Category Archives: Technology

A rarely seen MSX computer

Posted by in Fun,Hardware,MSX,Retro,Technology | May 27, 2015

This is an interesting find. Let me give you some background first:

In order to get your driver’s license in Spain you need to pass a test called psicotécnico. This test is designed to ensure that your hand-eye coordination and response times are normal. When I took the test many years ago, it consisted on a computer attached to a couple of foot switches and a couple of handles. On the screen there were a couple of bars that you could move horizontally independently from each other using the handles. The screen kept scrolling down simulating a couple of roads, and your mission was to keep both bars inside the road at all times.

The Spanish government ordered these systems exclusively from a company called ASDE (and they still do).

What’s interesting is that the computer they used was an MSX2. When I took the test they had a Philips NMS8245, but it seems that they also used computers from Sony. Everybody who got a driver’s license in Spain in the 80-90s had to go and play with this MSX.

Today somebody on Facebook found this: there’s one of these units for sale, complete with the controllers and software (a cartridge screwed into the top slot):




Nowadays these machines aren’t in use anymore. They’ve been replaced with a newer system, but it seems that the controllers are basically still the same:


The new Driver-Test set. Probably running on a custom-built PC.

Here’s a video of a test in progress. The MSX version was exactly the same:

Seeing this machine brought back some nice memories. :-)

Update: a friend on Facebook reports that these MSX are still in use in some examination centers.

Japanese books for retro computer fans

Posted by in Hardware,Japan,MSX,Retro,Technology | May 25, 2015

During a conversation on Facebook earlier today I mentioned a couple of books by Japanese author Hiroyuki Maeda, and I promised to post more information later. These books are for retro computer fans, even those who can’t understand Japanese. Mr. Maeda has published several books about retro computers and game consoles, but in this post I’ll talk about two of them:

  • 懐かしのホビーパソコンガイドブック (The Nostalgic Hobby PC Guidebook, ISBN 978-4-7755-2339-1)
  • 海外のゲーム&パソコンガイドブック (The Oversea’s Game & PC Guidebook, ISBN 978-4-7755-2419-0)

Left: The Oversea’s Game & PC Guidebook. Right: The Nostalgic Hobby PC Guidebook.

These books contain lots of information about hundreds of computer systems and consoles from the late 70s to the early 90s. Keep reading for a taste of what’s inside

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Restoration and whitening of a Panasonic FS-A1ST

Posted by in Hardware,How-to,MSX,Technology | May 8, 2015

I posted about this on my Facebook account a few days ago and several people asked for more photos and a followup, so here it is.

My Facebook post from May 3rd.

My Facebook post from May 3rd.


Some time ago I bougth a Panasonic FS-A1ST computer on Yahoo! Auctions. The description said that the unit was “as is” and that it wasn’t guaranteed to work properly. The photos were a bit dark, but there wasn’t any obvious physical damage. The price wasn’t high, so I bid on it and I won.

The package arrived a few days later. I couldn’t wait to open the box and try it (I had been without an MSX turbo R for quite a while), but my happiness vanished quickly: the computer came in a terrible shape. It was very dusty, and both the case and keyboard had yellowed a lot, not to mention the tobacco smell.


The computer as it arrived. Because of the bad light it doesn’t look as bad in the photo as it did in real life.

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Sony Design exhibition in Ginza: MAKING MODERN

Posted by in Culture,Design,Japan,MSX,Retro,Technology | May 6, 2015

If you’re following me on Facebook or Twitter then you already learnt about this earlier today:

This morning we went to Ginza for some important shopping, and afterwards we headed for the Sony Building. The reason: an exhibition opened there last week about the design of Sony products, and they have on display one of the coolest-looking MSX computers ever produced: a red HIT-BIT HB-101.

Place: Sony Building (8th floor), Ginza
Admission fee: Free
Companion book: Sony Design: Making Modern
Held from April 29th to June 14th, 2015

Sony HIT-BIT HB-101 (Red)

Sony HIT-BIT HB-101 (Red). Click to enlarge.

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Relearning MSX #18: Structure of an MSX-C program

Posted by in MSX,Retro,Technology,Uncategorized | March 20, 2015

In the last post we saw a very brief example of command line parameters, and we learnt about input/output redirection and pipes.

This week we’re going to see the structure of a program written in C. This post is intended as an introduction for users who haven’t programmed in the C language before. If you have coded anything in C before then you can completely skip it.

A few characteristics of C programs

If you’ve been an MSX user for a long time then it’s likely that you’ve seen lots of MSX BASIC programs. If that’s the case, then you’ll immediately notice several differences:


C program (left) and MSX BASIC program (right). Click to enlarge.

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Relearning MSX #17: Command line parameters, redirection and pipes

Posted by in MSX,Retro,Technology | March 13, 2015


We now have a working installation of the MSX-C compiler. We saw a very simple test program in chapter 12, and this week we’ll compile a program that actually does something.

We’re going to learn about:

  • Command line parameters
  • Input/output redirection
  • Pipes

Along the way we’re also going to see some common compile-time errors and how to resolve them. This post doesn’t require or assume any previous programming experience. The content and example programs are based on chapter 4 of the book MSX-C入門上巻 (“Introduction to MSX-C, first part”) edited by ASCII Corporation in 1989.

Before we start go get something to drink. This is a long post.

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Index of technical articles on MSX Magazine

Posted by in MSX,Retro,Technology | March 12, 2015

For my own reference I’ve compiled a list of all the technical articles that appeared in the Japanese MSX Magazine published by ASCII between 1983 and 1992. These articles are a fantastic source of information on the MSX architecture and how to develop software and hardware for it, even without previous knowledge of programming or electronics.

I have entered the article titles as they are, because this index won’t be very useful to you anyway if you can’t read Japanese.

Download it here:

All of the MSX Magazine issues have been available for some time at the Internet Archive. This search will find most of them.

Relearning MSX #16: Roadmap

Posted by in MSX,Retro,Technology | March 10, 2015

It’s been a while since the last post. This one isn’t technical at all. I’m just going to explain where we’re going from this point. Also, starting this week I’m setting a fixed schedule: one new post every Friday. This should keep you (and me) busy.

In the next posts we’re going to follow the Introduction to MSX-C (MSX-C入門) books published by ASCII. Both have been out of print for a long time, but they can still be found from time to time in Japanese second hand book stores and auctions. We’ll see everything in these books until we complete them, and then we’ll go to more technical stuff.

PDF versions of these were distributed with the MSX Magazine Revival issue #3 (MSXマガジン永久保存版3) in 2005. Both PDFs have been available online on the Internet Archive for some time (see links below).


Introduction to MSX-C (Yellow: first part, Green: second part)

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Relearning MSX #15: MSX-C commands: CG.COM

Posted by in How-to,MSX,Retro,Technology | February 18, 2015

In the previous two posts we’ve seen a detailed description of CF (MSX-C’s parser) and FPC (MSX-C’s function parameter checker). Today we’ll see the last one: CG.COM, MSX-C’s code generator.

What I said about the previous two articles applies to this one as well: this explanation is for experienced users who want to have more control over the compile process. If you’re a beginner then you don’t need to bother paying too much attention to this (yet). However, it won’t hurt to at least skim it and find out what are the available options.


MSX-C’s code generator (CG.COM)

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Relearning MSX #14: MSX-C commands: FPC.COM

Posted by in How-to,MSX,Retro,Technology | February 16, 2015

This is the second post describing MSX-C’s command line tools. In the previous article we examined the parser (CF.COM), and today we’ll see the Function Parameter Checker (FPC.COM).

As before, this post is rather technical and assumes experience programming in C. It’s targetted at users who already have experience programming in C. However, I still recommend to read it at least once if you’re a beginner, because it will familiarize you with problems you’ll find in the future.


The MSX-C Ver.1.2 manual and disk

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