MSX was the name of a standardized home computer architecture in the 1980s. It was a Microsoft-led attempt to create unified standards among hardware makers, conceived by one-time Microsoft Japan executive Kazuhiko Nishi. Despite Microsoft's involvement, MSX-based machines were seldom seen in the United States and Britain, but they were popular in other markets. Eventually 5 million MSX-based units were sold world-wide.
Nishi proposed MSX as an attempt to create a single industry standard for home computers. Inspired by the success of VHS as a standard for video cassette recorders, many Japanese electronic manufacturers along with Goldstar, Philips and Spectravideo built and promoted MSX computers. Any piece of hardware or software with the MSX logo on it was compatible with MSX products of other manufacturers. In particular, the expansion cartridge form and function were part of the standard; any MSX expansion or game cartridge would work in any MSX computer.
Nishi's standard consisted primarily of several off-the-shelf parts; the main CPU was a 3.58 MHz Zilog Z80, the graphics chip a Texas Instruments TMS9918 with 16 KB (KiB) of dedicated VRAM, the sound was provided by the AY-3-8910 chip manufactured by General Instrument (GI), and an Intel 8255 Programmable Peripheral Interface chip was used for the parallel I/O such as the keyboard (and partly by the I/O ports provided by the AY-3-8910). This was a choice of components that was shared by many other home computers and games consoles of the period, such as the ColecoVision home computer (an emulator was later available with which MSX systems could run some of its software), and the Sega SG-1000 video game system. Most MSX systems soon started to integrate not only the common "glue logic" components but also the Z80 CPU, the sound chip, the 8255 PIO and the Video Display Processor into a single chip, called an MSX-Engine chip. The result was that one only needed an MSX-Engine chip and some ROM and RAM chips to build a basic system, which greatly reduced production costs. However, almost all MSX systems used a professional keyboard, not a chiclet keyboard, which drove the price up again. So these components alongside Microsoft's MSX BASIC made the MSX a competitive, though somewhat expensive, home computer package.
The system MSX most closely resembled was the Spectravideo SV-328 home computer (Spectravideo even claimed to be "MSX compatible" in advertisements before the actual launch of MSX systems) but it was in fact not completely compatible with it. This led to a new and short-lived kind of software cracking: converting. Since the MSX games were unplayable on the SV-328 computer, SV-328 crackers developed a method of modifying the (MSX) games to make them work on the SV-328. In most cases this included downloading the MSX BIOS to the SV-328 from tape or floppy disk. Spectravideo later launched a system, the SV-728, which did completely adhere to the MSX standard.
Before the appearance and great success of the Nintendo Famicom, MSX was the platform for which major Japanese game studios, such as Konami and Hudson Soft, produced their titles. The Metal Gear series was originally written for MSX hardware.
In the 1980s Japan was in the midst of an economic awakening. Large Japanese electronics firms might have been successful in the early computer market had they made a concerted effort in the late 1970s. Their combined design and manufacturing power could have allowed them to produce competitive machines, but they initially ignored the home computer market and appear to have been hesitant to do business in a market where no industry standard existed.
The MSX was formally announced during a press-conference in June 27, 1983 (a date that is considered the birthday of the MSX standard) and a slew of big Japanese firms declared their plans to introduce machines. This set off a wave of panic in the U.S. and UK industry resulting in instant animosity toward MSX. However, the Japanese companies avoided the intensely competitive U.S. home computer market, which was in the throes of a Commodore-led price war. Only Spectravideo and Yamaha briefly marketed MSX machines in the U.S. Spectravideo's MSX enjoyed very little success, and Yamaha's CX5M model, built to interface with various types of MIDI equipment, was billed more as a digital music tool than a standard personal computer.
During the 1980s Europe became the largest computer games (as opposed to console games) market in the world, and the extremely popular Commodore 64 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum computers dominated. By the time the MSX launched in Europe several more popular 8-bit home computers had also arrived, and it was far too late to capture the extremely crowded European 8-bit computer market.
A problem for some game software developers was that the method by which MSX-1 computers addressed their video ram (to draw a picture on the screen) could be quite slow compared to systems that gave direct access to the video memory. This, and the fact that the completely different features the MSX-1's video chip had to compensate for the slower video access were not efficiently used while porting (mostly Spectrum) software, made the MSX-1 to appear slower when running ported games. see: MSX Video access method
There were also some minor compatibility issues which plagued ported Spectrum games. Such as the Toshiba HX-10 machine being unable to read certain key combinations at the same time, (preventing the Spectrum-'standard' of Q,A, O,P steering) whereas machines by other manufacturers worked fine. Later (ported) games tended to use the MSX-1 joystick port or used MSX's official arrow keys and space bar, (or offered the option to choose other keys to control the program with) which solved the problem.
A larger problem was that the designers of the MSX standard bank switching protocol did not prescribe to hardware manufacturers in which banks the cartridges, but more important the RAM, should be found. And the MSX's BIOS did not provide this information either, thus requiring programmers to implement the complex routines to "find" these resources that were published in the official documentation from Microsoft. Often programmers did not bother, (or know) and just assumed that the RAM and cartridges would be available at an (imagined) "default" bank switch location. Which then lead to problems, because such "default" locations did not really exist, and in reality some systems had their RAM or cartridge slot(s) not at the "default" location, but on another bank switch location (which was completely allowed by the MSX specification). In those cases these sloppy written programs failed to run because they only "saw" 32K of the available memory, instead of the full 64K that almost all MSX-1 machines offered.
Consequently, partly due to all these perceived problems, MSX never became the worldwide standard that its makers had envisioned, mainly because it never took off in the United States and the UK. In Japan, South Korea and Brazil, MSX was the paramount home computer system in the 1980s. It was also quite popular in Europe (except in the UK). Especially in the Netherlands and Spain. Some Arab countries and in the Soviet Union there where classes of networked Yamaha MSX2 which were used for teaching informatics in school.
The exact meaning of the 'MSX' abbreviation remains a matter of debate. At the time, most people seemed to agree it meant 'MicroSoft eXtended', referring to the built-in MSX-BASIC programming language, specifically adapted by Microsoft for the MSX system. However, according to Kazuhiko Nishi during a visit to Tilburg in the Netherlands on the 21st of April 2001, MSX stands for 'Machines with Software eXchangeability'. The MSX-DOS disk operating system had file system compatibility with CP/M and was similar to MS-DOS. In this way, Microsoft could promote MSX for home use while promoting MS-DOS based personal computers in office environments.
MSX spawned four generations: MSX (1983), MSX2 (1986), MSX2+ (1988) and MSXturboR (1990). The first three were 8-bit computers based on the Z80 microprocessor, while the MSXturboR was based on an enhanced Zilog Z800 known as the R800. The MSXturboR was introduced in 1990 but was unsuccessful due to a lack of support and the rise in popularity of the by then well-established IBM PC Compatible market. Production of the Turbo R ended in 1995.
In total, 5 million MSX computers were sold, which made it relatively popular but not the global standard it was intended to be. For a comparison with rival 8-bit computers, the Commodore 64 sold 17 million units worldwide in its lifetime, the Apple II sold 6 million units, the Amstrad CPC sold 3 million units, and the Tandy TRS-80 sold 250,000 units.
In the 80's, Sakhr (صخر) Computers (Developed by Al Alamyyeh a Kuwaiti company), started the production line of the first Arabian version of MSX computers. They started with a Yamaha AX100, but produced a few more models including an MSX2 and MSX2+ models. One of the most popular and affordable models was Sakhr MSX AX170. They were also the first to Arabize BASIC and LOGO for MSX.
Many MSX computers were used during 80's in Eastern European (former communist block) countries as a perfect tool for subtitling pirated films on VHS, or BETAMAX cassettes. The MSX computers were used for their simplicity and its ability to display prepared titles in real time as superimpose text on mastering tapes.
Others got various installments on the MSX, including some titles unique to the system or largely reworked versions of games on other formats:
Later in the 1980s the MSX2 was released, which systems often (but not always) included a built-in 3.5" disk drive, and consequently the popular media for games and other software shifted to floppy disks.
The MSX 3.5" floppy disks are directly compatible with MS-DOS (although some details like file undeletion and boot sector code were different). Like MS-DOS 1, MSX disks (formatted) under MSX-DOS 1 have no support for subdirectories.
MSX is also emulated in the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console, with games available for download officially (in Japan only, but it was also announced that North America will get MSX games someday too. It's unknown if Europe will receive MSX support).
Expression and regulation of a sea urchin Msx class homeobox gene: insights into the evolution and function of a gene family that participates in the patterning of the early embryo.(The Future of Aquatic Research in Space: Neurobiology, Cellular and Molecular Biology)
Feb 01, 1997; Inductive tissue interactions, in which signals from one tissue alter the fate of another, are an essential feature of the...
Expression of Msx-1 is suppressed in bisphosphonate associated osteonecrosis related jaw tissue-etiopathology considerations respecting jaw developmental biology-related unique features.(Research)(Report)
Oct 13, 2010; Authors: Falk Wehrhan (corresponding author) ; Peter Hyckel ; Jutta Ries ; Phillip Stockmann ; Emeka Nkenke ; Karl...