MSX Demoscene

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An MSX1 demo: Bold by Dvik & Joyrex

MSX was the first attempt to standardize software and hardware between different home computer vendors. With its 3.58 MHz processor, Microsoft BASIC, three-channel sound and modest graphics the MSX represented a very typical 8-bit home computer of the early 1980s. Several well-known companies such as Sony, Canon and Philips produced their own models, but their efforts were largely shadowed by the king of the hill, the Commodore 64. In spite of the tough competition, in some countries, such as The Netherlands, Spain and Brazil, the MSX line of computers was actually quite popular. A big factor in the success were the quality games produced by Konami, well-known for its numerous popular game series.

The MSX demoscene is a small but curious resident of the demo world. It could be roughly divided into two eras: the Dutch scene of the early nineties and the MSX renaissance of the late nineties. The Dutch demos ran on the advanced MSX2 computers that had improved graphics modes and often expansions such as additional memory or a sound cartridge. The effects seen in the first wave of demos were typical for the time: scrollers, colorbars, wobblers and even simple flat shaded vector graphics. Interestingly, in the Dutch scene it was considered perfectly normal to sell demos at fairs to other people, to get compensation for the hard work. In contrast, usually demos are distributed for free among the sceners and demo watchers. Many Dutch demogroups also went on to produce commercial games for the platform.

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A Dutch MSX2 demo: Unknown Reality by NOP

When the MSX started to disappear from the face of mainstream computing towards the mid-nineties, the Dutch scene also cooled down. It wasn't until 1997 that new demos started to appear, this time for the original old MSX1 computers from 1983. This tiny renaissance started from Finland and then slowly spread to the rest of the Europe. The new wave demos typically feature effects such as tunnels, plasmas, and character-based animations. These days a few demos are released for the platform every year. The increasing popularity of retro computing has benefited MSX too, and there are still a couple of yearly happenings such as Nijmegen (http://manuel.msxnet.org/msx/beurs/) and MSX Info Update (http://msx.fi/party/) in existence.

There are two popular high-quality MSX emulators available: the multi-platform openMSX and BlueMSX for Windows. Both of them run most of the demos and games perfectly. For a list of MSX demos with download links see the corresponding section of Pou√ęt.net, and for MSX-related news plus discussion The MSX Resource Center.