ASCII employee interview

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By PAC

Guardian (5603)

PAC's picture

07-05-2020, 02:23

Last week I managed to contact with a Japanese system programmer who was working for ASCII during the MSX turbo R development stage. My goal was to be able to make an interview and try to go deeper into the MSX standard at that time, if possible, and publish it here at the MRC. After exchange some emails, he kindly accepted my proposal.

I already have some questions in queu but the reason of opening this forum thread is to offer this possibility to you all, the MSX community. I'm sure this will result in a better and more complete interview Wink . Please keep in mind that many years have passed since then and most probably some questions cannot be answered or are not replied for whatever reason. Besides we have to understand that an employee does not necessarily know about everything.

For now, this is what I have in mind, write your questions and we will choose the most interesting ones. Any improvement or advice is welcome:

  • Can you introduce yourself and your role within ASCII?
  • Were you an MSX user before joining ASCII? If so, what did this fact represent for you?
  • Which ASCII developments or projects did you work on?
  • What kind of specific hardware and software was used for an MSX development? Were cross-platform tools common? And how many people involved in a project?
  • It is said that Yamaha was working on the V9978 video display processor, the compatible successor of the V9958 to be used in the next MSX generation (MSX3?). For unknown reasons the project was finally dropped and resulted an stripped down and not backward compatible version, the V9990. Is there evidence about this?
  • Was there something beyond the MSX turbo R? Was the MSX3 concept in mind?
  • Were there specific sinergies between ASCII and the main MSX manufacturer companies such as Sony, Panasonic, Sanyo, etc., during a new MSX computer or hardware development?
  • Have you ever heard about Aucnet NIA-2001 computer during your stage in ASCII? A dedicated computer for the car auctions in Japan being a hidden MSX turbo R.
  • There being several and more powerful platforms coexisting with the MSX in Japan, in your opinion what were the pros and cons of the MSX computers over its competitors?
  • In retrospect, what's your opinion about the MSX system in general?
  • Related to sales, what position ranked the MSX normally over other computer platforms?
  • Finally, would you like to send a message to MSX users?
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By Juanmi

Expert (97)

Juanmi's picture

08-05-2020, 14:29

I think it's a good opportunity to clarify doubts or get unknown information from ASCII in his last stage with the MSX. I just mailed with some other questions.

By Manuel

Ascended (16404)

Manuel's picture

08-05-2020, 21:35

Cool, very eager to read the outcome of this! Smile

I suggest to try to make open questions mostly, like this:
- Please introduce yourself, your role within ASCII and specifically your involvement in any MSX activities at ASCII
- What kind of cross platform tools were used, if any?
- What can you tell us about the V9978 as the VDP for the turboR? If it indeed exisited, why was it dropped? What do you know about the relation between V9990 and V9978, if any?
- What was the MSX roadmap at the time you worked at ASCII?
- What, if any, where the collaborations between ASCII and MSX manufacturers like Sony, Panasonic, etc?
- What can you tell about the Aucnet NIA-2001? (A dedicated...etc.)

Some more ideas:
- What kind of MSX related projects you know of were canceled at ASCII?
- What was the atmosphere in the MSX related teams at ASCII at that time?
- What was the ASCII organization like at that time? We know about ASCII hardware, software and books/magazines. How was the collaboration regarding MSX between these departments?

I am arranging an interview with a former MSX Product Manager at Philips, and will make a list in a new topic for that as well.

By Randam

Paladin (924)

Randam's picture

09-05-2020, 14:50

Manuel added some nice nice questions. Here are a few more interesting ones:

- What functionalities in the R800 of the turbo R were not used? And why were they not used?
- What functionalities in the s1990 in the turbo were not used? And why
- What was the roadmap for the turbo R and beyond if the ST and GT would have been successful enough? Were there any future types of turbo R in mind and what would have been their specs?
- What kind of MSX related software projects were cancelled, particularly those in state near completion?
- What collaborations were there with ASCII and other software makers. Were some ASCII titles made in collaboration with other software developers?
- ASCII also developed software for other platforms. How was collaboration with those teams and MSX teams or was there a friendly rivalry?
-

By Louthrax

Prophet (2253)

Louthrax's picture

09-05-2020, 15:12

Just one question for me:

  • Were all developments made in assembly at the time or were some higher-level languages already used ?

By Sandy Brand

Master (169)

Sandy Brand's picture

09-05-2020, 16:00

  • What was the driving factor for developing the Turbo-R in a market that already started to be dominated by 16 bit and 32 bit CPUs?
  • What was the intended target market for this machine?
  • What did they estimate their chances for making the machine a success? (what did they identify back then as the biggest risk factors?)
  • Were any established software (game) companies consulted when drafting up the requirements for the new machine?
  • Were there lessons learned from the release of MSX 2+ machines that were taken to heart when developing the Turbo-R? (e.g.: why develop a Turbo-R and not an 'MSX 3'?)
  • Which considerations were made when selecting hardware specs for the individual components of the machine?
  • Were their plans to 'win back' previous producers of MSX machines? (Were they even consulted?) (E.g.: Philips, Sony, Sanyo, etc.)

By sd_snatcher

Prophet (3258)

sd_snatcher's picture

09-05-2020, 16:28

Nice initiative, PAC!

I have some questions as well:

  • Does he have other contacts/coworkers that he could point to us, for future interviews?
  • Does he have any good backstage story that he would like to share?
  • The MSX Turbo-R BIOS looks kinda like a hack, almost like a patch. Had they lost the original source code at that point?
  • Since Nishi has given permission for the MSX-BIOS to be freely used, does he know anyone who could still have the original source code of all BIOS/extensions, like: mainBIOS, subROM, MSX-Audio BIOS, MSX-Music BIOS, DiskBIOS v1.x, RS-232 BIOS, MSX-JE etc?
  • Was the working environment open to suggestions/feedback on the whole platform, or was it more like a top-down decision structure?
  • Did the programmers at ASCII had close contact with the MSX chip developers (Toshiba, Yamaha, Mitsui etc)?
  • Initially, ASCII had given Yamaha an almost an exclusivity contract to develop the MSX chips. As the time passed, they seem to have drifted away from Yamaha to Toshiba and others. Does he know the reason about why that happened?
  • Was the MSX2+ really a stopgap because the MSX3 wasn't ready? It's architecture seems to have been designed to have a turbo, but in the end the /WAIT pin of the V9958 wasn't used at all, and Panasonic resorted to the sub-optimal solution of putting very long I/O waits. Why? Toshiba also seem to have forgotten to put a dedicated clock pin on the T9769A, so the PSG gets out of tune when the turbo is enabled. Was this due to communication/integration problems?
  • The initial specs of the MSX3 mentioned the Zilog Z280 as the CPU. Later, ASCII decided to switch to the R800. But the Z280 went into production in 1987, so 3 years before the R800. Why did they chose to use to develop the R800, instead of focusing all resources on the V9978?

By PAC

Guardian (5603)

PAC's picture

09-05-2020, 17:13

Hi, thank you so much for your contributions, we have more ones than I expected Smile . I hope he will be able to clarify all our questions or at least part of them. As I said, it's a long time since he was working there and he was not on top management so probably some of our question won't be replied. I'm going to organize them now. Wink

By PAC

Guardian (5603)

PAC's picture

09-05-2020, 17:22

BTW, process is still on going. Once I'll send questions to him I'll let you know, so there is still time to participate.

By PingPong

Prophet (3513)

PingPong's picture

09-05-2020, 20:07

Would be nice to ask if he know a people at yamaha specifically involved in vdp 99x8 and V9990 and ask if it is possible to ask something to this. I m meaning a people like Karl guttag was for the tms vdp but working at yamaha ones.

Another thing, on the R800 the z80 it still here : why they not switched to a more powerful cpu like the 68000 and let the z80 act like a Co processor or for compatibility?

By erpirao

Paragon (1041)

erpirao's picture

09-05-2020, 20:15

sd_snatcher wrote:

Nice initiative, PAC!

...
[*] The initial specs of the MSX3 mentioned the Zilog Z280 as the CPU. Later, ASCII decided to switch to the R800. But the Z280 went into production in 1987, so 3 years before the R800. Why did they chose to use to develop the R800, instead of focusing all resources on the V9978?

[/list]

1988: msx2+ (3) =

+z280@10mhz...?

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