Of course, you are all dying to find out what Nishi talked about during MSX World 2005. What is he planning for the future? Well... you're in luck, as here is a summary of his lecture titled "MSX - The 20 years that have passed, the 10 years that are to come". The lecture devides the past, present and future into 3 segments of 10 years. Hang on!

The first 10 years of the last 8 bits PC

After some information on the role Nishi played during the introduction of the IBM PC and how it cleared the road for easily accessible computers thanks to DOS, his role in the world's first portable computer (produced by Tandy) Nishi explained that after getting computers at companies and into the 'pockets' of businessmen, the next challenge was to get computers at home. This required a cheap, easy to use computer which could exchange data with the upcoming, but still very expensive, 16bit PCs. Soon, the MSX standard was born. After the introduction of the MSX1 in 1983, the MSX2 in 1985, the drastically improved MSX2+ (with this, Nishi aims at the memory mapper, MSX-MUSIC and the quite inventive and revolutionary Japanese input system) in 1988 and the turboR in 1990, 16bits and 32bits sytem had become very common in 1993 and it looked like there was no longer any role to fullfill for MSX.

The intentions Nishi had with MSX were a lot bigger. It was, for instance, attempted to introduce the CD-ROM system to the world on the MSX computer system. When the CD-ROM drive and interface turned out to become more expensive than the MSX computers alone, and the Z80 appeared to be incapable of processing the huge amounts of data involved realtime, FM-Towns got the honor of being the first system with a CD-ROM player. It was only a matter of time until CD-ROM drives were common in every PC. Another project for MSX involved playing video on MSX. If the screen modes and CPU power of the turboR were used smartly, it should be possible with the right compression method. However, after the CD-ROM project for MSX had been canceled it had become impossible to deliver the huge amounts of data involved to the MSX at an affordable price. The already initiated projects for video compression finally resulted in the MPEG standard (a proposition of NTT and ASCII to ISO), which later evolved into MPEG2 (DVD). The last project Nishi mentioned as one of the things that were planned for MSX was the development of a high-speed network connection. However, the lack of CPU power and memory proved to be the bottlenecks here as well. The internet proved to be out of reach for MSX.

At this stage, the MSX had become an expensive machine, slow compared to its competition and thus commercially uninteresting to develop new projects and ideas for. The PC98 and AT PCs had already become extremely popular and cheap, shifting the attention to these computer systems in the end. But... does this mean MSX was a failure?

1994 to 2004

After Matsushita (Panasonic) had stopped producing the turboR computers, many MSX users left the system as well and it seemed like nobody would ever hear from the system again. However, all over the world MSX fans kept using the MSX computer, developing hardware and software for it and organizing fairs and meetings. Because MSX was easy to use, easy to understand and because MSX was their first computer system, they often refused to let go of the computer system they had started to love deeply. This deeply impressed Nishi and during the lecture he expressed how grateful he is to the MSX community for this.

Searching for explanations why people sticked to MSX, Nishi finds the following reasons: People wanted a cheap system, for which they could develop software themselves. A system, for which they could adapt, improve or develop hardware. A system to which they could connect their favorite devices (MIDI, Network, IDE, SCSI). This could not (easily) be done with Playstations or PCs. Besides, 16bits CPUs often proved to be way too complex to understand as well as the Z80.

After noticing how many people had remained using the MSX and the hardware and software they had developed for it, the ideas to revive MSX commercially was born. The first project was the developmet of the original MSX Emulator: MSXPLAYer. The idea behind the development of this emulator was simple: with this emulator MSX software could run on a huge variety of hardware, whilst software could be spread over the internet. At the moment MSXPLAYer versions for Windows and PocketPC have already been completed and are being distributed by various parties, whilst MSXPLAYer emulators for a wide range of mobile phone platforms and gaming consoles such as PlayStation 2, Xbox and PSP are in development as well, and are all planned to be released within a year from now.

However, an MSXPLAYer alone does not revive MSX at all. Software contents were needed as well. As many games for MSX had been released throughout the years, some even over 20 years ago, the copyrights concerning these software titles had to be sorted out. At the same time MSX Association started collecting software and its packaging to preserve them for the long future to come. After negotiating with the original copyright holders of the software, the sale of MSX software could be started, which eventually happened both through Project EGG (who, together with Bothtec, developed a software distribution platform that lived up to the security demands of the copyright holders) and ASCII MSX Magazine. Both Project EGG and the sales of MSX Magazine exceeded all expectations, proving that quality games don't suffer from age.

The 10 years to come: Open Source Hardware

After this view at the rise, fall and rise of MSX, Nishi started presenting a concept vision of the 10 years to come. Together with the first steps of the development of MSXPLAYer, active members of the MSX community launched the idea of the One Chip MSX. Using ASIC technology an producing large amounts, an extremely cheap MSX computer could be put on the market. However, was ASIC really the way to go? After all, an MSX based on ASIC would be a final product, hardly extendable with new features. If the One Chip MSX was developed in FPGA, using VHDL, the One Chip MSX put on the market would be a highly flexible device, allowing the end-user to alter its functionality. By chosing to use FPGA for the One Chip MSX, the One Chip MSX became a computer with a future. It took a while before an FPGA chip with enough gates (1 million) to resemble an MSX computer was available at an affordable price. This project finally resulted in the FPGA based One Chip MSX, of which the pre-order page has just been opened. The device will at first be MSX1 compatible, but complete MSX2 compatibility will be offered in the form of a VHDL update in the future.

Now that the MSX has become a flexible device thanks to using FPGA technology, it has become a device essentially different from existing Windows and Linux PCs, or Xbox and Playstation consoles, as the logic of the FPGA chip inside can be changed by the end-users themselves. The One Chip MSX is not owned by a huge company with endless funds, but by a community of hobbyists who make a new future for the computer in association with each other, connected to each other through the internet.

But, the One Chip MSX is just the start of it all. Based on the current One Chip MSX a simplified version can be released (MSX.edu) that will be suitable for educational purposes from elementary school to university. Then, the time has come for a next generation project. Using a higher capacity FPGA chip, and boosted specifications, a new MSX standard (MSX.net) will be decided.


MSX.edu would clear the way for computer education where many people can learn how computers work (both the hardware and coding the software) by independent (self)education. Currently, it's hard to explain construction, structure, programming and -especially- the relationships between them in computer education. It's often hard to understand the structure of computers. Before starting to work with 32bit and 64bit processor, would it not be a good idea to start on a much smaller scale, on a system you can build and/or improve yourself? Herein lies a huge potential for the One Chip MSX. Thanks to FPGA, the device seems to be meant for computer education, allowing students to understand, reconstruct and improve the 8 bit machine and in the end develop their own computers in VHDL. From learning to code on MSX-BASIC and later C on elementary school and/or junior high school, to understanding the basics of hardware and LSI constructions using VHDL in high-school and on higher education detailed constructions of FPGA chips could be studied and new hardware could be generated using own VHDL code. With this, the One Chip MSX becomes a device that can be used for educational purposes from elementary school to university.


The next generation One Chip MSX computers should be ready to access the internet in a convenient way, using wired (gigabit) and wireless (11b,g) connections to the ethernet. In order to accomplish this the One Chip MSX should support TCP/IP and it's specifications in speed, memory, audio and video should be improved drastically. MSX Association intends to develop a new MSX CPU together with Mr. Masatoshi Shima, the developer of the Z80. This CPU would combine a boosted Z80, a boosted R800 and an entirely new, high spec CPU specifically designed for MSX in FPGA. The end result? A cheap personal computer everybody can use. The next generation One Chip MSX will be equiped with 6x USB ports, and an USB driver download technology will automatically download the correct drivers and install them to support hardware connected to the One Chip MSX, without requiring user interferance. This way, true plug and play will be achieved. With all that, the next generation One Chip MSX relies on the principle of Open Source Hardware.

As stated before, the end-user can enhance or add new features to te One Chip MSX using VHDL and share these enhancements with other One Chip MSX owners on the internet. High quality VHDL enhancements or new features can be submitted to MSX Association, who will then officially recognize them as 'MSX standard enhancing VHDL extensions'. Thanks to the activity and support of the MSX community and the ideas behind Open Source Hardware, the MSX standard can thus continue to grow and evolve long after the next generation MSX.net has been brought to the market.

OSX (Open System X)

By combining USB and WiMAX (Worldwide interoperability for Microwave Access, IEEE 802.16a) a proposal for Open System X will be made. MSX will become a part of OSX. A base bord containing an FPGA chip, RAM, LAN, WiMAX and USB can be connected to an expansion board (e.g. one containing RGB out and Audio out, making it a stand alone computer), but it can also be implemented in other machines or electronical devices. As examples for purposes of OSX, Nishi mentiones a super USB router, an IP (video)telephony client, a PC specifically designed for Linux, a multipurpose server (where new encoders, decoders or security protocols can be built into hardware by FPGA, allowing the owners to always support the latest standards) and many many more examples. The first samples of this ambitious OSX.hpc (home PC) are intended to appear in 2007, while mass production could start as soon as 2009.

There you have it. Although the lecture only briefly discussed the OSX platform, it goes without saying that Nishi -and thus MSX Association- have many more plans related to MSX for the future, and are more than willing to give the MSX community (or any other end-user group for that matter) control over what these projects are going to look like. By introcing the concept of Open Source Hardware, MSX might once again be adpoted and sublicensed by many different companies and end-users. With the lessons learned from the past, who knows what the future will bring for MSX...

Comments (7)

By jalu

Master (158)

jalu's picture

21-05-2005, 12:33

Just one little remark: is he really going to call his system OSX? Because I'm very sure he'll get himself in legal trouble with Apple, who already markets a product called OSX...

By snout

Ascended (15187)

snout's picture

21-05-2005, 12:40

I think it's a working title. Otoh there are/were rumors Nishi owned the rights to the usage of several [A-Z]SX-names, and even gave several companies permission to use some of those nice sounding 3 letter names. And if not, it would guarantee some good MSX/OSX in the media Wink

By flyguille

Prophet (3031)

flyguille's picture

31-05-2005, 23:01

i just readed it, two times.

And when nishi refers as "msx comunity" i hope that he don't spoke only thinking in japan comunity.

But, i feels that he doesn't joins the "international comunity". I hope that i am wrong about that...

but, is there any proof that he is listening us?, or knows?

By snout

Ascended (15187)

snout's picture

31-05-2005, 23:11

Well.. euh, he visited Tilburg 2001, where he first unveiled his MSX revival plans, and gave the green lights on Bazix representing MSX Association outside Japan, for starters ;) I've spoke to him personally a couple of times now, and it's really safe to say Nishi isn't talking or thinking about the Japanese MSX community only.

By flyguille

Prophet (3031)

flyguille's picture

01-06-2005, 00:06


you knows if he sometime visited mrc?

he talks english, too?

By snout

Ascended (15187)

snout's picture

01-06-2005, 00:40

He visited the MRC at least once (but that was right after I gave him my MRC card in 2003), and his English is near-perfect (apart from the accent, perhaps ;P). But I don't expect him to start reacting on forum threads, articles or newsposts. It's a busy man, you know Tongue

By flyguille

Prophet (3031)

flyguille's picture

01-06-2005, 00:48

maybe you can sends other mrc card, because now mrc is far from the one at 2003. you knows...