MSX FAQ
This page was last modified 16:59, 6 March 2018 by Rderooy. Based on work by Gdx and Poltergeist and others.

Contents

Introduction

This is the Wikified version of The Ultimate MSX FAQ. This page is merely an overview. You can also check out this index.

This FAQ contains information about the MSX system, its expansions and a lot of other things. If you have texts you would like to be added to this FAQ, feel free to add them! If you discover any bugs, please correct them. This FAQ is an ongoing project, so help us make it as good as possible.

History

The Ultimate MSX FAQ was started by the Red Devil, but Manuel Bilderbeek took it over in 1998. Now it's on this Wiki.

General MSX FAQ

Basic info on MSX systems

MSX Music expansions

MSX video expansions

FAQ on MSX disk/OS expansions

Miscellaneous FAQ

And here are some uncategorized FAQs...

How can I let most of the MSX1 software work on MSX2 machines/what is the universal slot-select-correct POKE?

The universal poke to do this is:
POKE -1,1.0625*(NOT(PEEK(-1))AND&HF0)
The same POKE, but a bit shorter:
POKE -1,(15-PEEK(-1)\16)*17

Try this in case a program gives trouble. Always use this universal poke if you put it in a (BASIC) loader, never use POKE -1,170 or POKE -1,255! This will guarantee the program will work on all MSX computers. If you are trying to run a program on your MSX2 and the MSX resets right after running the loader, you can check whether the loader contains one of the aforementioned non-universal pokes. Replace it with the universal poke and try again.

If this doesn't work to get the (MSX1) software running, you can also try to boot the MSX with the CTRL-key pressed. This lets the MSX not reserve memory for a second diskdrive and gives you a little more memory. Since most MSX1 games were on cassette, the programs don't expect that memory was reserved for diskdrives and disabling one might just give you enough memory to run the program.

Another thing that might help is setting the width of the screen to 40 (or less) columns. Some MSX1 games don't expect the width to be 80 columns. Type this before loading: WIDTH 40. You can also set the screen-mode to screen 2 and then load, like this: SCREEN 2:RUN"PROGRAM.LDR", because some games expect the computer to be in screen-mode 2, because originally there was a loader that displayed some nice graphics to amuse you while loading (from cassette), which are most of the time in screen 2.

My Philips VG-8235 (or NMS-8245 or MSXturboR) gives disk-errors, whatever I try! What is this?

This is probably caused by a worn-out string (rubber belt) in your diskdrive. This string makes the disk in your drive spin. You can probably buy a new string in your local electronics-shop. After replacement the drive will probably be fine again. But note that the VG-8235 has a Single Sided diskdrive, so you can only use Single Sided disks.

The size you need is 60 mm diameter of the belt. Seems small, but it is really the correct size. Tried it myself. My belt was named BF-60.

I installed the password on my MSX, but I forgot it. What now?

This password, which is stored in the MSX2 (or higher) real time clock IC, can easily be overrode. Just press the GRAPH and STOP buttons while booting the MSX! Then the Password: prompt will be skipped. Then you can change the password with SET PASSWORD "passwordstring". Or just remove it with SET PASSWORD "" or by making another change in the RTC options (e.g. SET PROMPT "Files").

A problem for emulators is to find what the STOP and GRAPH key are... On RuMSX e.g., GRAPH is the PAGE DOWN key, and STOP the F8 key. Check your emulator documentation.

Where can I get info on JoyNet, the MSX network standard?

Because it would be useless to dedicate a whole section of the FAQ to it and copy all info from the JoyNet page, I'm giving you the URL here: http://map.grauw.nl/resources/joynet/ so check out the JoyNet page on the MAP, by Laurens Holst (Grauw). Most other JoyNet pages have disappeared from the net, but most info should be on this one.

The sound on my Philips NMS 8250/55/80 sounds terrible. How can I fix it?

Yes, a lot of NMS8250/55/80 computers have an assembly error in the audio output circuitry. This is probably the case. To fix it:

  • NMS 8250/55: R428&R429 (100R) should both be replaced by an elco 100uF/10V with the negative side towards connector `AB'
  • NMS 8280: R426 (100R): replace by 100uF/10V (same as above)

I have a Philips VW-0030/NMS-1431 (or some other MSX-) printer. Where can I find drivers for Windows for this printer?

(answered by Hans Oranje)

You can use the IBM Pro Printer or Epson FX 80 driver for these printers. If you use tractor feed, you have to set it as `Chainform' 11 or 12 inch. The drivers are standard in Windows 98. For Windows 2000 use the `Epson compatible 9 pin' printer driver. You may need to set the DIP switches on the back side of the printer to switch from MSX character set to IBM character set.

I want to buy/sell an MSX. What should I do?

If you want to buy an MSX, just put an advertising message in English on the MSX Mailinglist and/or Newsgroup. Of course you can also place it in local newspapers or MSX club-magazines or whatever. You can also check the various MSX sites, some have MSX auctions or advertisements online (like MSX Resource Center's Trade forum). See the links database of The MSX Resource Center for some more links. If you're selling MSX equipment, practically do the same as above, but first check if Manuel Bilderbeek already has your item in his collection on his MSX page and if not, then mail him! ;-)

Can I install a PC diskdrive in my Philips NMS-8250/55/80?

(Maarten ter Huurne, Mari v/d Broek, MSX Mailinglist)

You can easily replace a 8250/55/80 drive with a standard PC disk drive. The only modification you need, is to place a jumper over pin 33 and 34 of the second drive connector on the main board. Pin 33 is ground and pin 34 is /RDY, the ready signal, a signal that modern PC drives no longer have. Connecting the pins will tell the 8250/55/80 that the drive is always ready, the 8250/55/80 DiskROM has no problems with that.

For the pin numberings, refer to the connector section.

Troubleshooting:

  • Drive doesn't work and LED of it keeps lit: you put the connector on the drive upside down. Reverse the connector and try again.
  • The drive only works when I access it as drive B: (by e.g. FILES "B:". Check if there is a D(rive)S(elect) jumper on the diskdrive... Many diskdrives do not have jumpers but are soldered (SMD-resistor!). Be sure that DS=0 for drive A en DS=1 for drive B. If there is no jumper, or you can't solder SMD it is possible to solve the problem... Open the connector at the side of the drive and remove the flatcable from it... With a sharp knife you can split the cable between wire 9 and 10 en 12 and 13 (over a length of about 4 cm!)... If you turn this piece of cable (3 wires) 180 degrees and put it back in the connector, DS0 and DS1 are switched from there place and it should work then.
  • Errors occur when a HD drive was put in: you cannot use the drive as a HD drive. So use only floppies formatted as Double Density. Sometimes you need to put a piece of tape over the HD hole in the disk to make it work. Better is to short the sensor that checks for the HD hole.

Note that it's possible to put two drives on one cable, as long as one reacts to DS0 and the other to DS1.

Can I use my mouse in joystick-controlled software?

If you have the right mouse, you can. It seems some MSX mice have a built in feature to emulate the joystick with the mouse. You enable it by powering on your MSX while pressing the left mouse button. This feature is known to work with the Philips SBC-3810 and the Sony MOS-1 mice and most likely also works with other mice that are similar to these. At least the Witty mouse doesn't have this feature. Try playing Aleste 2 with mouse like this!

Where can I find plotter pens for my Sony PRN-C41?

This is quite a popular plotter, but the big problem is that the pens that came with it and in fact, all pens that were ever manufactured for it, have been dried up in the mean time. So, they don't work anymore and hence, the plotter is not usable. However, recently some people found out that you can still by new (fresh) pens in online or other shops. This is the information: Sharp pens, Type EA-850C, UPENP1002CCZZ. This is a set of four colour pens (black, blue, green and red). A few years ago they costed about 5 euros per set and they work fine in the plotter.

How can I use modern (?) floppy discs on my MSX, or MSX formatted modern floppies on my PC?

MSX machines can only handle 3.5" Double Density (360 or 720kB) floppy discs while most floppy disks you will typically find or of the High Density (1.44MB) variety. You can try to use HD disks as DD disks by putting a piece of sticky tape over the hole in the disks at the bottom right (the other hole is the write-protected hole, which should have a switch). Make sure that the tape is not transparent, because some disk drives use an optical method to determine if there is a hole. Original MSX disk drives don't need the tape over the hole, but can still give problems with HD disks (most will work). If you want to use DD formatted disks in a PC disk drive, you most likely need the non-transparent sticky tape covering the HD hole. Not covering the hole can cause the PC to claim the disk is not formatted.

Also note that there are additional restrictions if you have a USB FDD for your PC. Supposedly there is a type that allows raw sector access and acts like a legacy FDD while the other, more common type, is seen as a special case of a usb-storage device (called 'UFI'). There are also claims that some USB FDD are not capable of handling 2DD (720kB) disks, but this may happen if you try to use HD media as 2DD without covering up the HD hole. With regards to the 'UFI' type, it only supports certain fixed formats, which means special cases like copy protection or unusual layout discs will not work regardless of the operating system the PC is running.

As an example, on Linux you can query the combination of a 'UFI' USB FDD drive and disk capabilities with ufiformat. First lets determine the Linux device that is being used by the USB FDD

$ sudo ufiformat -i
disk         generic     
/dev/sdb     /dev/sg2

As you can see, the USB FDD drive is /dev/sdb which is what we will use in the next examples.

Here is what querying a HD disk will return.

$ sudo ufiformat -i /dev/sdb
vendor:  TEAC
product: FD-05PUB
write protect: off
media type: 2HD
status      block size   kb
formatted    2880  512 1440
formattable  2880  512 1440
formattable  1232 1024 1232
formattable  2400  512 1200

As you can see under 'formattable', it does not mention supporting 720kB media. But lets cover the HD hole and try again...

$ sudo ufiformat -i /dev/sdb
vendor:  TEAC
product: FD-05PUB
write protect: off
media type: 2DD
status      block size   kb
unformatted  1440  512  720

It now says the same disk is 'unformatted' 720kB. We can use ufiformat to low-level format the disk as 720kB as follows

$ sudo ufiformat -v /dev/sdb
format on device=/dev/sdb, size=720
geometry: track=80, head=2, sector=9, block=512

Note that this only does a low-level format of the media. You still need to create the actual FAT12 filesystem before you can copy files to it.

$ sudo mkfs.vfat /dev/sdb
mkfs.fat 4.1 (2017-01-24)

And we can now copy files to the disk and read them on a MSX with 2DD capable disk drive.

There are also some reports that legacy FDD don't work with Windows 10, or require updated drives from Microsoft.

Can I use PAL software on an NTSC MSX (or vice versa)?

Yes, you can. MSX software is not specific to PAL or NTSC (it's not on the box either), except when the maker specifically checks for it. I know one case, which is the Japanese Metal Gear, which does not run (on purpose) on European MSX machines. For the rest, no worries. There are a few differences, though: if the NTSC machine is Japanese, your European ("PAL") game may suddenly display a Japanese intro screen (for some Konami games). Also, the speed may be different, as many games run on the interrupt frequency, which is 50Hz for (most) PAL and 60Hz for NTSC (Japanese) machines. So, a Japanese game ("NTSC") on a European ("PAL") machine may run a bit slower than the authors intended and vice versa. Some Japanese games may change the interrupt frequency to 60Hz on your European MSX. If you have a monitor connected which cannot handle that, you're screwed. It remains PAL, by the way, but it's just 60Hz.

Notes:
- A few rare demos for MSX1 that require a precise timing don't work correctly on NTSC MSX1 computer.
- Laser disc software are all in NTSC. These are not usable on PAL player. In addition, the NTSC player does not work on the Pioneer PX-7 PAL.

I have 64kB of memory, but BASIC only reports 28xxx Bytes free

This is normal. While the Z80 processor can address 64kB, starting BASIC will only give you access to 32kB RAM maximum, regardless how much memory the system has, as the remaining 32kB of the addressable memory space is occupied by ROM code which contains BASIC. The 32kB of RAM is further reduced as BASIC also needs some RAM for its own use. For an application to use the full 64kB of RAM it cannot use BASIC but needs to be written in something like assembler.

The exact amount of free Bytes that BASIC reports will also depend on additional ROM's that are present in the system which may also need some amount of RAM for their own operation. On a system with no additional ROMs, the best you can hope for is 28815 Bytes free. The most common additional ROM which also requires RAM is Disk-BASIC. Depending on which Disk BASIC ROM is present the available RAM to BASIC can be anywhere between 23 and 25kB.

Here are some examples of how free memory is effected by the choice of disk drive on a system that otherwise would have 28815 Bytes free. Keeping CTRL pressed when booting the MSX will disable the second disk drive (present or not) and free some RAM.

Product Type Free Free with CTRL
AVT DPF-550 5.25" 180kB 24455 25501
Philips NMS 1200 3.5" 720kB 23432 24990
Philips VY-0010 3.5" 360kB 24456 25502
Sony HBD-F1 3.5" 720kB 23431 24989
Sony HBD-50 3.5" 360kB 24455 25501
Sanyo MFD-001 5.25" 360kB 24456 *
Mitsubishi ML-30DC 3.5" 720kB 23432 24990
Panasonic FS-FD1A 3.5" 720kB 23414 24972
Sharp HB-3600 any 23430 24988
Talent DPF-550 5.25" 180kB 24455 25501
DDX 3.0 any 23430 24988
Microsol CDX-2 any 23430 24988

(*) booting with CTRL on the Sanyo MFD-001 has no effect, drive B does not get disabled.