Reissue of classical MSX-computers

By Tanni

Hero (556)

Tanni의 아바타

06-05-2005, 18:49

More than two years ago, I first posted some texts about MSX-revival in Fixato's forum. Because
this revival actually happens, I think I should post them here in this forum, too.

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By Tanni

Hero (556)

Tanni의 아바타

06-05-2005, 18:52

Let MSX be a system for life

MSX should stay MSX, it shouldn't adopt features from the system invented
by big mother blue. If someone would like to have such features, it would
be better to buy such a computer rather than MSX.
So, MSX should go it's own way and maybe it took some time to find out about
the direction. I think, that's the reason for your MSX-manifest.
But until then, I want to have the Sony Hit Bit reissued, along with
the external 3.5 inch disk drive.

I want working MSX-hardware I'm familiar to, and I need it now.
I don't want to wait for a new modern MSX-system until my own data files
aren't readable any more.
Better to have reissued classical MSX-computers running than waiting for
new MSX-hardware to come, trying to be like the current system everybody uses
but never reaching its performance.

Having new classical MSX-computers running would bring new users, too.
This also would prepare the field for a sophisticated new MSX-system,
maybe MSX3.

Even the C64 was reissued a couple of years ago, with added internet
capability.

There is a new version of the Z80, the Z80e, which allows to use this
wonderful processor in internet applications.

So, it would be possible to build a new classical MSX-system
based on MSX1, with some new, but low power features such as portability,
according to 'more fun, less MHz'.

But nowadays, it would be desirable to run a new MSX1-system on 7 MHz or more.
This wouldn't even violate your motto, 'caus it would be still far away
from clock rates used today. Of course, there must be the possibility to
switch down to 3.58 MHz or even lower, if this new MSX1 would be portable
and have batteries instead of a power network supply.

There are at least two lines of possible MSX-development:

1. low power, low speed, low cost

This could easily be done very quickly by the companys.
It would be a new classical MSX for low power applications based on MSX1.

2. increased power, speed and memory to a higher level of cost

This second direction would lead to a new sophisticated MSX-standard to
run applications like graphical user interfaces, TeX, LaTeX or new games.

Because of the importance for the further development of MSX, the features of
a new MSX-standard should be choosen carefully. It will take time to collect
new ideas and put them all together harmonically. We also should note
that the design of the computers casing and keyboard layout is very important.

This shouldn't be done only by one company but by all the users worldwide
to minimize the risk that such a product will not be sold.

Because of MSX is a special product for a special group of people
and because of the risk that it won't succeed on the market, if the
companies develop new hardware without asking the users if that's
a product they like, such kind of product must be developed not only
by the companies, but together with the users.

About 18 years ago, I made my choice for MSX because of the german keyboard,
extented MS-BASIC and the Z80 inside.

But life isn't always for fun, and because of the most important
application to a computer is text processing, especially for systems
with less MHz, MSX should not consider the keyboard being of minor
importance. Therefore, it must have a good keyboard and keyboard layout
like the HB-75D or the MPC-80, and it's necessary to have national
versions, not only an international one. To achive this without
risking to produce computers for a special market without being sold,
one can put the system ROM on a special cartridge in a new kind of slot.
A second possibility is to put all national versions of
character generater and keyboard driver in one ROM adding a switch
to select the needed one.

So, let MSX still be a system for life!

MSX forever

By Tanni

Hero (556)

Tanni의 아바타

06-05-2005, 18:55

Of course, it would be better to make a completely new MSX that is
backwards compatible down to MSX1, but this would take a lot of time.
I think, that there are many users who would buy reissued classical
MSX-computers for nostalgical reasons or to work with them, because
of they are familiar to them, like me. I need a computer like the
HB-75D for text processing and I like the cursur keys of that computer.
There are MSX2-computers where the cursor keys are placed over the
number block, so that it is difficult to reach them while writing a text.
And because of I need a computer for text processing, I prefer
MSX1-computers with cursor keys placed in a square . This is a feature
I like very much. Its one of the best ideas realized in
early MSX computers.

But if we want the revival of MSX, why not first reissuing classical
MSX systems? It would show some courage to do this and the world would
see that MSX is still alive! This reissued MSX-computers and periphery
devices must be very cheep, so that even children (pupils) can buy it,
maybe in a price range the ZX81 was first issued. It wouldn't take much
time to realize this systems, because there still must be plans and even
tools to do so. This hardware could be realized in nowadays technology,
so it would be cheeper to produce and would run on a higher speed.

For a new MSX system, maybe MSX3, it would take much time to make the
conception and to realize it, especially, if it should be possible to
the MSX-community to contribute ideas or to say its opinion.
And maybe, this ideas and opinions differ, so they can't be put together
in one system. To my mind, it would be desirable to have more than one
line for new MSX hardware, and maybe, there are more than two!

By Tanni

Hero (556)

Tanni의 아바타

06-05-2005, 18:56

Advantages of reissued classical MSX-systems:

This systems would be easy, quickly and cheep to realize.

It is easy to write own programs.

Children can make their first steps in programming on a system
which is easy to understand.

Even nowadays, this systems would be excellent in text
processing applications.

This systems, especially MSX1, could be the platform for
portable MSX-systems.

There are nostalgical reasons for being bought nowadays.

Nowadays, working MSX-hardware is difficult to get, and there are
still text and data files not yet being saved on modern storage media
like CDROM. This files would be lost forever, if there isn't new
hardware available to save them on CDROM.

So, besides the conceptional work for a new sophisticated MSX-standard,
and for not loosing time, there should be a reissue of at least some of
the classical MSX-systems too!

By Tanni

Hero (556)

Tanni의 아바타

06-05-2005, 18:57

Runtime reconfigurable hardware as integral system component of a new
sophisticated MSX-standard

In a sophisticated MSX, there should be run time reconfigurable hardware.
This would be a FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) in peripheral mode,
so that the processor has direct access to the FPGA. Maybe its an ASIC with
FPGA on chip. So the user would get the possibility to realize his own
hardware requirements, and we could get much faster even with less MHz.

We would be able to realize hardware just the same as we realize software.
Therefore, a hardware description language (HDL) such as VHDL
(VHSIC Hardware Description Language; VHSIC = Very High Speed Integrated
Circuit program). Or, even better, Lola, a hardware description language
by N. Wirth, the inventor of Pascal, which would be easier and therefore
more suitable for our purposes.

And if such a MSX system wouldn't be too expensive -- MSX always was too
expensive -- this sophisticated system could be the same for reconfigurable
computing as the ZX81 was for computing over 20 years ago.

By AuroraMSX

Paragon (1902)

AuroraMSX의 아바타

07-05-2005, 14:33

A few remarks. Some of them may sound a bit harsh, but I think you're overly unrealistic.

MSX should stay MSX, it shouldn't adopt features from the system invented
by big mother blue. If someone would like to have such features, it would
be better to buy such a computer rather than MSX.

Still, I see features in your proposals that are also available in "such a computer" ...

I want working MSX-hardware I'm familiar to, and I need it now.
Now? As in "2 years ago", since that was the original dat of your post?

Having new classical MSX-computers running would bring new users, too.
Name one good reason.

This also would prepare the field for a sophisticated new MSX-system, maybe MSX3.
/me mumbles "deja vu"

But nowadays, it would be desirable to run a new MSX1-system on 7 MHz or more.
Why? Most MSX-1 applications run fine on 3.58MHz. and text-processing -- your fave application, apparently -- really doesn't go any faster at more MHz.

This wouldn't even violate your motto, 'caus it would be still far away
from clock rates used today.

And why not just raise the MHz-es up to today's standard? I think a Z80 on 1.79 GHz (500x the original speed! Woohooo! Wink) would lift the MSX-es usability enormously.

Of course, there must be the possibility to switch down to 3.58 MHz or even lower, if this new MSX1 would be portable and have batteries instead of a power network supply.
Portable MSX1 on batteries? Such a system (well, similar) exists and it also already obsolete. It's called "Nintendo Gameboy".

But life isn't always for fun, and because of the most important application to a computer is text processing,
No. The most important application on a computer nowadays is gaming. Really. Trust me. The second most is internet stuff: e-mail, browsing, downloading illegal movies, pr0n etc. (That last one might even be more important than gaming, come to think of it...)

especially for systems with less MHz, MSX should not consider the
keyboard being of minor importance. Therefore, it must have a good keyboard
and keyboard layout like the HB-75D or the MPC-80, and it's necessary to have
national versions, not only an international one.

PC keyboards are available in a miriad of localized versions. Just give that
MSX of yours an USB connection and users can plug in any keyboard they like.

I need a computer like the
HB-75D for text processing and I like the cursur keys of that computer.

And hence, the keyboard you like is the best solution for the whole world?
Sounds a bit megalomaniac to me...

But if we want the revival of MSX, why not first reissuing classical
MSX systems? It would show some courage to do this and the world would
see that MSX is still alive!

And most of the world would not even blink their eyes once. If the world even opens up one eye, its first question would probably be: "MSX? What's that?"

This reissued MSX-computers and periphery devices must be very cheep, so that even children (pupils) can buy it, maybe in a price range the ZX81 was first issued.
Kids spend their money on cell phones, not on obscure, obsolete
hardware...

This systems would be easy, quickly and cheep to realize.
Why? If you are going to use new hardware (FPGA's and stuff) you cannot use the old schematics, layouts etc. You'd need to (re)develop the complete hardware. Because of the new hardware, (and because of copyright issues) you cannot just grab a random MSX1 BIOS/BASIC ROM and put that in your newly developed hardware. You need to (re)develop the software too. And since it will definitely be a niche market, production will be difficult, slow and way too expensive.

It is easy to write own programs.

Children can make their first steps in programming on a system
which is easy to understand.
I doubt children are interested in programming their own programs, if those programs can not match their expectations. Children nowadays are used to highly interactive, hi-speed, 3-D games -- that's not easy to program, not even if you provide some kind of mega-extended BASIC dialect.

Even nowadays, this systems would be excellent in text processing applications.
For most people, Word is just fine.

This systems, especially MSX1, could be the platform for portable MSX-systems.
The portable platforms these days are Gameboy DS and PSP. I dare to bet all my money that trying to pitch an MSX1-like portable would flop just as bad as Microsofts "Bob"...

Nowadays, working MSX-hardware is difficult to get, and there are still text and data files not yet being saved on modern storage media like CDROM. This files would be lost forever, if there isn't new hardware available to save them on CDROM.
Even data on CD-ROM doesn't hold "forever". Plain old paper and ink would do better, but I'm not going to write down the ASM listing of Nemesis...

By Sonic_aka_T

Enlighted (4130)

Sonic_aka_T의 아바타

07-05-2005, 15:05

And why not just raise the MHz-es up to today's standard? I think a Z80 on 1.79 GHz (500x the original speed! Woohooo! ) would lift the MSX-es usability enormously.Heck, an R800 at half that speed would kick triple-core-pentium5 ass!!! Tongue

By sjoerd

Hero (602)

sjoerd의 아바타

07-05-2005, 15:14

Heck, an R800 at half that speed would kick triple-core-pentium5 ass!!! TongueYep, and that's because the R800 is a 16 bit RISC CPU Tongue

By Tanni

Hero (556)

Tanni의 아바타

21-07-2005, 12:51

Some remarks to the remarks form AuroraMSX from May 07, 2005, 14:33:

MSX should stay MSX, it shouldn't adopt features from the system invented by big mother blue. If someone would like to have such features, it would be better to buy such a computer rather than MSX.
Still, I see features in your proposals that are also available in "such a computer" ...

I mean certain features I unfortunately didn't mention in the text.

I want working MSX-hardware I'm familiar to, and I need it now.
Now? As in "2 years ago", since that was the original dat of your post?

I still need them!

Having new classical MSX-computers running would bring new users, too.
Name one good reason.

Classical computers are different, which makes them interesting!

This also would prepare the field for a sophisticated new MSX-system, maybe MSX3./me mumbles "deja vu"
If the OCM (which is for the time being just an MSX1 ''emulation'') succeeds, revival goes on, step by step, according to MSX Association ... and so -- I hope -- will sometime reach a sophisticated level!

But nowadays, it would be desirable to run a new MSX1-system on 7 MHz or more.
Why? Most MSX-1 applications run fine on 3.58MHz. and text-processing -- your fave application, apparently -- really doesn't go any faster at more MHz.

Yes, text-processing is my fave application, but I would like to use a new MSX1-system also for new applications! Maybe I would code them by myself!

This wouldn't even violate your motto, 'caus it would be still far away from clock rates used today.
And why not just raise the MHz-es up to today's standard? I think a Z80 on 1.79 GHz (500x the original speed! Woohooo! ) would lift the MSX-es usability enormously.

If you think so ...

Of course, there must be the possibility to switch down to 3.58 MHz or even lower, if this new MSX1 would be portable and have batteries instead of a power network supply. Portable MSX1 on batteries? Such a system (well, similar) exists and it also already obsolete. It's called "Nintendo Gameboy".
In your mind, you're just stick to gaming! There may be other applications to a reissued classical MSX computer or a sophisticated MSX system! One of them would be e.g. mobile data entry.

But life isn't always for fun, and because of the mostimportant application to a computer is text processing,
No. The most important application on a computer nowadays is gaming. Really. Trust me. The second most is internet stuff: e-mail, browsing, downloading illegal movies, pr0n etc. (That last one might even be more important than gaming, come to think of it...)

You're most likely right, if you see it the most general way, the absolute figures. But different people have different needs and different interests. If I would need a computer for downloading movies, I certainly would use a PC. If there would be an MSX with sufficient performance for that, I certainly would use the MSX instead!

especially for systems with less MHz, MSX should not consider the keyboard being of minor importance. Therefore, it must have a good keyboard and keyboard layout like the HB-75D or the MPC-80, and it's necessary to have national versions, not only an international one. PC keyboards are available in a miriad of localized versions. Just give that MSX of yours an USB connection and users can plug in any keyboard they like.
I don't like the PC keyboard at all, regardless of the localized version. It's not so easy to give ''that MSX of yours'' an USB connection! The keyboard I like is a real MSX keyboard as is realised in the HB-75D or the MPC-80. A keyboard I like has a square or rhombic cursor block, has keys with different colours for different functions (character keys, modifier keys) and maybe all the characters of the character set on it, etc. The ''look and feel'', which is (at least for me) mostly determined by the keyboard and the casing, that's what I call ''touchware''.

I need a computer like the HB-75D for text processing and I like the cursur keys of that computer.
And hence, the keyboard you like is the best solution for the whole world? Sounds a bit megalomaniac to me...

That's your conclusion! I've only said what I like! You also can see it the other way round: It sounds very megalomaniac if some big companies think they can fob of the whole world with very similar ugly grey computers, keyboards etc., believing that only computational performance counts. There's research on ergonomics, and I think the design of computer touchware (and hence ''look and feel'') is also a matter. It also sounds megalomaniac if someone expect the whole world to accept the boring ugly design of a nowadays most used computer system.

So if we want to be different form nowadays computers, we can and should go back to the roots, that means to the design of the first MSX computers and develop form that on into another direction. Maybe the resulting product will succeed because of exactly that.

You are free to add some proposals in touchware design as well!

But if we want the revival of MSX, why not first reissuing classical MSX systems? It would show some courage to do this and the world would see that MSX is still alive!
And most of the world would not even blink their eyes once. If the world even opens up one eye, its first question would probably be: "MSX? What's that?"

It depends on how you define world!

This reissued MSX-computers and periphery devices must be very cheep, so that even children (pupils) can buy it, maybe in a price range the ZX81 was first issued.
Kids spend their money on cell phones, not on obscure, obsolete hardware...

You know about that what all kids in the world would do? I talk about reissued classical MSX computers, but that doesn't imply that they must be obsolete, see the OCM! Even those computers need not to be exactly the same than 20 years ago!

This systems would be easy, quickly and cheep to realize. Why? If you are going to use new hardware (FPGA's and stuff) you cannot use the old schematics, layouts etc. You'd need to (re)develop the complete hardware. Because of the new hardware, (and because of copyright issues) you cannot just grab a random MSX1 BIOS/BASIC ROM and put that in your newly developed hardware. You need to (re)develop the software too. And since it will definitely be a niche market, production will be difficult, slow and way too expensive.
You would not start from nothing! You know what you have to accomplish. It already worked. As you noticed some lines ago, the text was written more than two years ago. At that time, who thought about that there will be the OCM based on FPGA? With FPGAs, it would be the easiest way to implement the MSX by structural VHDL-description using existing VHDL sources of the Z80, VDP, PPI and PSC, if they're available. Then, just instantiate them, wire them up according to the schematics, compile and synthesize! In that case, layout doesn't care, because it's done automatically by the synthesis. Only if you don't meet the timing constraints, then you could improve it by yourself. Better to reinvoke the synthesis, because the place-and-route process is very difficult and it uses a probabisistic approach to accomplish it. So the next synthesis of the same netlist (you've got by the compilation) might be better.

The basis of that would be the schematics, of course. You can also do it by means of an algorithmic description, which would be a description on a higher level and therefore can maybe differ more form the original schematic.

(I thought that companies like Sony maybe just could setup the production again. The plans for e.g. the casing must exist already, I hope!) If the new MSX are to exactly behave like the original, you need not redevelop the software. If there shall be new funtionality, you must eventually redevelop the BIOS. But that must be done due to copyrigt issues anyway! Yes, it's a niche market, and therefore we should think about how to change that!

FPGA is a design style best suited for smaller projects, because the FPGA isn't dedicated to a special purpose. They can be produced in huge amounts and configurated in the application field, here as MSX1 system. (That's why they are called field programmable gate arrays, hence FPGA.) That's most likely why they've choosen it. Implementing the OCM in e.g. standard cells would require a very high amount of pieces and thus a very high demand to be not too expensive.


It is easy to write own programs.

Children can make their first steps in programming on a system
which is easy to understand.
I doubt children are interested in programming their own programs, if those programs can not match their expectations. Children nowadays are used to highly interactive, hi-speed, 3-D games -- that's not easy to program, not even if you provide some kind of mega-extended BASIC dialect.
Alas, sooner or later everybody will make the experience that life cannot always match his/hers expectations.

If you start doing something, it won't primarily, in most cases, match your expectations. You can be disappointed by that and leaving the subject or you can go on trying and finally succeed. But if they manage to come close to that what they want to accomplisch, that's a real good experience! This is more likely on smaller systems like MSX!

You could also say that children nowadays are addicted to highly interactive, high-speed 3D-games. They don't care about how this games are coded, they are just consuming. A new MSX would be easier to be programmed and therefore would give them a chance to start to become really good, step by step. Note, the MSX-revival is also intended to go on step by step!

I don't want to provide some kind of magaextended BASIC dialect. I doubt if it's even possible to code that in BASIC.


Even nowadays, this systems would be excellent in text processing applications.

For most people, Word is just fine.

Masochistic!


This systems, especially MSX1, could be the platform for portable MSX-systems.

The portable platforms these days are Gameboy DS and PSP. I dare to bet all my money that trying to pitch an MSX1-like portable would flop just as bad as Microsofts "Bob"...

I don't know Microsofts ''Bob'', but it's probably just a game console?

Nowadays, working MSX-hardware is difficult to get, and there are still text and data files not yet being saved on modern storage media like CDROM. This files would be lost forever, if there isn't
new hardware available to save them on CDROM.

Even data on CD-ROM doesn't hold "forever". Plain old paper and ink would do better, but I'm not going to write down the ASM listing of Nemesis...

Yes, of course, they must be saved on other, better media to come time after time. Best would do to chisel it into stone.