VroBIT team demonstrating at RetroMadrid

VroBIT team demonstrating at RetroMadrid

by JohnHassink on 28-04-2017, 14:06
Topic: Hardware
Languages:

All the while, as new MSX soft- and hardware is being published left and right, and the community is eagerly waiting for the next MSXdev entry, a group of hardware experts have been working on what could be the ultimate next generation MSX machine. The specifications are as follows:

  • 512MB RAM - 512MB VRAM
  • Quad core 32 / 64Bits - ARM Cortex A53 - 1.2Ghz
  • 4 x slots (MSX compatible)
  • 2 x game ports (DB9 configurable)
  • 1 x IO extension (DB37)
  • 4 x Buttons + 8 x LEDs
  • 1 x Analog audio LR output (cart + virtual sound)
  • 1 x Analog video output
  • 1 x HDMI audio-video output
  • 2 x USB port
  • 1 x SD card unit
  • 1 x 3.5mm stereo output (cart + virtual sound)
  • 1 x 3.5mm MIC
  • 1 x RJ45 (+ Wi-Fi)
  • Backwards compatible with MSX, MSX2, MSX2 +, MSXTR

So, the lucky among us who can and will attend the RetroMadrid fair on saturday, April the 29th, would probably not want to miss out on the opportunity to witness this prototype in action.

Relevant link: VroBIT at RetroMadrid

Comments (61)

By shaiwa

Champion (369)

shaiwa's picture

28-04-2017, 15:26

This sounds almost like an instant buy, can't wait to see more.
Really like to see this hardware in action.

By -Neo-

Champion (326)

-Neo-'s picture

28-04-2017, 16:36

Looking at the processor it seems this will be software emulation based. Wonder why they didn't choose to use a FPGA.

By Hans41

Resident (37)

Hans41's picture

28-04-2017, 17:23

No floppy ? Wink

By JohnHassink

Ambassador (4905)

JohnHassink's picture

28-04-2017, 17:29

Oh yeah, and no cassette port either? Smile

By djh1697

Paragon (1222)

djh1697's picture

29-04-2017, 00:11

Hans41 wrote:

No floppy ? Wink

Why do you need a floppy? There is an SD card, most software is now available in DSK format, which i guess will work on this new machine?

By djh1697

Paragon (1222)

djh1697's picture

29-04-2017, 00:12

JohnHassink wrote:

Oh yeah, and no cassette port either? Smile

See my previous comment! A TurboR has no cassette port either?

By syn

Paragon (1617)

syn's picture

29-04-2017, 01:41

Arm cortex A53 are 1.2 Ghz ( and jack connectors are 3.5mm)

By gdx

Paragon (1540)

gdx's picture

29-04-2017, 02:30

Very impressive project! Is MSX compatibility obtained by software? How long does VromBIT take to start up?

By Hans41

Resident (37)

Hans41's picture

29-04-2017, 02:33

@ djh1697:

the wink after my remark apparently did not make it clear to you that it was meant as a joke ? Shocked!

John got it.

By journey

Master (158)

journey's picture

29-04-2017, 08:13

Hans41 wrote:

No floppy ? Wink

Maybe....you can connect a floppy through a USB connection?...

By djh1697

Paragon (1222)

djh1697's picture

29-04-2017, 13:41

looking forward to seeing some youtube videos with the machine Wink

By syn

Paragon (1617)

syn's picture

29-04-2017, 14:20

I have been following this project for a while now. While I am not totally convinced yet, I think it is very interesting. Obviously it is (software) emulation because of the ARM processor used. On the personal blog of the creator (http://albertodehoyonebot.blogspot.nl/) there are some videos and (in spanish) various status updates.

I am not entirely sure but it looks like they /he used a Raspberry Pi 3 (which also has an ARM Cortex A53) and the old Gamereaders for prototyping, and written the software (emulation and some turbo basic thing) around that setup.

The creator actually made a few forum posts here (including concept arts of the case) about this project in the past but at first it was called "MSX 3" and after a while renamed to "MSX-VR" before it became VRoBIT. But unfortunately I can't find the posts/topics.

By ARTRAG

Enlighted (5828)

ARTRAG's picture

29-04-2017, 15:27

So the plus w.r.t. Openmsx is reading the original cartridges, is it?

By syn

Paragon (1617)

syn's picture

29-04-2017, 21:36

MAYBE faster boot time compared to full OS + emulator, although this is just guessing since I haven't seen the real thing in action + more of an overal msx/homecomputer feel (although feelings are always subjective).

By ARTRAG

Enlighted (5828)

ARTRAG's picture

29-04-2017, 22:35

But it will look like a box with cart slots if I correctly understand...

By tfh

Paragon (1391)

tfh's picture

29-04-2017, 23:41

ARTRAG wrote:

But it will look like a box with cart slots if I correctly understand...

That's correct. It will be smaller then pictured above though. But indeed: It will be a box with cartridge slots & connectors. You'll need to add your own keyboard.

By giuseve

Paladin (715)

giuseve's picture

30-04-2017, 17:19

I saw so many prototype of this vrobit on the blog.
The blog end the e-commerce website are all in spanish too.
Somewere I saw a rectangular black box and no other.
Somewhere a complete PC with keyboard
So
Will it be real ? If yes it could be mine but let we know something more !

Bye

By Jury MSX

Rookie (25)

Jury MSX's picture

30-04-2017, 22:19

Hello,
The computer showed in the Vrobit main page web not is the final model.
Following the Vrobit blog (English edition) you can view the last version of the project, only the UCP without keyboard.
https://vrobit.com/en/blog/next-meeting-retromadrid-n10
It is true that the web is a bit confused because the new and the old information are mixed in different places.
Here, in Spain, we are waiting for the end of this project with illusion and everything suggests that at the end of the current year, we would get one Vrobit in our home.

By inyigo

Master (215)

inyigo's picture

01-05-2017, 11:15

By KdL

Paladin (970)

KdL's picture

01-05-2017, 15:07

I prefer the prototype to HC4000. The classic MSX look is more exciting! Big smile

By syn

Paragon (1617)

syn's picture

01-05-2017, 15:34

interesting vrobit game https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-HWQNtONwY

Does this run on normal msx with extentions like gfx9k for example?

By inyigo

Master (215)

inyigo's picture

01-05-2017, 15:40

syn wrote:

interesting vrobit game https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-HWQNtONwY

Does this run on normal msx with extentions like gfx9k for example?

Operation Pig game doesn't work on normal MSX. It'll be exclusively for VRoBIT computer

By Mozumiyasuro

Supporter (14)

Mozumiyasuro's picture

02-05-2017, 07:46

This must be an exciting news to some people in Japan (at least for me for sure!) - so I added a translation Smile

By Louthrax

Paragon (1602)

Louthrax's picture

02-05-2017, 12:28

So are we sure emulation is software based here (no FPGAs)?

By inyigo

Master (215)

inyigo's picture

02-05-2017, 22:49

Louthrax wrote:

So are we sure emulation is software based here (no FPGAs)?

Yes, we're sure. According to VRoBIT designers the emulation in the VRoBIT project is more than a traditional software emulation because you can connect real MSX hardware.

The emulation that you can watch in the VRoBIT is called by the designers as virtualitation.

You can feel a real MSX computer inside of VRoBIT.

By inyigo

Master (215)

inyigo's picture

02-05-2017, 22:53

Here are some photographs taken in RetroMadrid

By inyigo

Master (215)

inyigo's picture

02-05-2017, 22:57

Hans41 wrote:

No floppy ? Wink

VRoBIT doesn't have a floppy disk but you can connect an USB disk unit.

By Manuel

Ascended (13388)

Manuel's picture

02-05-2017, 23:48

Which software is it running?
Does it support original disks with copy protections? (I guess not.. What else can it NOT do or is NOT compatible?)
Does the cartridge support work like Game Reader and MSX PLAYer?
Does it support sound IN of the cartridge slot? 12V?

By Louthrax

Paragon (1602)

Louthrax's picture

03-05-2017, 00:01

Continuing Manuel's questions:
- Can a slot expander be plugged in the cartridge slots (and of course does it work)?
- Same question for MFRSCC+SD.

By nerlaska

Master (165)

nerlaska's picture

03-05-2017, 06:46

Hello! And excuse my non-presence in this and other conversations. I am quite busy on the project and I do not have much time to attend conversations in forums. In fact I prefer that other people do not me, so that others who value the project and everything is more objective. Anyway, there are still many things to explain as some of the issues that you raise here and that I try to clarify first hand. I take this opportunity to apologize for the confusing information that exists about the project and that I hope to be able to solve little by little with more content on the VRoBIT website. Thanks for your patience. Ok, about the questions:
- WHICH SOFTWARE IS RUNNING?
It is a kind of retro operating system. It has a BASIC, a DOS, a windows environment, tools to create music, graphics, internet, etc. It is integrated with a native object-oriented language such as BASIC in MSX, as such a thing for VRoBIT. And in general, everything necessary to work with MSX machines.
- ORIGINAL DISK WITH COPY PROTECTIONS?
I still need to control low level Floppy USB driver to do that. At the moment, Floppy is mounted as a normal filesystem.
- CARTRIDGE SUPPORT
It is a real cartridge support. You have SOUND IN, you have -12V, 12V and all the signals as a real MSX. You can put a cartrige with a new "mapper" invented by you and the VRoBIT will run it.
- CAN A SLOT EXPANDER BE PLUGGED IN THE CARTRIDGE SLOTS
Yes. Because the access to the carts like the DB9 ports it is real.
ABOUT MFRSCC+SD
Yes. This piece of hardware it works although we need to fix some CLK timing questions for solving bugs in the SD access.

Thank you for your intereset in the project and I hope to be able to continue to expand and improve the information regarding VRoBIT.

By inyigo

Master (215)

inyigo's picture

03-05-2017, 07:46

I would recommend to visit the VRoBIT Youtube's channel where you can watch demonstrations with real hardware and virtualized hardware. There are two channels:

VRoBIT Computer: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaApWUNcQ1ga8wq4TdHFOJQ

VRoBIT: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAlt6N0d3geUDmhCfNR08JQ

I would extremely recommend the video where you can see the game "Codenamed: Intruder" virtualizating the GFX9000 video cartridge.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELEEaKpJT_k&t=22s

In other videos you can watch the real MegaFlashROM (MFRSCC+SD) connected to VRoBIT. The VRoBIT you can see in this video is a previous prototipe ;)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jboz94QfY0Y

By N.I

Expert (89)

N.I's picture

03-05-2017, 09:14

Is VRoBIT-BASIC an extension of MSX-BASIC? The thick book makes me imagine various things.

By inyigo

Master (215)

inyigo's picture

03-05-2017, 09:44

Louthrax wrote:

Continuing Manuel's questions:
- Can a slot expander be plugged in the cartridge slots (and of course does it work)?
- Same question for MFRSCC+SD.

You can read the post in the VRoBIT's Blog: VRoBIT testing the MEGAFLASHROMSCC++ SD

By nerlaska

Master (165)

nerlaska's picture

03-05-2017, 10:04

Is VRoBIT-BASIC an extension of MSX-BASIC?
VRoBIT-BASIC is a full rewritten BASIC interpreter. It is compatible with all the MSX-BASIC (well, it wants to do it, but this is a complex task and we need to solve bugs and problems but mainly it is working pretty well)
This BASIC has an inline text editor (_EDIT/CALL EDIT) with some tools for helping in the programming.
And we would want to include BASIC extensions too like GFX9000 and other ones.
So answering your question: No, it's not a MSXBASIC extension.

By Manuel

Ascended (13388)

Manuel's picture

03-05-2017, 10:08

Thanks... but I'd like to understand the way the hardware (slot connector for instance) is interacting with the software. As you say the MSX functions (including video, right?) is completely working in software. It means you have an emulation of these chips running in software, right? Is that written from scratch or reusing existing emulation?
Can you tell a bit more about that?

By nerlaska

Master (165)

nerlaska's picture

03-05-2017, 11:11

Hi Manuel
Yes, the base of all this project is the emulation that mix with the hardware access in real time.
I am working with emulation since many years ago and a big part of my code is from scratch and another one is copy/paste and modifyied (optimizations/refactorization) but of course, I have used knowledge from known emulators like: BlueMSX, OpenMSX, FMSX, Mame and others furthermore the knowledge obtained from Books and from my original MSX computers.
The great MSX community share a lot of information about many things: hardware, software, devices, etc. and this make possible to create this magic.

By ren

Paladin (721)

ren's picture

03-05-2017, 11:22

inyigo wrote:
Louthrax wrote:

So are we sure emulation is software based here (no FPGAs)?

Yes, we're sure. According to VRoBIT designers the emulation in the VRoBIT project is more than a traditional software emulation because you can connect real MSX hardware.

The emulation that you can watch in the VRoBIT is called by the designers as virtualitation.

You can feel a real MSX computer inside of VRoBIT.

One well known deficiency of sw emulators is the input lag (delay) it imposes, which has an impact on gaming experience, esp. noticeable in games that require fast reactions / tight controlling like shoot 'em ups. Does the VRoBIT do a better job here, or will you still be able to tell the difference with real hw?

By nerlaska

Master (165)

nerlaska's picture

03-05-2017, 11:39

Hi ren,
I am not expert about this questions. As a normal player my feeling experience playing some games in a original MSX and in the VRoBIT are the same. But I am very bad player. I only can say that accurate timings in emulation are pretty good and in the case of VRoBIT we don't have any DRIVER that can create lag when we are reading from DB9 ports. When the CPU reads from port 0xA2 is reading directly the values of the DB9 port (totally hardware and compatible with MSX standard). But I repeat, I am not expert in that. I would want to test some conflictive game with a hardcore gamer to see if really the game experience is different than in a original MSX. Please, Would you be so kind to give me some game titles? Thank you.

By hamlet

Paladin (837)

hamlet's picture

03-05-2017, 12:49

My favourite game for testing emulators is Space Manbow. You will notice if there is a input delay.
It´s a quite nice project. Altough I do prefer the original hardware, I would buy a VROBIT. First time you have all the connections from a real MSX paired with mordern specs. I love it!

By ren

Paladin (721)

ren's picture

03-05-2017, 16:00

@nerlaska Hard to give a good suggestion myself, as I'm only using emulation, and no real hw for a while now..
Hamlet suggests Space Manbow (though I never had the impression it felt noticeable less direct on emulation myself..)
I had the impression earlier that Shmup! even felt different between open- & blueMSX, so perhaps that's a good one to check as well? Gradius 2 perhaps?
Anyone else who can point to a good test case?

-edit
Perhaps you know about Shmupmame? It reduces input lag noticeably. From the about page:

Quote:

[...] it turns out that mame emulates a frame/sprite buffer for most arcade hardware. What I found out is that this buffer can “safely” be removed on most hardware with very little consequences.

By nerlaska

Master (165)

nerlaska's picture

03-05-2017, 17:15

Ok .. in the next RU of Barcelona I will invite the SHMUP and other MSX games developer (Imanok) to play his games in the VRoBIT and we will see what is his opinion.
I have played all the Nemesis saga,Salamander and Space Manbow and I can't detect nothing. I have completed all this games in original MSXs and I can't feel nothing special or different, but I'd prefer to listen the same words from real game experts.
We will see. Meanwhile, I will take note about all the games commented here. Thank you!

By ren

Paladin (721)

ren's picture

03-05-2017, 17:36

Sounds good to me, great to see you're taking this seriously! Wink

By syn

Paragon (1617)

syn's picture

04-05-2017, 17:04

According to various sources most people don't notice around 32 milliseconds (2 frames if the screen runs at 60hz) or less input lag. So imho you can't test using test subjects/players to see if the "feel" lag. They will probably just not notice it.

Input lag or "emulation lag" is not only how fast a joystick/keyboard is being polled/read, there are other factors. For example how long does it take for a z80 instruction to be translated to arm instruction and then executed. Or the time it takes between your MSX game/program giving the command to display something on screen, to it being actually displayed. All this is probably not a lot, but it adds up.

@ren most of the input lag you have in emulators is also partly because of the operating system (windows/linux) and iirc usb protocol itself also has some input lag. And you need to add the lag that comes with TFT/LCD monitor usages (between 10~30 ms on average) when you compare to the old real thing that used a CRT.

@nerlaska: I am not an expert, but your VRoBIT code (the msx emulation), does it run directly on the ARM Cortex or is it running on linux or another OS?

If it is "directly", and your entire code (the emulation "layer") runs within one frame (with enough time for the msx code/program/game to run before next frame) at 60hz, I think there won't be enough input lag to affect gameplay.

By nerlaska

Master (165)

nerlaska's picture

04-05-2017, 05:50

Hi syn,
Thank you for your clarification. About the code, yes, my code is running directly on the ARM and all is processed by frame so, in theory, 50/60 fps are 50/60 real fps. I hope it will be enough for the most demanding people Smile

By sd_snatcher

Prophet (2540)

sd_snatcher's picture

04-05-2017, 14:05

There's a very simple way to check if the machine has lag or not: connect it to a CRT TV, and test it with the following devices:

- Sanyo MLP-001 Light Pen interface
- Light-gun: run the latest version of JoyTest and some games like Air Hockey and Duck Hunt.

By PingPong

Prophet (2870)

PingPong's picture

09-05-2017, 19:02

Hi, can you describe details on how you emulate the various vdp found in msx?
What kind of video hw is really under the cover? It is a fpga implementation or a vga like chipset?
When the machine first does boot you are interacting with some kind of command line interface from which you call the emulator. What others things you can launch from the cli?
If one want to make a sw for the new hw how can interact with hw? Are there sdk?
Thx in advan ce

By nerlaska

Master (165)

nerlaska's picture

11-05-2017, 06:50

>> How you emulate the various vdp found?
Well, you can run several kind of MSX machines. You can configure all them. You have all the VDP implementations and another extra VDP9978 (invented by me) that uses compatibility with VDP9958 and gives extra modes and features. You can run cartridges auto or manual. In auto mode a database is used to detect the better machine option, if database entry is not present, an autodection algorithm is applied.
>> What kind of video hw is really under the cover?
In the model HC4000 a Broadcom VideoCore IV
>> When the machine boots...
You can choose what to do in the boot. You can say: I want detect cartridges and boot them or you can say, no, I want to enter directly to the VRoBIT-DOS. In this command line client you can do a lot of things. Play multimedia files, program, go to BASIC, etc.
>> Programming
You have a native script language (object oriented) to program by default. You have a set of library objects to work with all the features of the machine. There are programming tools to convert this high level script language to ASM (Z80/R800 for example), ASM compiler and linker for working with MegaROMs automatically. There is a new Z80/R800 extended mode with a new instructions to access to the new features of this machine too. And you have the BASIC that is MSX compatible and you can access to the new features with new _CALL sentences. Many choices to do new things or things compatible with MSX.

I hope to give meaningful answers. Thank you for your interest.

By journey

Master (158)

journey's picture

11-05-2017, 09:01

instant buy for me
Can't wait!

By ren

Paladin (721)

ren's picture

11-05-2017, 09:25

Is the design we see here on the pics final?

By nerlaska

Master (165)

nerlaska's picture

11-05-2017, 15:07

Soon we will publish HC4000 item-sheet in the VRoBIT web. It is the model without keyboard. You can see it in the pictures published by Inyigo in this same forum entry.
HC5000 is like the HC4000 but with some extras (better CPU, RAM, etc.). We are studying this extras and extra price cost.
HC4001/HC5001 will be the computers with keyboard integrated. With the aspect of the computer shown in the main page of VRoBIT site but surely in black color and with some modifications in the design.
We want to give several options/prices to the people. It is more work for us but we want all the people can be happy with a VRoBIT.

By valkyre

Champion (310)

valkyre's picture

11-05-2017, 15:17

I will be wanting a hc/5001 when it's ready.

By ren

Paladin (721)

ren's picture

12-05-2017, 13:14

Alright. I'm not really fond of the design myself, no offense (just my opinion), but looks too much like a big black (shoo) box to me and the white is too much in contrast to the black (I'd go for something more subtle myself - perhaps have a look at an anthracite hue, perhaps even for the box itself?) Furthermore I'm not sure about the position of those 4 cart slots..

The ideal box I picture myself is like 2-3x the Mac mini stacked or something, with 2 slots on top and 2 on the right side. Or perhaps even something like one on the top, right and back each (so 3 slots in total then (any particular reason you chose 4?))

But yeah, just picturing of course, you guys are actually building something Wink

I do like the idea of separate kbd & box, gives some flexibility, but then, like I described above, I prefer another form factor - more like a cube or small tower.

Will the cart slots have (sprung) dust covers/lids btw?

By ren

Paladin (721)

ren's picture

12-05-2017, 14:34

*shooe Wink

By nerlaska

Master (165)

nerlaska's picture

12-05-2017, 15:16

Yes, I am agree with you on that. The problem always it to design things "cheap". It is more easy (at least for us) and cheap to build all over a single PCB and not depend of more things. Do something "pretty" is expensive. As you said, we want to do something that works as an initial step. The chance is that. Make something compatible MSX as a real MSX with a hardware/software working. Later we will worry about the esthetic/details.
Thank you for your feedback!

By journey

Master (158)

journey's picture

12-05-2017, 15:47

For the model HC5001, I hope in something like this...
Especially with regard to the cursor keys

By ray2day

Champion (410)

ray2day's picture

25-05-2017, 09:36

wow Cool

By eimaster

Expert (77)

eimaster's picture

28-05-2017, 10:27

Does it include Al-Alamiah Sakhr arabic support in order to run Al-Alamiah Arabic softwares like the Holy Quran and other softwares?!

By karloch

Paragon (1957)

karloch's picture

29-05-2017, 17:12

I really think this is the nearest we have ever been of a true MSX 3.... or 7 Smile

Shut up and take my money!

By Manuel

Ascended (13388)

Manuel's picture

24-08-2017, 11:30

nerlaska wrote:

Hi Manuel
Yes, the base of all this project is the emulation that mix with the hardware access in real time.
I am working with emulation since many years ago and a big part of my code is from scratch and another one is copy/paste and modifyied (optimizations/refactorization) but of course, I have used knowledge from known emulators like: BlueMSX, OpenMSX, FMSX, Mame and others furthermore the knowledge obtained from Books and from my original MSX computers.
The great MSX community share a lot of information about many things: hardware, software, devices, etc. and this make possible to create this magic.

What is the license of the emulation software? Are you planning to open source it, if not already?
I hope that the openMSX project can also benefit from your knowledge.

By inyigo

Master (215)

inyigo's picture

09-09-2017, 07:55

Here is a video from VRoBIT's Youtube Channel. In this video we can watch the HC3000 that is a prototype of a new MSX, where version 3.0 of the incredible Symbos operating system for MSX is running. They do it using a TurboR machine and by the way, they show the use of the config command to switch between HDMI (digital) or TV (analog) screens.

https://youtu.be/CSdhPkjon44

By inyigo

Master (215)

inyigo's picture

09-09-2017, 07:48

And here is the lastest video published by VRoBIT's team where shows how the VRoBIT computer allows you to upload files in the recent TSX format based on the Spectrum TZX (CDT in Amstrad). As soon as they have the new hardware ready, the idea is to show how it is also loaded from a real cassette since the TSX load system is based on the simulation of the input signal as it does a real device.

If you like the project and want to support its cause, we thank you to go through https://vrobit.com and leave your record. Thank you!

https://youtu.be/JzKHdmIwUj8

My MSX profile