contact for any questions regarding the MSX trademarks and copyrights (licensing) they will also introduce WOOMB.net (http://www.woomb.net/), a place where MSX games will soon be on sale again. In Japan game sales are already going on, by a company called D4 Enterprise (http://www.d4e.co.jp/) with their Project EGG (http://www.soft-city.com/egg/).

MSX trivia

  • The birthday of the MSX Home Computer Standard is June 27th, 1983. On that day it was formally announced during a press-conference.
  • MSX 1 computers were very similar to the late Colecovision videogame consoles. In common they had the CPU and video processors. The sound processor is very similar also. No wonder some games (e.g. Antarctic Adventure and Zaxxon) were identical on both platforms. A Colecovision emulator for MSX exists.
  • By far, most popular and famous MSX games were written by Japanese software-house Konami.
  • As MSX's processor, the Zilog Z80A, could address up to 64 kbytes, the default allocation (used in most, if not all models) was lower 32 kbytes for ROM BASIC and upper 32 kbytes for RAM. Machines intended to run MSX-DOS (a CP/M-like system) had 64 kbytes RAM, but the lower 32 kbytes were disabled in order to the ROM BASIC to function. When the computer booted MSX-DOS, the ROM BASIC was disabled and all the 64-kbyte address space was mapped to RAM.
  • Among MSX-DOS compatible software there were dBase II, Turbo Pascal version 3 and Wordstar. Therefore, in the late 80's, several Brazilian companies have used a MSX as their "corporate" computer. As MSX 1 original video could display only 40x25 text, there were expansion kits that upgraded the display to 80x25, giving MSX a more professional appeal. MSX 2 & up were never mainstream in Brazil, and at their time, the IBM PC (mainly in the form of Taiwanese clones) overtook that market completely.
  • MSX1 games were published mainly on cartridge and cassette tape. Later in the 1980s the MSX2 was released, most of which had 3.5 inch disk drives, and consequently the popular media for games and other software shifted to diskettes and cartridges.

Franchises established on the MSX

Several popular video game franchises were established on the MSX:

Others got various installments on MSX:

Manufacturers of MSX computers

System specs

MSX 1

MSX 2

  • Processor: Zilog Z80A running at 3.58 MHz
  • ROM: 48 kB
    • BIOS + Extended BIOS (32 kB)
    • MSX BASIC V2.0 (16 kB)
    • DiskROM (16 kB) (optional)
    • MSX-Audio BIOS (32kB) (optional)
  • RAM: commonly 128 kB (64 kB on Japanese computers)
    • Memory mapped (4 MB/slot max)
  • Video Display Processor: Yamaha V9938 (aka MSX-Video)
    • Video RAM: 128 kB (sometimes 64 kB or 192 kB)
    • Text modes: 80 x 24 and 32 x 24
    • Resolution: 512 x 212 (16 colours out of 512) and 256 x 212 (256 colours)
    • Sprites: 32, 16 colours, max 8 per horizontal line
    • Hardware acceleration for copy, line, fill, etc.
    • Interlacing to double vertical resolution
    • Vertical scroll register
  • Sound chip: General Instruments AY-3-8910 (PSG)
    • 3 channels + noise
  • Clock chip RP5C01

MSX 2+

  • Only officially released in Japan (available in Europe and Brazil via upgrades)
  • Processor: Zilog Z80 compatible running at 3.58 MHz or more (5.37 MHz versions were available)
  • ROM: 64 kB
    • BIOS + Extended BIOS (32 kB)
    • MSX BASIC V3.0 (16 kB)
    • DiskROM (16 kB)
    • Kun-BASIC (16 kB) (optional)
    • Kanji ROM (optional)
  • RAM: commonly 64 kB (on Japanese computers)
    • Memory mapped (4 MB/slot max)
  • Video Display Processor: Yamaha V9958 (aka MSX-Video)
    • Video RAM: 128 kB
    • Text modes: 80 x 24 and 32 x 24
    • Resolution: 512 x 212 (16 colours out of 512) and 256 x 212 (19268 colours)
    • Sprites: 32, 16 colours, max 8 per horizontal line
    • Hardware acceleration for copy, line, fill, etc.
    • Interlacing to double vertical resolution
    • Horizontal and vertical scroll registers
  • Sound chip: General Instruments AY-3-8910 (PSG)
    • 3 channels + noise
  • Optional sound chip: Yamaha YM2413 (OPLL) (MSX-Music)
    • 9 channels FM or 6 channels FM + 5 drums
    • 15 pre-set instruments, 1 custom
  • Clock chip RP5C01

MSX turbo R

  • Only released in Japan
  • Processor: R800 running at 7.14 MHz
  • Processor: Zilog Z80A running at 3.58 MHz
  • ROM: 96 kB
    • BIOS + Extended BIOS (48 kB)
    • MSX BASIC V4.0 (16 kB)
    • DiskROM (16 kB)
    • Kun-BASIC (16 kB)
    • Kanji ROM (256 kB)
    • Firmware (4 MB)
  • RAM: 256 kB (FS-A1ST) or 512 kB (FS-A1GT)
    • Memory mapped (4 MB/slot max)
    • Additionally 16 kB of SRAM (battery-powered)
  • Video Display Processor: Yamaha V9958 (aka MSX-Video)
    • Video RAM: 128 kB
    • Text modes: 80 x 24 and 32 x 24
    • Resolution: 512 x 212 (16 colours out of 512) and 256 x 212 (19268 colours)
    • Sprites: 32, 16 colours, max 8 per horizontal line
    • Hardware acceleration for copy, line, fill, etc.
    • Interlacing to double vertical resolution
    • Horizontal and vertical scroll registers
  • Sound chip: General Instruments AY-3-8910 (PSG)
    • 3 channels + noise
  • Sound chip: Yamaha YM2413 (OPLL) (MSX-Music)
    • 9 channels FM or 6 channels FM + 5 drums
    • 15 pre-set instruments, 1 custom
  • Sound chip: PCM
    • 8-bit single channel (no DMA), 16kHz max
    • Microphone built-in
  • Sound chip: MIDI in/out (FS-A1GT only)
  • Clock chip

Peripherals

MSX-Audio

  • Yamaha Y8950, also known as:
    • Panasonic: MSX-Audio (standard name)
    • Philips: Music Module (no MSX-Audio Basic)
    • Toshiba: MSX FM-synthesizer Unit (no sample RAM, no MSX-Audio Basic)
  • 9 channels FM or 6 channels FM + 5 drums
  • ADPCM record and play
  • 32 kB of sample RAM, which can be upgraded to 256 kB

MSX-Music

  • Yamaha YM2413 (OPLL), also known as:
    • MSX-Music (standard name)
    • Panasonic: FM-PAC
    • Zemina: Music Box
    • Checkmark: FM-Stereo-Pak
  • 9 channels FM or 6 channels FM + 5 drums
  • 15 pre-set instruments, 1 custom
  • Built-in in many MSX 2+ computers and the MSX turbo R

See also

External links

  • MSX Resource Center (http://www.msx.org/)
  • The Ultimate MSX FAQ (http://faq.msxnet.org/)
  • Generation MSX (http://www.generation-msx.nl/)
  • MSX Association (http://www.msxa.org/)
  • ASCII Corporation (http://www.ascii.co.jp/)
  • Sunrise Foundation (http://www.msx.ch/sunformsx/) - The main hardware producer and software distributor for MSX, which amongst others made and sells the famous MoonSound and Graphics9000 boards. Also creator of the popular CompactFlash IDE interface.
  • MSX Projetos (http://www.msxprojetos.com.br/) - Brazilian site (Portuguese language). Still produces MSX hardware, including accelerated MSX 2+ motherboards (ACE001@10 MHz). Has an ongoing project called CIEL 3++ for a new, and far more powerful, generation of MSX hardware.

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