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ScuzzBlog: Diaries May 2018

Entry 25th May 2018: Post: 1

Spectravideo SVI-728 - The birth of MSX

See if I get this right... Twas Kay [ Kazuhiko ] Nishi that decided
to give up on his college education in favour of magazines and
form ASCII in 1977 following an earlier publication called I/O. In
1977 he contacted Bill Gates [ both 21 ] and finally met with him
at a computer show and after nine hours developed a partnership
that would eventually lead to the MSX platform.

ASCII and Microsoft formed a partnership in Japan where ASCII
became the operating arm of Microsoft. Following this the NEC-PC8000
was built becoming the first computer with built in BASIC.

In July 1980 IBM approached Gates to see if Microsoft would develop
an OS for them. Gates initially declined but given the problems
IBM had with CP/M was persuaded by Nishi to obtain an OS to
use with the systems. Gates met with Tim Paterson of Seattle
Computer Projects and would eventually purchase the rights to 86-DOS
or QDOS [ Quick and Dirty Operating System ] for $50000.

Nishi then has plans to develop a laptop which leads to KYOCERA
developing the TRS-80 Model 100.

In 1982 Harry Fox and Alex Weiss, two Swiss watch makers created
Spectravision. Originally they developed a concept to create a
computer that cost $30 and could sell for $100. The machine they
proposed was based around the z80, TMS9918A and AY-38910. Nishi
was aware of the project and became very excited about this
meeting his dream of standardising computer hardware and
software into one defining platform. He met with Spectravision
in Hong Kong.

At the same  time [ 1982 ] the ColecoVision was also about to be
launched. This was the brain child of Eric Bromley and there has
always been some question as to whether intellectual aspects of
the platform were not shared with Spectravision as ColecoVision
subcontracted part of its production to Hong Kong Train Bit Corp.
Both platforms share the same base concepts in terms of hardware.

Spectravision launched there SV-328 in Jan 83 at the CES in Las Vagas.

Meanwhile Nishi met with all the leading electronics companies
in Japan and secured a deal to develop a single platform incorporating
Microsoft BASIC. Spectravision then set about redesigning the
system from the ground up and eventually came up with the very
first MSX based machine called the SVI-728. This became the standard
by which all MSX machines was developed.

The MSX system was the brain child of ACSII and Microsoft and
incorporated a version of MS BASIC designed for the MSX system.
All  machines would  be built around the Z80A CPU, the Texas Instruments
TMS9918 or similar have a minimum of 256x196 pixels, 16 colours
and  32 sprites, use the Yamaha AY-3-8910 with 3 voices and 8 octaves,
incorporate a tape recorder  port, joystick port, expansion port,
cartridge  port and have five programmable function keys and the
four arrow keys.

Interestingly the four arrow keys are not on the SVI-728.

From my perspective, and having mucked around with many of
the machines that used this base specification I can see a certain
similarity with what happened to the British Motorbike industry.
The Japanese basically took all the best ideas, by what ever means,
and then used this to create a streamlined, efficient and effective
product. Sadly though it  was like making an android of the original
living thing and then unable  to inject the soul. I find MSX incredibly
effective but sadly  lacking soul.  Just like I find an Amiga based 
machine an incredible joy to use but a  Windows based machine 
soulless. Its a simple truth that true genius  comes from the heart. 
It is not something you can  manufacture from a  kit of parts. 
Something MS has never grasped and never will. And I was  not surprised 
that this was a Japanese concoction given the nature by  which they 
did business in these days.

The first MSX computer SVI-728

Spectravideo SVI-728

Final, final comment... Gary Kildall was and
always will be a true genius. Whereas the likes
of Bill Gates and Kay Nishi will always be
very good entrepreneurs. And only that.

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Last updated 25/05/2018

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scuzzscink 2018