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MSX

MSX is the name of a standard for home computers in the 1980s (see also 'The Home Computer Era' in the History of computing). It was conceived by Kazuhiko Nishi of Microsoft Japan, now ASCII Corporation. Inspired by the success of VHS as a standard for video cassette recorders, many Japanese electronic manufacturers along with Philips and Spectravideo built and promoted MSX computers. Any piece of hardware or software with the MSX logo on it was compatible with MSX products of other manufacturers.

The exact meaning of the 'MSX' abbreviation remains a matter of debate. At the time, most people seemed to agree it meant 'MicroSoft eXtended', referring to the built-in MSX-BASIC programming language, specifically written by Microsoft for the MSX system. The MSX-DOS disk operating system had file compatibility with CP/M and MS-DOS. In this way, Microsoft could promote MSX for home use while promoting MS-DOS based personal computers in office environments.

MSX spawned four generations: MSX[?] (1983), MSX 2[?] (1986), MSX 2+[?] (1988) and MSX Turbo R[?] (1990). The first three were 8-bit computers based on the Zilog Z80 microprocessor, while the MSX Turbo R was based on an enhanced Zilog Z800 known as the R800.

MSX never became the worldwide standard that its makers envisioned, mainly because it never took off in the United States. In Japan, MSX was the major home computer system in the 1980s. It was also popular in several European countries, South Korea and Brazil and even in Arabic countries and the Soviet Union. Recently, Kazuhiko Nishi initiated an 'MSX Revival' around an official MSX emulator called 'MSX PLAYer'. Whether this project will be a success remains to be seen, but many good freeware emulators are already available on the Internet.

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