What is MSX?
(mainly written by Marat Fayzullin [], updates by M.B.)

MSX is an old Z80-based family of home computers which appeared in autumn 1983 as an attempt to establish a single standard in home computing similar to VHS in video. They were popular in Asian (Korea, Japan) and South American (Brazil, Chile) countries as well as in Europe (Netherlands, France, Spain, Finland) and former Soviet Union, but they are virtually unknown in USA. Although the MSX standard quietly died from year 1988, the world got to see MSX2, MSX2+ and TurboR extensions of it.


The MSX standard has been designed by a company called ASCII in Cooperation with Microsoft which provided a firmware version of its BASIC for the machine. Because this BASIC version was an extended version of MicroSoft Basic, it was called "MicroSoft eXtended BASIC". This explains the name "MSX". The system thanks his name to the built-in BASIC.

Note that according to Kazuhiko Nishi, the `inventor' of the whole MSX idea, MSX can mean a lot more than just MicroSoft eXtended. He says (published in an article in a Japanese business magazine in 1997) that he used the abbreviation MSX to contract a lot of companies saying that it means Matsushita Sony X-machine in which the X could stand for the company Nishi was talking with at that moment. He also said that he initially wanted to name it NSX, Nishi Sony X (or MNX, Matsushita Nishi X) but the name NSX was already taken by Honda. So, in the case of Microsoft he just said the MS stands for MicroSoft. Anyhow, at least it is clear that Matsushita and Sony are the most important companies that produced MSX machines and hardware, according to Nishi.

Other possibilities were Matsushita Sony Shake-hands (X). But actually, MSX doesn't really have a meaning, it's just a nice-sounding 3-letter combination. On the MSX fair in Tilburg (21st April) 2001, Nishi gave a general meaning: Machines (hardware) with Software eXchangeability. A funny remark was that when MSX seemed to be succesful, Microsoft said MS in MSX means MicroSoft, but after 1986, when MSX seemed not as succesful as Microsoft had hoped, they denied that...

The MSX machines were produced by such giants as Sony, Yamaha, Panasonic, Toshiba, Daewoo, and Philips. The only MSX model ever sold in USA appears to be an early SpectraVideo machine (and possibly some Yamaha CX-5M machines, which were merely sold as musical instruments...)

In spite of its sad history, MSX is a very nice computer, especially useful for educational purposes which is clearly indicated by example of the Soviet Union. Russian Ministry of Education bought hundreds of MSXes (and later MSX2s) grouped into "computerized classroom systems" of 10-16 machines connected into a simple network. Entire generation of programmers has grown up using these computers.

Hardware-wise, MSX represents a hybride of a videogame console and a generic CP/M-80 machine. Its heart is a Z80 CPU working at 3.58MHz in the base model. The clock frequency has been doubled in the TurboR. The video subsystem is built around a TMS9918 or TMS9928 VDP chip also used in Texas Instruments' TI-99/4 computers, ColecoVision, and Coleco Adam. In the later MSX models this chip has been upgraded to V9938 (MSX2) and V9958 (MSX2+ and TurboR). The latest version of it is V9990. The audio system is handled by AY-3-8910 chip by General Instruments, same as the one used in Sinclair ZXSpectrum128 audio. AY-3-8910 provides 3 channels of synthesized sound, noise generation, and two general purpose parallel IO ports which are used for joysticks and some other things in the MSX design. Due to their hardware structure, MSX machines were perfectly suitable for games and there is a lot of good games either written or ported to them.

Nowadays, there exist a lot of expansions on the MSX system, such as the Moonsound card, based on OPL4, the GFX9000 card (based on the aforementioned V9990), SCSI and IDE interfaces, etc.

(written by Marat Fayzullin [])

Comp.sys.msx is a USENET newsgroup dedicated to MSX computers. Anything can be discussed in it, as long as it has any relation to MSX or its derivatives. We have a simple rules which your are asked to follow when you post into COMP.SYS.MSX:

Where can I find MSX WWW-pages and FTP sites?

Well, you have found at least one by reaching this page! ;-) But, you can find more MSX WWW pages (and FTP sites) in the links database of The MSX Resource Center (and my bookmarks:

On these pages you can also find FTP sites, as mentioned above. Some info on FUNet, one of the most important MSX FTP sites, can be found on Omega's pages, FUNet section. It also contains a FAQ about FUNet.

Where can I find MSX software?

Here's some links:

Are there any MSX people on IRC?

Yes, there are. The most popular international MSX IRC channels (as far as I know) are:

The #MSX channel on Undernet has a server-robot, called MetalGear.

If you don't have IRC software installed, you can try's webchat which runs as a Java applet in your browser. Or similar services like IRC@Work.

Is there an MSX Mailinglist?

Yes, there is! You can get subscribed by filling in the form on the info page of the mailinglist. Please consider the rules the same as for the MSX newsgroup (see above), with the extra rules that messages with attachments are completely blocked. Also MIME messages with both HTML and normal text portions are blocked. In case of problems you can e-mail the administrators: This is the International MSX list. There are others too, see below. On the International MSX Mailinglist, it is forbidden to post in any other language than English.

There's also such a thing as The MSX Mailinglist Archive, by Sean Young. See if you missed something! This archive is in the form of a read-only newsgroup. You can not post any messages in that newsgroup. To react, just join the mailinglist and send your messages through it. Update: unfortunately it is offline now, but you can still ask Sean for the back up, or check the new archive on the MSX Mailing list info page.

There are also some non-International MSX Mailinglists, like the MSX Brazillian Mailinglist (MSXBR-L). This one is meant for users who speak Portuguese. To subscribe:
Send a mail to or, without subject. In the body of the message, write: subscribe msxbr-l [your name]
If you only want to send a mail to the list, send a mail to or But you need to be subscribed to post messages.

Then there's the Italian MSX list (MSXIT-l). It accepts messages in Italian (of course), Portuguese (because the people of MSXBR-L helped them setting it up) and English. To subscribe, mail to: without subject and in the body of message: subscribe msxit-l [your e-mail address].

Last, but not least: HispaMSX, the most famous Spanish MSX Mailinglist. HispaMSX is a mailing list for Spanish MSX users, but guests speaking other languanges are accepted, too. The list is hosted at Yahoo! Groups. The URL is: The e-mail address for subscribing to the list is:

Is there an MSX internet radio station?

Yes, there is. You can find it here:

Are there still MSX fairs/exhibitions?

Sure there are! Get information at your local MSX Club! There are also several other web sites that list fair information. The best examples I know is The MSX Resource Center.

Back to the FAQ's index!