Source: Javier Lavandeira

Exactly 30 years ago an 18 meter tall, 30 meter long dinosaur appeared in Shinjuku, Tokyo in an event that celebrated 1 million MSX computers sold. Created by the same company that made the models for cult classic Godzilla, the dinosaur was the attention grabber of MSX Dinosaur Land which took place between December 1st, 1985 and January 16th, 1986. It was one of few known marketing efforts from Microsoft/ASCII to widely promote their MSX standard for 8bit home computers.

An estimated 230.000 people visited the event, where they could see various models of MSX computers, including Arabic Al-Amaiah units and each of over 40 other MSX models which were being produced at the time. The essence of the standard was captured by a synchronized display of 9 screens, controlled by an equal amount of MSX computers, each produced by a different brand. There were mini-events such as game competitions and various companies like T&E Soft, The LINKS and ASCII had their own booths to promote their MSX related activities. All the while, every two hours the dinosaur would roar loudly - a sound that was of course also generated by an MSX computer.

Finding out about the event, Bill Gates was furious at Kazuhiko Nishi - at the time board member and technical director of Microsoft and with his company ASCII the representative of Microsoft in Japan - for spending the considerable sum of 150 million yen (~ 750.000 US$ at the time) on the dinosaur alone and a rumoured 1 million dollars on the entire event. According to this 1986 article in the Wall Street Journal it was an important event in a series of characters colliding, which inevitably led to Bill Gates and Kazuhiko Nishi - and their respective companies Microsoft and ASCII - parting ways, leaving Nishi $500,000 in debt with Microsoft.

Years later, during MSX Magazine Festival 2003 Nishi looked back at this, referring to the 500 million dollar marketing budget Microsoft had then spent on promoting the first XBox. Considering the difficulties Microsoft had back then to get a good market share for their new attempt to enter the consumer market with Microsoft backed hardware Nishi mentioned that that sum of money might have been better spent by just giving Xboxes away for free...

Relevant link: Javier Lavandeira's report on MSX Dinosaur Land

Media browser (2)

  • Microsoft's million dollar marketing stunt Bill Gates did not appreciate
  • Microsoft's million dollar marketing stunt Bill Gates did not appreciate

Comments (13)

By evulopah

Hero (661)

evulopah's picture

01-12-2015, 14:18

Great article Snout!!

By mars2000you

Enlighted (5495)

mars2000you's picture

01-12-2015, 15:05

Very good article, thank you Snout ! Smile

Btw, Japanese seem fascinated by dinosaurs. Here's the video about a very modern Japanese hotel, entirely controlled by robots - The robot who speaks English is a dinosaur !!! LOL! LOL! LOL! :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FogiE8_3fPE&feature=youtu.be

By snout

Ascended (15187)

snout's picture

01-12-2015, 15:08

When I visited Nishi's office in 2003 there was a little plastic dinosaur with a turboR logo. Each of its osteoderms (lumps on the back) was a tiny screwdriver which could be used to service a turboR.

By anonymous

incognito ergo sum (109)

anonymous's picture

01-12-2015, 16:36

Ooooh! A report on my report on MSX Magazine's report of the event! :-)

By The_Engineer

Master (156)

The_Engineer's picture

01-12-2015, 19:01

Great article. Thanks for pointing out how this event sealed the fate of MSX.

By cklayman

Champion (297)

cklayman's picture

01-12-2015, 20:28

It seems the 1986 article appeared in the Wall Street Journal, not the Washington Post. Just a possible minor correction.

By snout

Ascended (15187)

snout's picture

01-12-2015, 21:02

@JaviLM - are you going to report on this article then? Wink

@The_Engineer - not sure if my sarcasm meter is functioning properly, but apart from the flamboyant lifestyle of Nishi, a key problem seemed to be that Gates wanted Microsoft to be a software company, whereas Nishi was interested in hardware. That said, Nishi and Gates weren't on speaking terms until a 7 hour meeting in Tokyo in 1988 according to this article on Computer Business Review So, yeah, it certainly didn't do MSX any good...

@cklayman - thanks for mentioning, it has been fixed accordingly.

By poke-1,170

Paragon (1756)

poke-1,170's picture

01-12-2015, 22:45

haha oh man, what a character Big smile
Then again, I don't know if having a huge,slow and old sluggish dinosaur is a good way of representing a computer brand Wink
Oh also, shouldn't it be al alamiah ? (the msx brand)

By The_Engineer

Master (156)

The_Engineer's picture

01-12-2015, 23:27

@snout: no sarcasm intended! I really do like that you connect the dots and tell something about MSX history.
With the wealth of information available to us nowadays, in hindsight this event was the business reason for Microsoft to severe all ties with ASCII. Without the input from Microsoft (i.e. global computer market), the MSX standard soon devolved into a Japan focussed standard.
One wonders what would have happened if a strong CFO had kept Nishi in check... would Windows 1.0 have had an MSX2 release? Smile

By Maggoo

Paragon (1195)

Maggoo's picture

05-12-2015, 17:10

Nice article! I wonder what happened to the Dino after the exhibit ? I want ine just like that ;-)

By Grauw

Ascended (8366)

Grauw's picture

05-12-2015, 19:28

Probably won’t fit in your living room… maybe if you have a large garden Smile.

By SkyeWelse

Champion (470)

SkyeWelse's picture

09-12-2015, 03:09

Wonderful article! I've been waiting to see that Dinosaur ever since I first heard the story about it. It's also very nice to have all of the facts laid out as to what Nishi was trying to do with the Dinosaur and that it was a MSX Dinosaur Land type exibit, rather than just a single dinosaur that just so happened to be used as a marketing asset. That is surely an interesting contrast too considering just how much much money Gates threw behind the original XBox.

Thank you for sharing!

-Thomas

By anonymous

incognito ergo sum (109)

anonymous's picture

09-12-2015, 06:44

SkyeWelse wrote:

Wonderful article! I've been waiting to see that Dinosaur ever since I first heard the story about it. It's also very nice to have all of the facts laid out as to what Nishi was trying to do with the Dinosaur and that it was a MSX Dinosaur Land type exibit, rather than just a single dinosaur that just so happened to be used as a marketing asset. That is surely an interesting contrast too considering just how much much money Gates threw behind the original XBox.

Thank you for sharing!

Thanks. Old MSX Magazines from time to time had interesting information on events such as this on. If there's interest I can probably post more.