Retro Home Computers – MSX



The MSX is not a computer as much as it is a computer standard. In the 1980s, in an attempt to create a standard among hardware manufacturers, Microsoft Vice President, Kazuhiko Nishi teamed up with the Director of ASCII Corporation.

Philips MSX Computer

Above: Philips MSX Computer

Manufacturers that signed up to produce the MSX included National, Sony, Pioneer, Panisonic, Samsung, Sharp, Philips, Canon, Yamaha and Casio.

The MSX did quite well in Japan for a number of years. It was first released in 1983 and the last model was discontinued in 1995. However, in 2001, Kazuhiko Nishi initiated a MSX comeback using the MSX Emulator, MSXPLAYer. The MSXPLAYer complies with all applicable licensing and copyright laws, which is maintained by MSX Association.


The MSX was supported by over 20 manufactures including: Spectravideo, Philips, Al Alamia, Sony, Sanyo, Mitsubishi, Toshiba, Hitachi, National, Panasonic, Canon, Casio, Pioneer, Fujitsu General, Yamaha, JVC, Yashica-Kyocera, GoldStar, Samsung/Fenner, Daewoo/Yeno, Gradiente, Sharp/Epcom, Talent. This is more than twice the support that the MSX2 received, which was the follow up to the original MSX.

The MSX had a Zilog Z80 processor, the same processor used by the ZX Sinclair in the UK. It is clocked at 3.58MHz and is powered with MSX Basic 1.0. Video RAM came with a respectable 16KB and 8KB of memory.

Text modes ran with 80 columns, which was standard for an 8-bit computer of the early 1980s. Graphics display was capable of 256×192 with 16 colours available out of 16 colours and supported 32 sprites.


The MSX2 ran the same Zilog Z80Z processor that ran in the MSX. However, that was all that was different with the MSX2 being a marked upgrade over the previous machine.

MSX2 Computer

Above: MSX2 Computer

The MSX2 had a 48KB ROM,64KB Ram standard with some models having as much as 128KB. Video saw a huge upgrade with a supported resolution of 512×512 with 16 colours out of 512. Video RAM also increased significantly over the first version with 64KB.

The MSX 2 enjoyed an upgraded sound chip with the Tamaha YM2149, replacing the General Instruments AY-8910. The MSX2 also came with a 3.5 floppy drive. While, while a marked improvement saw a much reduced list of manufacturers including: Philips, Sony, Sanyo, Samsung, Mitsubishi, Victor (a.k.a. JVC), National, Panasonic, Canon, Yamaha, ACVS, DDX, Daewoo/Yeno, NTT, Talent.


MSX2 +

Above: MSX2 +

The MSX2+ only saw Sony, Sanyo, Panasonic, ACVS, DDX to make it. The Zilog processor was started to get a little stale, though the ROM was upgraded to 68KB. However, RAM stayed at 64KB and wile video memory did not increase, it did support more colours with almost 13000 being able to be displayed at once.

MSX TurboR

Panasonic MSX TurtoR

Above: Panasonic MSX TurtoR

The MSX finally got a processor upgrade with the R800, a Zilog compatible proessor running at 7.16. RAM was increased to 256KB and both video and sound chips were upgraded. However, this was too little too late. Only Panasonic made this model and it was the last MSX before the revival in 2001.

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