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80s computing in Japan


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#1 Nebulon OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Jul 6, 2016 6:25 PM

I'm interested to hear more about computers in Japan during the late 70s and early 80s. 

 

To kick things off, here's a link to a magazine with tons of computer ads to ogle:

https://archive.org/details/IO198109

 

 



#2 lazzeri OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jul 7, 2016 4:31 AM

Here's a great start:

http://www.hardcoreg...secomputers.htm

#3 doctor_x OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jul 7, 2016 7:34 PM

This is excellent..

#4 lazzeri OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jul 8, 2016 5:17 AM

I am DEFINITELY not a world-class expert but I am pretty familiar with MSX, the japanese standard developed by Microsoft and ASCII in early 80s. It had a decent traction back then and achieved a cult status in Europe (specially in Spain and Holland but also in some degree in Italy, UK and France), some Arabic countries (Kuweit, Egypt and Saudi Arabia) and Brazil.

 

It also had some interesting "scene" in USSR. Did you guys know that MSX was the only commercial 8-bit computer used in space? There was an MSX2 computer made by Sony on MIR, the Soviet Space Station. :)

 

 

capture.jpg

 

http://msx.gnu-linux.net/msx-in-space/



#5 Nebulon OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jul 8, 2016 2:10 PM

Tons of cool stuff in this issue too:

 

https://archive.org/details/Io198410



#6 lazzeri OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jul 8, 2016 4:40 PM

Tons of cool stuff in this issue too:

 

https://archive.org/details/Io198410

 

   I think you might like this book.

 

http://www.matranet....oks/bbl/bbl.php

 

   I do managed to grab a copy before it ran out of print. The ads are amazing, a lot of bladerunner-ish computer fetish with pretty short-haired japanese girls and sexy-looking machines. Japan as it finest:-)



#7 carlsson OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jul 9, 2016 2:57 PM

That book is a bit of a novelty. I've got a copy and while it is fun to browse through, it is rather shallow and puts more focus on mostly Japanese women - sometimes scantly clad but often with decent amount of clothes on - than it focuses on the computers they tried to sell.



#8 lazzeri OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jul 10, 2016 4:30 AM

That book is a bit of a novelty. I've got a copy and while it is fun to browse through, it is rather shallow and puts more focus on mostly Japanese women - sometimes scantly clad but often with decent amount of clothes on - than it focuses on the computers they tried to sell.

 

Yes, it is clearly not focused on computers but instead in those amazing, weird ads from the 80s. :-)

 

Carlsson, are you a fan of MSX too? How did you managed to find Matra? Was MSX "a thing" in Sweden aswell?

 

I´ve managed to met a single MSX collector in Sweden. Bought two "Elite" MSX versions from him. Isn´t him you by any chance? :-D



#9 carlsson OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jul 10, 2016 1:24 PM

There are a couple of people into MSX in Sweden, slowly growing as it is the most console like computer for people who are tired of the NES prices and also think SMS is too dull.

 

Back in the days the format was big enough to at least have a user's column for a while in one of the major home computing magazines, but not that many vendors ever sold computers or games. My big brother owned a Yamaha CX-5M and later a Sony Hit-Bit of some model. In more recent years, I have bought and sold a moderate amount, some from local sellers but a bit bought as lots from the UK, Germany etc, even imported games from Japan but who doesn't?

 

I found Matra through ordering the Konami book. At the same time, I ordered the other book and a handful of homebrew cartridge games.

 

But no, I've never owned Elite for MSX so you can not have been buying from me.



#10 lazzeri OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jul 10, 2016 2:33 PM

I was checking my e-mails. The seller of the "Elites", Aki, is actually from Finland. Sorry about that. I'm getting old and confused. Hope you don't hate that as much as we hate getting confused with Argentina. :-)

The Konami book is a pretty great one indeed! And Matra have a few great homebrews.

(Unfortunately I managed to miss Mecha 9. Shiite. It is supposed to be a limited release. I'm gonna kick myself in the head later)

Anyway, I don't know if that's your thing but there's also an AMAZING book on Spanish games for MSX, Spectrum, Amstrad and some other, an incredible research effort. Highly recommended.

http://www.heroesdep...oducto/genesis/

(Spain has released some great MSX1 games back in the day)

Edited by lazzeri, Sun Jul 10, 2016 2:33 PM.


#11 Nebulon OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jul 10, 2016 10:04 PM

Likely the next machine that I'm going to take a closer look at is the Fujitsu FM-7. Sort of like an amped-up Tandy Color Computer as this Japanese machine uses a twin set of 6809 CPUs):

 

http://www.nausicaa....enf/fm7page.htm

 

http://www.nausicaa....eenf/fmsoft.htm



#12 Newsdee OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jul 10, 2016 11:24 PM

Hope you don't hate that as much as we hate getting confused with Argentina. :-)


Speaking of which the MSX also seemed quite popular in Argentina back in the day; around me people had either that or a C64 in the late 80s.

I don't remember the brands though. Googling around the most common model had blue arrow keys like this one:
http://www.old-compu....asp?st=1&c=699

#13 lazzeri OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 11, 2016 3:46 AM

It seems that a few japanese MSX computers were legally imported back then (Casio, Toshiba, Sony) but by far the most common is Talent (a clone of Daewoo models from Korea). It even had an official MSX2 version. :-o

Apparently retrocomputing scene is quite interesting and different from Brazil, they had official releases of C16, C64, Atari, TI99 and Spectrums over there too. Quite interesting.

Edited by lazzeri, Mon Jul 11, 2016 3:47 AM.


#14 carlsson OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 11, 2016 4:06 AM

I suppose import restrictions and taxes were different for each country within a continent, which could be one reason why the selection in Argentina and Brazil would differ despite being neighbour countries. As for the Commodore machines, those were license built from loose parts by Drean to avoid import taxes on fully assembled computers. It didn't happen in any other part of the world, as far as I know. The same import taxes must've applied to electronics from Japan and other parts of the world too? Or at least when it came to Atari and TI, both being US brands just like Commodore.

 

But yes, compared to the rest of the Japanese computing industy, the MSX standards are pretty well known worldwide. The link above that pits NEC PC-8801, Sharp X1, Fujitsu FM-7 in one group, then later PC-9801, X68000 and FM Towns into a second group is useful. The page mentions that Commodore tried to sell the C64 for a short while, but it seems to forget that already the PET 2001 was available with Japanese characters and that the VIC-1001 was exclusively test released in Japan, so I wouldn't think that Commodore was as much DOA as the page claims.

 

There were a number of non-MSX home computers that went on export, like Sharp MZ-80, MZ-700, MZ-800, Sord M5 and business models M23 etc, Sega SC-3000 etc. I would look into what else was on the market in the early years, say 1977-1982.



#15 lazzeri OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 11, 2016 4:46 AM

I suppose import restrictions and taxes were different for each country within a continent, which could be one reason why the selection in Argentina and Brazil would differ despite being neighbour countries. As for the Commodore machines, those were license built from loose parts by Drean to avoid import taxes on fully assembled computers. It didn't happen in any other part of the world, as far as I know. The same import taxes must've applied to electronics from Japan and other parts of the world too? Or at least when it came to Atari and TI, both being US brands just like Commodore.


Actually Brazil had the weirdest, most bizarrely-restrictive legislation in the 80s, and that explains our bizarre market and commercial practices by that time (for both computers AND videogames). I should try to write a short article on those eventually, it'd be a fun reading.

#16 CatPix OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 11, 2016 9:48 AM

And cars too.

I know it from two brands; Lada and Simca.

 

Lada were so cheap that even with the then punitive tax of 100% of the car cost, Soviet-made Lada were still on par in prices with Brazilian assembled cars. Or so I heard ^^

 

And French Simca had apparently a huge success when they established SIMCA do Brazil, which imported cars parts from France, with over the year, by a Government-approved plan, more and more parts made locally (started at like 20% of Brazilian made parts, and ended at 80% of brazilian-made part).

 

simcadobrazil.jpg

 

Brazil and on a lesser extent South America become Simca's second market, and ironically enough, Simca's demise came from the original French side, with the Simca brand and models surviving the end of the French one by some years, and even having models unique to the Brazilian market, such as the Simca Jangada and Emisul (not sure I remember th names well).

 

I think most European retrogamers know a bit about Tectoy as the Master System and Megadrive were strong successes and we all one day or another heard of the mysterious TecToy games and consoles ^^.

 

For assembled computers and video game systems, Atari had a factory in Ireland where PAL systems were... assembled? I have an Atari 2600 Jr with a label that says "Made for Atari by Atari Ireland".

Commodore probably had one fiscal escape hatch like that in Europe too.


Edited by CatPix, Mon Jul 11, 2016 9:48 AM.


#17 lazzeri OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 11, 2016 10:13 AM

And cars too.

I know it from two brands; Lada and Simca.

 

Lada were so cheap that even with the then punitive tax of 100% of the car cost, Soviet-made Lada were still on par in prices with Brazilian assembled cars. Or so I heard ^^

 

And French Simca had apparently a huge success when they established SIMCA do Brazil, which imported cars parts from France, with over the year, by a Government-approved plan, more and more parts made locally (started at like 20% of Brazilian made parts, and ended at 80% of brazilian-made part).

 

simcadobrazil.jpg

 

Brazil and on a lesser extent South America become Simca's second market, and ironically enough, Simca's demise came from the original French side, with the Simca brand and models surviving the end of the French one by some years, and even having models unique to the Brazilian market, such as the Simca Jangada and Emisul (not sure I remember th names well).

 

I think most European retrogamers know a bit about Tectoy as the Master System and Megadrive were strong successes and we all one day or another heard of the mysterious TecToy games and consoles ^^.

 

For assembled computers and video game systems, Atari had a factory in Ireland where PAL systems were... assembled? I have an Atari 2600 Jr with a label that says "Made for Atari by Atari Ireland".

Commodore probably had one fiscal escape hatch like that in Europe too.

 

   Yeah, we have our peculiarities. :(

 

   I´ll probaly write this down later but on early 80s we were under a military government. They passed a law called "market share reservation law" that stated, basically, that it was forbidden to import assembled hardware. At all. We were allowed to import components, but *no* finished products. At leaste legally. The idea behind it was to force the creation of a national, Brazilian-made computer industry with brazilian-designed computers and processors.

 

   Yeah. Worked like a charm.

 

   So, what happened is that computers and videogames that could be assembled with over-the-counter electronics were cloned by the dozens (we had probably 10 different clones of the CoCo, and of course maybe 15 different Atari models). Those whose components seemed impossible to get (for instance, SID for the C64) were ignored *or* purchased in very limited numbers on the black market.

 

   By that time every single Brazilian had his smuggler of trust (we used to called them "importabandista", a mix of "importador", importer, and "contrabandista", smuggler. Impoggler, maybe? :D ). We trusted our "importabandistas" to buy from Whiskey to computers, from Pringles (yeah, also forbidden) to car parts.

 

   It was idiotic times. I truly don´t miss them.

 

   OH! And foreigner software was NOT protected by copyright laws. Domestic made, yes. So it was perfect legal to dump a Megamania and make pirated carts. BUT it was illegal to dump and copy Megaboy carts. 

 

   Yeah. I´m serious.

 

   Today we are able to import almost everything we want. The trick part is, we still pay 100% on taxes. Including shipment. So, when I buy an AtariAge game for USD 30, I´ll have to take in account another 20 USD on shipment and USD 50 in import taxes.

 

   Yeah. I´m still serious.



#18 Nebulon OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jul 15, 2016 12:38 PM

Lots of familiar classics in here, including an ad for the Atari 800:

 

https://archive.org/...ge/n37/mode/2up


Edited by Nebulon, Fri Jul 15, 2016 12:38 PM.


#19 Nebulon OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jul 15, 2016 2:41 PM

An early -- and cool -- ad for a game by Square:

 

https://archive.org/...e/n129/mode/2up

 

as well as a two-page Silpheed/Thexder ad:

https://archive.org/...e/n121/mode/2up



#20 Nebulon OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 18, 2016 3:13 PM

A typical MSX 1 manual including memory maps and sprite info.:

 

http://msx.hansotten...onyhp5575sm.pdf



#21 carlsson OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 18, 2016 3:32 PM

Those I/O magazines are cool. Here is an early advertisement for US computers including TRS-80, CBM 3032 and TI-99/4. While those likely were minor computers on the Japanese market, at least there's proof they kind of existed. On page 60, there is yet more TI-99/4 as well as Atari 800.

https://archive.org/...ge/n51/mode/2up

 

ZX-81 in Japan:

https://archive.org/...ge/n23/mode/2up

 

Unfortunately there is a gap between 1980-9 and 1982-2, but here is the VIC-1001:

https://archive.org/...ge/n37/mode/2up

 

So possibly the most number of computer brands ever existed in Japan, even if some US/European ones only were imported in a couple dozen units.

 

Geez! This is one of the most NSFW printer advertisements, I've seen in early literature.

https://archive.org/...ge/n55/mode/2up

 

Cool, the Graphic Trackball eXpander by HAL Labs for VIC-1001 (and later NEC PC-8801)

https://archive.org/...e/n197/mode/2up

One previously was for sale: http://page10.auctio...tion/m168873728

 

Commodore 64 - New Tactician Now Computer (December 1982)

https://archive.org/...ge/n45/mode/2up


Edited by carlsson, Mon Jul 18, 2016 4:22 PM.


#22 JamesD OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 18, 2016 8:39 PM

I started looking for the Samsung SPC-1000.  Du-Oh!



#23 carlsson OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jul 19, 2016 1:52 AM

The 2600 lookalike joystick perhaps is not that interesting, but there also is a Video Command, same kind as used on the Fairchild Channel F and later released by Zircon (?) for Atari compatible systems. This advertiser Addcom seems to have sold those in at least two configurations, one for the NEC PC-6001 / VIC-1001 / National JR-100 / Sanyo PHC-25, and one for the NEC PC-8001 / PC-8801, however joysticks for the latter differ from the Atari style.

 

https://archive.org/...ge/n97/mode/2up

 

It also strikes me that the VIC-1001 still was advertised in early 1983, next to the C64. Those who claim that Commodore never had much of a market share in Japan should browse through old magazines. For a brand that would be mostly unknown to the public, they had remarkably many own advertisements and listed in reseller ads. It also contradicts the saying that the Nintendo Famicom was nearly the first 6502 based system of any kind in Japan. Perhaps the first domestically made, but with so much Commodore and Apple, and even a small splash of Atari and earlier on KIM-1, it seems like history revision to claim that there were no tools or previous skills in programming the 6502 over there.

 

The CSK Micro Computer Shop even had what looks like a stylized VIC-1001 in their logo!

https://archive.org/...e/n135/mode/2up

 

A summary of new products, including the Commodore UltiMAX and C64. Notice those are listed as new products in January 1983, while other sources would suggest the UltiMAX was available in Japan before the US launch of the C64. It may very well have been, just that it was so console-like that I/O didn't bring it up before the Mini BASIC.

https://archive.org/...e/n409/mode/2up

 

(Yes, I focus more on non-Japanese computers present in Japan, which is a different and possibly not intended direction of this topic)



#24 pboland OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jul 19, 2016 6:49 AM

I'm interested to hear more about computers in Japan during the late 70s and early 80s. 

 

To kick things off, here's a link to a magazine with tons of computer ads to ogle:

https://archive.org/details/IO198109

 

 

 

That's pretty cool. I can't read Japanese, but from looking at the magazine it seemed like the Sharp MZ-80B was very popular. It's just about on every other page. I don't know anything about Japanese computers from back in the day, but was it common to have a built in cassette drive?



#25 carlsson OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jul 19, 2016 7:04 AM

I'm not sure, but I think Sharp were unique about that, see also the MZ-700/800 series. Also notice that particular magazine linked to is from September 1981, which limits which computers could be featured. If you move a few years forwards to 1983, you'll see the domination from the NEC computers, although Sharp, Fujitsu and some more still were keeping up the competition.






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