An Old Video Game Controller On Even Older Computer

For those of us not old enough to remember, and also probably living in the States, there was a relatively obscure computer built by Microsoft in the early 80s that had the strong Commodore/Atari vibe of computers that were produced before PCs took over. It was known as the MSX and only saw limited release in the US, although was popular in Japan and elsewhere. If you happen to have one of these and you’d like to play some video games on it, though, there’s now a driver (of sorts) for SNES controllers.

While the usefulness of this hack for others may not help too many people, the simplicity of the project is elegant for such “ancient” technology. The project takes advantage of some quirks in BASIC for reading a touch-pad digitizer connected to the joystick port using the SPI protocol. This is similar enough to the protocol used by NES/SNES controllers that it’s about as plug-and-play as 80s and 90s hardware can get. From there, the old game pad can be used for anything that the MSX joystick could be used for.

We’ve seen a handful of projects involving the MSX, so while it’s not as popular as Apple or Commodore, it’s not entirely forgotten, either. In fact, this isn’t even the first time someone has retrofitted a newer gaming controller to an MSX: the Wii Nunchuck already works for these machines.

13 thoughts on “An Old Video Game Controller On Even Older Computer

  1. there were quite a few MSX machines, which back in the day, referred to the expansion port.

    Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba all made MSX machines.

    I might still have a synthesiser module in “the stuff”

  2. Microsoft didn’t push MSX in the western hemisphere because their big money maker here was MS-DOS on the IBM’s and clones that were already a big thing for two years before MSX was released in 1983.

    The chances of MSX making any headway over here via other channels were dashed by the video game *and* micro computer crash of 1983. IBM and clones and the apple ][ line, and Commodore, were the survivors, with the IBM platform and Apple having the largest chunk of the market. All the others still around by the end of 1983 would soon be gone.

    I blame Commodore for starting an unsustainable price war. They pretty much cut their own throat while eliminating most of their competitors.

    1. 64s were selling well into the late 80s. The last one rolled off the line in 1994 (as did the last Apple II).

      Commodore’s problem was keeping the talent needed to design the next big thing. The designers of the 64 and Amiga left the company shortly after the release of each.

    2. In 1983 Apple was a small blip, they sold 420K computers, IBM 1.3Mil, Commodore 2Mil. https://arstechnica.com/features/2005/12/total-share/4/
      Apple was in schools, not homes, this ‘Apple was big in the eighties’ thing is a very recent hipster fad.

      Commodore didnt die due to prices, they were making steady profit on every computer sold, they screwed up management. Tramiel afair lost 100Mil buying up a chain of malls (of all the things!) just to sell them at a loss a year later. He also played games with distribution chain, directly fucked over partners and dealers instead of supporting ecosystem. Then we get egos (Gould) and clueless idiots (Ali). If all of that didnt happen Commodore would live at least 2-3 more years(until Quake) on technology and user base alone.

      1. Well yah, by 83 the market saw the Apple II as a 5 year old machine, despite updates, and Apple had been teasing their next gen machine for a year or two, so fence sitters were waiting for that rather than buy an out of date Apple II.

      2. Heck… Even quake could have been targeted for the Amiga ranges of the 1200 and onwards should the platform had proven more popular at the time.

        The world would’ve been a better place if the alternative was commodore instead of (cr)Apple as the Shiny expensive crud Co!
        Except what commodore could have achieved may have been better than Apple.

        .

        Now to post on another relevant comment-wall about how great Apple is….

      3. Most of the revisionist history is coming from people that didn’t even live through that time in the market. I used to repair Apple computers for schools in the 90s and I was a pre-teen kid then. We had several rooms of broken machines because IT people at the district would not touch them. I never saw one being sent off for repair.

        Schools and Libraries were their market. The colleges had Intel based machines. At home as time when by we had an 8088, 286, 386 and TRS-80s. The only reason schools had them was because they got them almost for free, and had a solid educational segment backing them. Somewhere out there is a warehouse full of dead Apple ][/GS computers.

  3. My Sony MSX had many useful advanced features for it’s time.
    GenLock capability to overlay graphics on video signal.
    IR remote built in. Both receiving AND sending to control other devices.
    Board BASIC library with most the IR and Video functions built-in.

    Quite a feature set for a very low price.

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