It was in the early ’80s when Mr. Kazuhiko Nishi, a Microsoft Japan executive at that time, conceived the MSX in an attempt of creating a single industry standard for home-based computers. And that was how the MSX revolution began…
In 1983 the first MSX machine reached the market, and one of the first introduced models was the Sony HB-10, also known as Hit-Bit outside Japan. The MSX Sony HB-10 was an entry-level MSX, released with the minimum features described in the MSX 1 specifications: 64 KB RAM, two cartridge slots, 70 keys, etc.
The MSX standard was innovative, but it was not original. It was conceptualized from the specifications of another computer project that later was released as Spectravideo, but somewhat different because it incorporated many advanced redesigned features. Nishi himself tried to convince the Spectravideo creators to release their product with his proposed features, but they had other plans in mind and left all those great ideas behind to soon be implemented in the MSX standard. Only much later newer Spectravideo models followed Nishi’s advice and became MSX compatible.
Among all its amazing features, one of the greatest selling points of the MSX standard was that it was sold with the powerful Microsoft Extended Basic built-in ROM, together with the Microsoft BIOS that was compatible with CP/M calls, exploding the list of MSX compatible software products to hundreds of well known and widely used programs at the time, such as WordStar and VisiCalc. On top of that, Microsoft also signed the first version of the MSX Disk Operational System, the MSX DOS version 1, which was very similar to the early versions of the MS-DOS for PC, and capable of natively execute most CP/M based programs compiled for the Z80 architecture.
The MSX was nothing less than revolutionary, attracting most of the Japanese and Korean computer manufacturers. In a matter of months, a vast collection of MSX compatible computers took over the most important markets in the world. Each machine was unique in its own ways, some more prepared for entertainment, others with advanced features such as MIDI, video-disk, and super-imposing capabilities for video edition. The manufacturers got creative and tirelessly explored unchartered territories thanks to the flexibility the MSX standard offered, which was an incredible achievement at that time.
Many gaming companies started with the MSX
and ended up releasing incredible titles,
competing directly against big brands like
Sega, Konami, and Taito.
In response to the success of the MSX, software companies joined the crowd. Many invested in converting their existing programs for MSX, but massively the industry adopted the MSX as a platform for their new creations. A lot of interest was in the gaming and entertainment industries. Many gaming companies started with the MSX and ended up releasing incredible titles, competing directly against big brands like Sega, Konami, and Taito. The competition raised the bar on quality and innovation, and many original titles for MSX transposed the barriers of the system and reached other platforms. Some even gave birth to entire sagas that outlived the MSX and the entire 8-bit era, existing to this day.
The MSX standard survived for many years against a rapidly evolving segment where the competition was fierce and relentless. The standard had three major releases during its trajectory: the MSX 2.0, the MSX 2.0+, and the latest additions to the family, the infamous MSX Turbo-R.
Hundreds, if not thousands of specific hardware, devices, and products, were released for MSX. Unfortunately, the MSX Turbo-R came too late and was already too limited for the needs of the market when it was released. It was in 1995 when Panasonic, the last manufacturer of MSX machines and the only one that ever launched an MSX Turbo-R, decided to extinguish its MSX production line to invest in a new supposedly revolutionary – but short-lived – game console that was coming with a promise to become an industry leader, the 3DO.
But, for the MSX, the end was only the beginning…
Despite its convoluted trajectory, the MSX standard was never abandoned by its followers. Even nowadays, many decades after its discontinuation, the MSX still connects users all over the world. People exchange information, collect and catalog, and even work together creating new hardware and software products, keeping the standard exciting and alive. Many homebrew products are released for the MSX every year, even entirely new computers based on the standard have been created!
Let’s not forget about the emulators. It was thanks to those incredible pieces of software that surfaced in between the ’90s and ‘2000s that old users maintained their interest in the platform, and how new users keep discovering and falling in love with the MSX since. The high quality and impressive accuracy of some emulators kept people playing the games they love but emulators also helped – and keeps helping – with the creation process of hardware and software products.
In conclusion, the MSX standard is a very elegant computer system with an incredible history to tell, to say the least. It is not surprising – and entirely justifiable – why the MSX community’s appetite for everything related to the standard never seems to fade away.
We created this portal for you, who love MSX as much as we do!
This portal, together with other initiatives of the MSXALL Group (IRC, Radio, Lists and Forums, Social Network, free hosting, etc…) is our way to enforce our vision, to accomplish our mission, and to say “thank you” to so many people who have done so much for us all, keeping the MSX alive, collecting, inventing, sharing, teaching, playing, and – of course – having fun.
|Since the ’80s we have been active in the MSX scene, and with your help, we aim to continue supporting MSX communities with everything we can.
Thank you for being part of the MSX Universe!