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The MSX (standing for MicroSoft eXtended) was the first attempt to create a common platform for home users.

Built around a standard specification laid out by Spectravideo and the Japanese division of Microsoft, MSX machines were made by a variety of far-Eastern consumer electronics giants such as Japan’s Sony, Toshiba and Yamaha and South Korea’s Goldstar.

Unfortunately, the kind of European and North American computer owners targeted by these companies were just the sort of people who had already splashed out on the similarly specified Commodore 64 or Atari 8-bit machines. In the computers home markets of the far east, however, the MSXs were a big success.

Strangely for a format that was designed to be a standard, incompatibilities were rife: Sony pushed their 3.5″ disc drive, while other manufacturers sold 5.25 drives and other add-ons such as light pens and expansion carts could only be used on one make of computer.

As the 80s progressed, the MSX standard received a number of upgrades and tweaks, although few of these enhanced MSXs made it to the UK.

The Games

Many excellent arcade conversions were available for the machine from companies such as Namco and Konami. Presumably with a canny eye on international sales, a number of British companies also released games on the format, including Ultimate and Mr. Micro, who converted the BBC Micro’s classic space trading game, Elite.

Looking back, the biggest game on the format was to be Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear, the game that started the monster Metal Gear Solid franchise. As the game was written for the MSX 2 format, though, few British gamers got to see the original version of the game, and instead got their first taste of Solid Snake from the Nintendo NES conversion.

People

Ultimate Play The Game (link to follow)
Ultimate converted a number of their Spectrum classics to the MSX range.

The Bitmap Brothers (link to follow)
The Bitmap Brothers released a conversion of their Amiga and Atari ST classic Xenon for the MSX.

Thanks

Thanks to John Parker for his help with this page

Major events

1983
27 June: MSX specification announced

1984
UK launch price £300

1984
MSX 2 range launched in Japan

1988
MSX 2+ range launched in Japan

1990
Panasonic release the first MSX Turbo R machine, the Panasonic FS-A1ST

Emulators

Mac OS X

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iOS

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OUYA/Android

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Features

MSX

3.57MHz Z80 processor
Base RAM of 8K, although most machines shipped with 64K
16 colour graphics, 256×192
Cartridge slot
MSX BASIC 1.0
Various enhancements added by the different hardware manufacturers.

MSX 2

3.57MHz Z80 processor
Base RAM of 64K, although most machines shipped with 128K
Maximum resolution 512×212 (16 colours from a palette of 512), also 256×212 (256 colours)
Cartridge slot
MSX BASIC 2.0 or 2.1
Various enhancements added by the different hardware manufacturers.
Sony Hitbit marketing material
Marketing material for the Sony Hit-Bit range of MSX computers

MSX 2+

Minimum 3.58MHz Z80 processor, some models shipped with higher speeds
Base RAM 64K
Maximum resolution 512×212 (16 colours from a palette of 512), also 256×212 (19,268 colours)
MSX BASIC 3.0

MSX Turbo R

16-bit R800 processor
3.58MHz Z80 processor
256K or 512K, expandable to 1MB