Donors: Stefan Jones & Chris Chan
Location: New Brighton, MN
Thanks to Stefan Jones, I now have a full SpectraVideo
328 system! It includes the expansion unit, that plugs
onto the back of the main unit. The expansion unit
provides slots for various cards, kinda like a PC today.
Included in this system were an 80 column graphics card,
a printer interface card, and a floppy disk controller
card. The two floppy drives simply sit on top the
expansion unit case. I've taken a load of
pictures of this gem. Take a look.
Once upon a time, Bill Gates wanted to break into the
Japanese computer market. He tried to set up a standard,
called MSX, so that different brands
could swap software and components. Each computer would
be compatible with the others, but could include special
features of its own. Many of the MSX computers had
special music hardware and could be hooked up to
piano-type keyboards. One American company, SpectaVideo,
decided to join the Japanese companies. Before it
actually produced any real MSX compatible computers, it
produced 2 wonderful quasi-MSX 8-bits computers, the 318
and the 328. The 318 had a chiclet keyboard with built in
joystick and 32K RAM. The 328 had a real keyboard and 64K
RAM. Both computers ran off a Zilog Z80 chip. Both had
32K worth of BASIC in ROM, which resulted in one of the
finer versions of BASIC ever produced. They also had good
sound and graphic ability, although the graphics were not
quite as good as a C64. My 328 has a tape drive. Disks
drives were also available. In the end, the Japanese MSX
standard never caught on. (See? Bill doesn't always win.)
The only non-SpectraVideo MSX computers I have ever seen
were in a musical instrument store, years ago. There is
an MSX Computer Club in Australia, the Melbourne
MSX-Spectravideo Users Group.
Fontaine kindly supplied me with a considerably more
Harry Fox and Oscar Jutzler (two Swiss clock/watch
makers who had moved to North America in the 1950s)
made the SVI-318 and introduced it on the market. It
was not a very big success, so in 1983 they asked
Kazuhiro Nishi (also known as Kay Nishi) the head of
ASCII Microsoft Japan, to help them redesign their
Kay Nishi agreed to help them, on the condition,
he could base his MSX standard on the SVI design that
he would do. He then supplied the BASIC which is very
close to the MSX-BASIC and remodelled the keyboard
and expanded the RAM from 32k to 64k and released it
as the SVI-328.
The idea behind MSX was that it would become a
world standard for computers. (Much like other
electrical appliances or devices adhere to, such as
VCRs or lamps. A VCR of one brand will play tapes
recorded by another brand of VCR. No matter which
incadescent lamp you buy, the same light bulbs that
will work in it, will work in other light sockets in
your house as well.) It was to allow the interchange
and addition of peripherals used on any of the MSX
machines that were made by any of the MSX
manufacturers. It would also allow for a larger
software base that could be shared by all MSX
computers. (You have to remember back in 1983 the
computer market was very badly fragmented with IBM,
Apple, Radio Shack, Commodore, Atari, Texas
Instruments, Timex Sinclair and a host of CP/M based
machines, all vying for the same support from
manufacturers and market but for all those different
types of machines and operating systems!) The MSX
standard was supposed to eliminate that.
Bill Gates though, being the head of Microsoft
internationally, had no wish to alienate the world's
then largest computer manufacturer IBM and his client
for MS-DOS (which was relatively new on the market),
was not very supportive of MSX becoming a world-wide
The MSX Standard was to be based on the following
specifications (at least the first generation of MSX
- Z80 CPU
- 16k RAM (minimum)
- 32k ROM (minimum) with built BASIC
- ROM Cartridge port
- A Joystick port
- 8K RAM for writing MSX-BASIC programs 16
- 3 sound generators with 8 octaves
- 24 x 32 character screen
- 256 x 196 pixel resolution - 32 sprites 1200
- 2400 baud capabilities
- 72 key keyboard with 5 function keys, cursor
control pad, and three other specialized
Some of the companies to jump on the MSX bandwagon
were: Spectravideo, Yamaha, Philips, Toshiba, Sanyo,
Sony, Daewoo, Mitsubishi, Pioneer, and Panasonic
among others. Out of all the MSX computers to become
available internationally, the only MSX computer to
be sold in North America was the Yamaha computer
which had a MIDI-interface incorporated in it. Yamaha
North America though, insisted on selling it as a
musical device rather than as a personal computer.
Many of pioneered and implemented in their MSX
computers back in 1983 and 1984, many devices and
peripherals that we have only begun seeing available
for manufacturersthese CX5M
PCs in recent years, such as the CD-ROM drive,
MIDI-interface cards and 3.5 inch diskettes to name a
- Front view of entire
system, shot straight on.
- Front view of entire
system, but from a higher vantage point.
- Rear view of system
showing the cables routed out the back.
- Side view of system.
Shows ventilation slots in expansion unit cover,
as well as joystick ports, power switch and power
jack on side of main unit.
- View of expansion
unit with top, cards, and power supply removed.
You can see where the power supply sits in the
upper right corner of the unit. You can also see
the normal A/V cable route through the case on
the left side.
- Group shot showing
the main unit in the foreground, the expansion
unit on the left, the top to the expansion unit
on the right, and one of the cards leaning
against the expansion unit in the center.
- Classic 3/4 view,
from the other quarter.
- View of one of the
floppy disk drives.
- View of the
cassette recorder. The expansion unit doesn't
leave room to plug the cassette recrder in, so I
guess you're not supposed to use it with an
expanded system. Makes a little hard to copy tape
files to disk.
- Front view of
expansion unit when not attached to main SV-328
unit. The plug on the left is the normal A/V
cable, which simply passes through a hole in the
front. The edge connector in the center plugs
into the back of the SV-328. The various cards
show through openings in the expansion unit.
Kinda handy in that you can always see what cards
you have installed. There are little white plugs
that fill in the holes for slots without cards.
- View of expansion
unit with the two floppy drives on top.
- Close-up attempting
to show you how the main SV-328 unit and the
expansion unit plugged together.
- View of expansion
unit with top of case removed. The grey cable
on the left is the normal A/V cable. Three of the
slots are taken up with, from left to right, the
printer interface card, the 80 column graphics
card, and the floppy drive controller card. The
power supply for the expansion unit nests into
the top right of the case. As you can see, all
the cables route through slots in the back.
- SV-328 typically
came with lots of cassette-based software. I
count 49 here. There were a bunch more not in
- More software,
including cassettes, cartridges, and manuals.
- The SV-328 used
normal digital joysticks, just like a C64 or
Atari 2600. The ones that SpectraVideo made where
- Old fuzzy picture
of my old SV-328.
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