The MSX PC is little known in the West, but it was Microsoft Japan’s key game in parts of the Asian computer market in the 1980s. As a joint project with ASCII Corporation, MSX sought to create a “standard” PC architecture, just as VHS had become the de facto videotape format.
The first MSX systems were made by Mitsubishi and launched in Japan in October 1983 (though the point is that any company can make them, many including Sony). Seven million MSX machines will be sold in Japan over the next few years, making it both a viable gaming platform (the Metal Gear Solid series started with MSX2) and part of the cultural fabric.it has always been the underdog (opens in new tab)but was loved at the time.
The co-founder of ASCII is an extraordinary engineer Nishi Kazuhiko (opens in new tab), in addition to co-designing MSX, he is a creator, businessman and professor. Another co-creator is Kazuyasu Maeda of Panasonic R&D. There are four generations of MSX hardware, the last being the MSXTurboR in 1990 (discontinued in 1993). The expected MSX3 never materialized.
ASCII died after a merger in 2008, but Nishi has now teamed up with D4 Enterprise to design something extraordinary: the standalone MSX3, due out later this year.
Dear friends, Mr. Suzuki, President of D4E, agreed today that they will launch the 1-chip MSX 3 as the main console for EGG. As an option, there will be a bay slot for DVDR or BDXLR and will support CD, DVD, BD, BDUHD. Announcement of 1 chip MSX 3 in late summer. Best regards, pic.twitter.com/oDUFIFT2waJune 23, 2022
D4 Enterprise is a Japanese video game publisher specializing in game preservation and operating EGG program (opens in new tab). Its goal is essentially to make MSX games run on modern platforms and keep the hardware’s rich history alive.
The “next-gen MSX” fits this to a degree, but it also appears to be intended to be more than just a machine for lovers of nostalgia. It has an Arm-based CPU and supports C, Python and LISP languages. This project was originally an expansion board that could fit in a slot on an MSX or MSX2, but will now be released as a standalone device with an optional bay slot for DVD/Blu-ray discs.
Nishi wrote that he considered making “single-chip” MSX hardware in the past, but didn’t think the potential solution would provide enough power at the time. He confirmed that the new machine will be backward compatible. “Of course, the old MSX logo software will work in future MSXs,” Nishi wrote. He also believes that folk programming should start using more modern tools: “I would probably ask all potential users to stop writing z80 and r800 code and only write 64-bit VM code on advanced tools for long-term binary compatibility. VM64 will run on On X86, ARM32, ARM64, RISC V.”
More details on the MSX3 will be released this summer, and Nishi says there will be three products available by the end of the year: the MSX Engine 3 “for OEMs and hobby system builders”, the “Pro” and “Light” MSX3 keyboards, and the MSX 3 The IOT box can be used alone or with MSX or MSX2 hardware.
Don’t call it a comeback: though it’s unbelievable considering a hardware line that’s basically been dead for 3 years is back. The core idea of MSX, a standardized and powerful PC platform for the masses, is something that many companies have tried to create in many cases over the years (the most recent example, if a bit specialized, is Steam Deck).
Nishi has said that the machine’s name came from the design team’s directive: “Machines with Software eXchangeability”, although he also said at one point that it was named after the MX missile, then said in a 2020 book that he chose a three-letter name to comply with VHS standards. In the end, he said it could also be understood as “Microsoft’s next”. So it’s pretty clear!
MSX3 will be released later this year.