[LONG] Hello and some questions from an absolute (and enthusiastic) newbie

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By orion70

Rookie (22)

orion70's picture

13-01-2017, 14:27

Hi everybody. First of all, congratulations on this forum and site about the MSX world, which is a neglected retro-platform compared to others. I am Orion, an active Italian user and collector of the Commodore 8-bits range, particularly fond on the VIC-20, and a member of Denial forum dedicated to this machine.

I recently decided to play with other 8-bits a little more than with simple PC emulation, so I came to cross the boundaries of 6502 world, and explore the Z80. Being a Commodorist, I immediately rejected the idea of fiddling with a ZX Spectrum :evil: .

I read here and there in the internet, and found many info about this "strange beast" MSX(one), which looks and feels so different from the Commodores. I was attracted by its tech specs, and by the fact that it was the very first attempt to create an international standard of HW/SW compatibility. So, I bought one excellent example of the most common MSX in Italy, Philips VG8020 (PAL of course). Mine was sold refurbished, and modded with a glossy white chassis:
[img]http://i.ebayimg.com/00/s/MTIwMFgxNjAw/z/~joAAOSw5cNYMG-s/$_57.JPG[/img]

It also came with its video, cassette recorder, and power cables. I began studying the incredible BASIC; and discovered a lot of power tools to convert CAS files into WAVes, to play them in my PC and feed the MSX. It worked flawlessly for most games and apps, with one notable exception, i.e. Melbourne House's The Hobbit text adventure. This is the Holy Grail for us adventure aficionados, and I enjoyed both on my Commodore 64 and Plus 4. Unfortunately, the CAS file downloaded from this site won't work on the real 8020, but inexplicably it loads OK on the OpenMSX emulator with 8020's ROM. I have also bought the real cassette on the bay, and load it from a Sony walkman with no problem at all. Next step, I obtained a good, polished WAV file from it, but again it resets the computer at the very beginning. Combining in various ways chunks from the two WAVs (one form the internet and the other from the real cassette), I was able to load the intro screen and most of the game, but at the very end it resets again oO . All my "hybrid WAVs" work in the emulator.

All this leads to my questions:
- Is there a working version of of The Hobbit, cassette version?
- Anyone can suggest me other critical variables to take in account loading this from the media player of a PC connected to the MSX (e.g. volume, cables, etc.)?
- And finally, the last and most important question: should I decide to go along the path of MSX, which piece of modern hardware should I buy first? MegaFlashROM? SD Cartridge? SD-512? I have seen and read about several SD- or other cards-based devices to act as mass memories, disk drive emulators, and/or memory expansions, but I really can't understand much of the MSX terminology underneath. I am simply looking for a device holding an SD card, from which load and/or write to DSK image files, and play cartridge ROMs.

Really sorry for having been so verbose, from now on I'll put specific questions in the appropriate sections of this forum.
Thank you in advance for any info and encouragement :) .

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By Grauw

Enlighted (6034)

Grauw's picture

13-01-2017, 15:38

That’s a pretty nice paint job!

By orion70

Rookie (22)

orion70's picture

13-01-2017, 16:10

It is! Looks it was done at a professional level, very good look and feel. My best friend says it's kind of a "stormtrooper" MSX. He also says it's "very Japanese" - compared to a Commodore it looks like a white Honda Civic vs a beige Ford Fiesta Big smile .

By hamlet

Paladin (833)

hamlet's picture

13-01-2017, 16:41

Welcome orion70!
I sold my 64 in 85 and bought a stylish Sony HB-75P with CURSOR KEYS. That´s it. I really needed a machine with cursor keys. And it wasn´t a bad decision. I was astonished ´bout the basic, it comes with a wonderfull 80s outfit and it had those big cursor keys, which I could use to play games. After several years, I´ve gone the same way as you and tested a C64 that was a present from a good friend of mine in the mid 90´s. In the late 80´s Commodores where the standart, so we compared every game on those systems. The 64 games getting better from time to time, but also MSX games did. And they get more japanese. In fact the MSX standart saved me a lot of money then, because it wasn´t easy to buy original games in stores or via mail order.
Although I was much more happy to have my MSX then another system without cursor keys.
Last year I get a SX64 and I´m finished its repairing now. I like it.
Back to topic:
Buy a MFR with SD and 512kb extension. You will not need any other cartridge. Of course you will not need the 512ks with your beautiful MSX, but who knows... (there was also a small amount of white NMS8280 in market).

By orion70

Rookie (22)

orion70's picture

13-01-2017, 18:52

hamlet wrote:

I sold my 64 in 85 and bought a stylish Sony HB-75P with CURSOR KEYS. That´s it. I really needed a machine with cursor keys. And it wasn´t a bad decision.

Not a bad decision at all! I realized in these very days that the MSX standard with 64K was the best competitor of the C64, even though marketing strategies saw the latter as a winner in most European countries - and the USA, of course. From what I read here and in other sites, retro-users of the MSX platforms are mostly from Northern Europe, France, and Spain. Not many Italians - if any at all Sad . But just in case anyone would care, I dumped a couple of Italian newsstand cassettes with a total of six original text adventures. Another guy dumped one more cassette, for a grand total of nine adventures: link here (not my website). They really are worth playing, albeit not complete with graphic screens. PDF files of the magazines with loading instructions and background info on each adventure are also provided in the same place.

hamlet wrote:

Last year I get a SX64 and I´m finished its repairing now. I like it.

I bet! You're the lucky owner of a true piece of history, and quite rare too! Congrats on this.

hamlet wrote:

Buy a MFR with SD and 512kb extension. You will not need any other cartridge. Of course you will not need the 512ks with your beautiful MSX, but who knows... (there was also a small amount of white NMS8280 in market).

I'll think about buying one for sure in the next (hopefully few) months then! Thanks for the tip.

By Louthrax

Paragon (1602)

Louthrax's picture

13-01-2017, 19:20

Hi orion70 and welcome here Smile

From what I've seen, the cassette version of "The Hobbit" loads chunks of binary data along with your progression in the game.

On an MSX machine with a real cassette player, the tape will stop after loading a chunk (this is also the case in openMSX), but if you play your CAS or WAV file with an Android device or walkman that has no "REM" cable, the tape will not stop... so probably a wrong "chunk" of binary data will be loaded and the game resets...

So you can try to invest into a real cassette player / recorder (that has a REM plug) for a few bucks (you'll also need a cable).

An alternative is to use SofaCas on a PC and build yourself a REM cable that will be plugged on your PC serial port (SofaCas and instructions are available here).

By orion70

Rookie (22)

orion70's picture

14-01-2017, 10:12

Thank you very much for your warm welcome, and for the suggestions. What you write does make sense, as both in the emulator and on the real machine with the real cassette the game goes to the very end of the tape, but it probably loads and runs only the first chunk of data. This is supported by two facts: a) the WAV file is indeed divided into a couple of HOBBIT headers, one ASCII and one BASIC, and as much as eleven bigger chunks of data, each preceded by its header (these are probably loaded as you progress through the game); b) graphic screens in this version are exactly the same as in the multi-load disk version, whereas the C64 cassette Hobbit has much simpler graphics (and loads in one huge chunk).

I have loaded the game with a mere Sony Walkman, which is very Eighties Smile but does not have REM control, so it will go on till the end of tape instead of stopping at each stage of the game. Nor I played it extensively, so I really don't know (yet) if and when the game will ask me to "press play on tape" or whatever.

Same problem I have with the greatest of them all, i.e. La Abadia del Crimen, which presents with both disk and cassette versions, multi-loading the game. In this case, I can only see the title screen in the real machine.

Overall, I think I'll see which of your solutions to follow :). Thanks again.

By ChoroQ

Rookie (31)

ChoroQ's picture

27-02-2017, 19:05

Hi Orion70. Nice seeing you here as a member of Denial. Vic20 was my first computer in 1985 I moved over to MSX. As a VIC-20 lover I would say that your 8020 is a little to white and needs to get a bit more beige. Wink

Speaking of Denial, I wrote a little game on the VIC20 and now porting it to MSX (Picture below is MSX version).

Welcome Orion and I hope this is the beginning of a long love for MSX.

By hamlet

Paladin (833)

hamlet's picture

27-02-2017, 20:26

This is exactly our evil plan since 1984:
Get all Commodore user to buy MSX machines.

By orion70

Rookie (22)

orion70's picture

03-03-2017, 10:21

ChoroQ wrote:

Hi Orion70. Nice seeing you here as a member of Denial. Vic20 was my first computer in 1985 I moved over to MSX. As a VIC-20 lover I would say that your 8020 is a little to white and needs to get a bit more beige. Wink

Speaking of Denial, I wrote a little game on the VIC20 and now porting it to MSX (Picture below is MSX version).

Thank you! Nice to see you here too, Peter Smile. Sorry I didn't notice your post before.
Your Get the Cat VIC game was so pleasant, I can't wait to play it on my shiny MSX!

Also, yes Hamlet, MSX is a true temptation for Commdore (64) users, because it often offers features which weren't implemented in the brown breadbins. I think that, shouldn't Jack Tramiel have "stopped the Japanese" with his cheap machines, the market would have been flooded with MSX micros. And this wouldn't have been bad, as they were more or less a standard - and a good one for the time.

By yodh

Champion (357)

yodh's picture

19-03-2017, 19:47

Welcome orion70 to the MSX´s world Smile

I am a Spanish user. If you are interested in programming in msx basic I will tell you that I am making a game, its name: 'Cavernator '. You can follow his evolution at https://www.msx.org/node/48396 and (for the moment) the ultimate version of the game: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5dJMlHyX5j1cXJ1a0pWUEU2cFU...

It's made in 'pure & hard´ BASIC B-) nothing more than that (not machine code etc). I think it is a ´little´ :) sample of what can be done in BASIC on a Japanese computer. Soon I will upload a new version of the game.
I hope you enjoy our MSX world as much as you did in your native computer.

PD0. Sorry for the English ;( translator.
PD1. Sorry again ;( the game is in MSX-2 version and uses OPL-4 (Moonsound), i think no problem with emulators (BlueMSX etc.) but i presume... the major problem: It's in Spanish language.

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