Megapoll on new MSX hardware

Por sd_snatcher

Prophet (3092)

Imagen del sd_snatcher

10-10-2012, 02:22

Since recently there seems to be some initiatives on building new MSX systems or upgrades, it seems interesting to poll the MSX community about some important aspects.

As it's difficult to ask so many questions on a traditional voting poll, maybe some more broader questions on megapoll style may achieve better results. If you like the idea, please answer the following questions:

1) How much would you pay for a new MSX system?

Examples for answering:
- Less than $300 - "I can buy a good used MSX2 for less than this!"
- $300~$700 - "MSX computers were meant to be cheap!"
- $700~$900 - "Those nice Turbo-Rs were sold for this price"
- Price? Just shut up and take my money
- I'm only interested on the good old MSX models
- No real hardware for me: I just want good emulators

2) Tell about your profile on how conservative on the hardware aspect you are:

Examples for answering:
- Very open-minded: Software emulated components are widely acceptable
- A bit conservative: No software emulation. But using FPGA/CPLD is acceptable for main chips like the CPU, VDP, PPI, PSG etc
- More or less conservative: Try to keep the FPGA implementation only for chips that are hard to be found or have to many speed restrictions
- Very conservative: Only real chips are acceptable. FPGA/CPLD should only be used for gluelogic and bus control
- Purist: Only real chips, TTLs and MSX-Engines, Just like the good old days. Even if that causes it to be more expensive.

3) How much flexibility you find acceptable on changing the hardware

Examples for answering:
- Purist: A real MSX can only have a Z80A from Zilog running at 3.579545MHz with a waitstate on M1, a Texas TMS9918 VDP, an Intel PPI 8255 and a General Instruments AY-3-8910, just like the MSX Redbook states since 1983! And it must have a cassete port and built-in Paddle support!
- Very conservative: Chips can only be changed by perfectly compatible equivalents, even on timings. Newer generations are accepted only if they perfectly match every single aspect of the previous generation, even if this means accumulative costs (i.e.: Cassete port/paddle/lightpen support must be present). The hardware interface and timings must be exactly as stated by the MSX Redbook.
- More or less conservative: I'm open to some innovation, but the legacy hardware must be present and their old interfaces must be identical. I accept that unused interfaces are removed (cassete port, i.e.) If a speed improvement is done, there must be a way to change back to traditional timings. I accept new ports to be added only if there's a translator running in the middle (for mouse, keyboard, joystick, paddle, lightpen, etc). Even if all this results in added cost to include so much legacy requirements.
- Open-minded: It's like the MSX Technical Handbook states: "MSX manufacturers may change some of the hardware from the standard MSX system and maintain software compatibility by rewriting BIOS. The hardware differences would thus be trans­parent to the software". I want a modern MSX. Innovate and change anything you need speed things up and cut costs on legacies (cassete/keyboard/mouse/joysticks/paddle/lightpen etc). Exact timings were never mentioned on the specs and thus are not important. My only requirements are that the CPU must run all the Z80 opcodes properly and the BIOS provide the layer to hide such differences from the user programs. Software that didn't followed the coding guidelines were buggy and their software-houses shouldn't have decided to pass this cost to the hardware design and this decision will finally face their consequences. Having to patch the software to fix such bugs is an acceptable price for having a more advanced machine.
- Very open-minded: Just like the open-minded, but even the CPU may have some opcode differences if this mean that a faster and more modern CPU can be used. I want the machine as modern as possible. Software can be patched to compensate any opcode differences.

4) An what about the BIOS?

Examples for answering:
- Purist: Only the unchanged original MSX BIOS is acceptable on a real MSX computer
- Conservative: Only the original MSX BIOS, but patches are acceptable
- More or less conservative: A compatible BIOS, like the C-BIOS, is perfectly acceptable. But there must be a way to change to the original BIOS, even if this means added costs and copyright issues.
- Open-minded: A compatible BIOS, like the C-BIOS, is perfectly acceptable. I don't want to buy a machine with any copyright issues.
- Very open-minded: I'm such a big fan of C-BIOS that I even installed it on my old MSX hardware.

Some important rules must be followed:
1) Keep in mind that such market survey has only the intention to serve as a base for hardware developers on their design decisions if they want to, but by no means should be used to try impose anything. We're talking about a hobby here, right?
2) Be civilized, respect other people opinions. Keep in mind that this is a survey, not a discussion. Don't badmouth or disagree on any answers posted here. If you disagree with any answer, keep it to yourself. Be rational, control your emotions. This is a technical hobby, not some religious cult.
3) Try to use the example answers above, so the results can be better summarized. But fell free to add comments after your answers too. You may add an option if you feel like none of the profiles reflect anything barely close to what you think, but try to keep the custom answers at a minimum.

So, let's begin! Have fun answering the survey!

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Por Paulbrk

Hero (611)

Imagen del Paulbrk

10-10-2012, 11:01

A sort of MSX3 with Z80+r800+VFP9058+GFX9000+FMPAC+MUSIC MODULE+MOONSOUND simulated on a FPGA, with full compatibility and swith between 3,5 and 50 Mhz of speed. 2 cartridge slots.

Original BIOS with some patches.

Por OeiOeiVogeltje

Paragon (1310)

Imagen del OeiOeiVogeltje

10-10-2012, 11:03

very elaborate post with a very simple answer
ANY new machine that is compatible with a MSX2+ has my interest.
but since i already have one (or two or more) of those ,such a new machine should have an extra "edge"
like a built in moonsound or Music Module or built in ide interface or stuff like that
money ? I dont care

Por wolf_

Ambassador_ (9774)

Imagen del wolf_

10-10-2012, 11:22

I'll go into details this evening, but for now I can be brief:

As long as our own games/productions still have to match games like Usas, Space Manbow, SD Snatcher, Xak 2/Gazzel, Dragonslayer 6, Psycho World, Aleste 2 etc. then a common MSX2 with typical sound expansions is plenty.

With my products, I prefer to reach as many MSX users as possible, and luckily the common emulators are quite capable to run my output. The idea of developing a new/evolved MSX sounds exciting, but the question always remains how many people would actually have/use such a config. The closest comparison would be KdL's 1cM upgrades. I'm probably not 100% up2date with that, but iirc those updates lifted the 1cM up to common standards (MSX2, MSX2+). I don't hear a lot about FPGA development, not from programmers, but also not from potential users who are screaming for a new video chip implementation, with more sprites 'n colors etc. The only radical development from recent times is/was that VSU project. I've no idea what the current status is on that one. And then there's Worp3 with his new machine.

So, the question would be: apart from comfy things like SD/CF/HD/CD/Slotexp/USB, do we all really want a new MSX model?

And then we still have an unexplored G9k, of which at least something like 350 pieces have been sold.

Does that mean I'm against a new custom MSX? Nope, but I think the most important aspect of any new model is distribution. So if someone's going to create a new physical MSX platform, let it at least be something we can all agree on, let it be cheap, and let it be practical (USB key/mouse, VGA out, mass media by default, and if there's FPGA that can be flashed: let there be a factory reset button).

Por wolf_

Ambassador_ (9774)

Imagen del wolf_

10-10-2012, 11:23

Hm, ok, that wasn't brief ^_^

Por sd_snatcher

Prophet (3092)

Imagen del sd_snatcher

10-10-2012, 12:00

Nice comments, but guys, you're forgetting to answer the objective questions. Smile

Por Capitan_Goto

Master (168)

Imagen del Capitan_Goto

10-10-2012, 12:01

Very oportune poll...I think that nowadays all MSX lovers want the most power possible at a reasonable price. So the minimum for a new build MSX machine should be MSX2+ [better an Turbo R, but, ey let´s start slowly ] with some extras, as OieOie has said: FM sound, vga , ps2/usb...that kind of details that make easier the use and life of the machines nowadays. The OCM was very close to all of this, but price, and end of production "kill the radio star". The new developments, like Orbit and DE1 boards, are trying to rescue the OCM spirit or legacy...and hope that they will sucesfull.

Por sd_snatcher

Prophet (3092)

Imagen del sd_snatcher

10-10-2012, 12:05

Well, I forgot to answer myself.. (ˆ_ˆWink

1) How much would you pay for a new MSX system?
- $300~$700 - "MSX computers were meant to be cheap!"

2) Tell about your profile on how conservative on the hardware aspect you are:
- A bit conservative: I prefer no software emulation. But using FPGA/CPLD is acceptable for main chips like the CPU, VDP, PPI, PSG etc

3) How much flexibility you find acceptable on changing the hardware
- Open-minded: It's like the MSX Technical Handbook states: "MSX manufacturers may change some of the hardware from the standard MSX system and maintain software compatibility by rewriting BIOS. The hardware differences would thus be trans­parent to the software". I want a modern MSX. Innovate and change anything you need speed things up and cut costs on legacies (cassete/keyboard/mouse/joysticks/paddle/lightpen etc). Exact timings were never mentioned on the specs and thus are not important. My only requirements are that the CPU must run all the Z80 opcodes properly and the BIOS provide the layer to hide such differences from the user programs. Software that didn't followed the coding guidelines were buggy and their software-houses shouldn't have decided to pass this cost to the hardware design and this decision will finally face their consequences. Having to patch the software to fix such bugs is an acceptable price for having a more advanced machine.

4) An what about the BIOS?
- Open-minded: A compatible BIOS, like the C-BIOS, is perfectly acceptable.

Personal comments:

From the legacy aspect: Currently it's getting hard to find some MSX accessories, so native support for PS/2 mouse and keyboards is a must (USB ones would be even better). The same applies for disks: an integrated SD/MMC interface with native FAT16 is a must.
For the video output, a VGA-out (with selectable 30KHz/15KHz output, for SCART compatibility) and a component-video out would be very nice this would cover Europe, Japan and American video requirements.
It would be nice to have the pair of legacy MSX joystick ports, but I personally don't care about any other legacy connector (keyboard, cassete etc) as most of those were not even standardized. But a bidir parallel port is nice for hobbyist projects.
MSX Turbo-R compatibility is very desirable. Even better if the CPU can run faster than the R800. A turbo for the V9958 blitter like the OCM has is also very welcome.
An MSX computer must be as portable as possible, so it's easy to install or store it back again.
It would be desirable if the hardware design is hobbyist-friendly as a standard MSX is: DIY upgrades or customizing is always nice.

Por snout

Ascended (15187)

Imagen del snout

10-10-2012, 13:17

1) How much would you pay for a new MSX system?
Depends on the configuration, but either
- Less than $300 - "I can buy a good used MSX2 for less than this!"
or
- $300~$700 - "MSX computers were meant to be cheap!"
Especially the latter should be a damn impressive device with professional build quality and finishing, though.

2) Tell about your profile on how conservative on the hardware aspect you are:
-A bit conservative: No software emulation. But using FPGA/CPLD is acceptable for main chips like the CPU, VDP, PPI, PSG etc,

3) How much flexibility you find acceptable on changing the hardware
- Open-minded.

4) An what about the BIOS?
- More or less conservative: A compatible BIOS, like the C-BIOS, is perfectly acceptable. But there must be a way to change to the original BIOS, even if this means added costs and copyright issues.

Addendum: Wolf's post makes a lot of sense, but a somewhat extended turboR would be great

- Faster CPU and VDP allow for focus on functionality instead of pure optimization
- More memory and (more importantly) VRAM allow for more fluent animations/effects without pulling (too many) tricks
- Modern connectivity helps MSX keep a certain form of relevance in the 21st century. So, out with the casport, in with SD/MMC. Out with CVBS, in with HDMI.

I agree with wolf that we don't need a playstation 3 or 4 specced device with an MSX label printed on it, but an improved turboR would make a lot of sense. Just like the turboR, such a device could run in full-power-MSX3(+?) mode and in a compatibility mode that allows you to run most MSX1/2/2+/tR software.

So, something like a boosted R800, a boosted VDP based on/inspired by V9958/V9990 with direct VRAM access, more memory, DMA, a HBLANK interrupt, SD/MMC, ethernet and great on-board audio (full stereo PSG/SCC/MSX-MUSIC/MSX-Audio anyone?) sounds like a very sweet setup to me.

Por RetroTechie

Paragon (1563)

Imagen del RetroTechie

10-10-2012, 15:17

IMHO price is an under-appreciated feature - for a low enough price, a lot more people would be interested in a device.

For me, multi-platform is a plus. Several systems that I'm interested in, all share video output options (comp.video, RGB, HDMI, ..), Flash-based mass storage, option to connect expensions etc. So I'd be willing to spend more money on something that could 'emulate' multiple systems vs. MSX only. $100 shouldn't be a problem, $200+ is a (psychological) pain threshold for me... LOL!

As for hw, I think FPGA is the only way to go. For example FPGA + V9958 would be optimal compatibility-wise, but in future-proofing sense I think that's a step backwards. Improved FPGA implementation of V9958 features (and perhaps gkx9k features) are more helpful longterm, FPGA's should be considered 'cheap' in times to come... Z80 turbo are low hanging fruit then.

I'm happy with anything that involves actual logic gates switching... a microcontroller emulating an MSX is nice, but doesn't feel much different from emulator on PC/Mac. With a FPGA on board, adding discrete IC's in the mix, is more of a distraction than helpful. Hannibal Moving forward, 5V I/O should be dumped I think, 3.3V I/O peripherals are everywhere. A newly yet-to-define expansion connector wouldn't hurt.

As for software (BIOS): who cares... Plain MSX(2/2+/Turbo-R) BIOS will find its way onto new hardware, if an open source replacement develops enough to the point of making original BIOS obsolete: fine. But I think the software aspects are more or less irrelevant, as long as the hardware can run it.

In the medium-term, an updated 1chipMSX design would be good (newer FPGA, updated board layout + I/O connectors etc). USB keyboard and HDMI video output option should be standard by now... Smile