I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that today is the 22nd anniversary of registering my first domain name (jdmcs.com)... which conveniently happens to be the domain name being used for Computerized Start™ at the time of this post.
Hooray to the human obsession with anniversary dates!
You thought the onslaught of ads was over because we're well past election day...
We're three days to Christmas, and commercial America isn't resting on its laurels (though that doesn't sound like a very comfortable thing to do). Everywhere you turn, companies are still asking for your hard-earned money in exchange for "the perfect gift" for your loved one.
Don't fall for this. The only Perfect Gift came from God: "For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16, HCSB)
Live TV isn't safe: they're either telling your children that they must have the latest toys, or they're dictating how you should spend your money.
The Internet isn't safe: either you're reading about how your personal data was leaked by yet another company, or you're being shown advertising that knows way too much about you.
Even your Inbox isn't safe: Companies that usually send you an occasional email seem to be emailing you once an hour these days. Almost as if they'll go bankrupt if you don't buy something from them right now.
And if you thought you would fall back to SMS messaging on your non-smart flip phone to avoid the Internet and your Inbox, not even it is safe. My dad has been receiving text message ads "at an increased frenzy as Christmas draws near". His words, not mine.
Perhaps this is the season where you're glad you run one (or more?) ad blockers on your computer. I certainly can't blame you for doing that. But if you are, you're not missing much on this website. I decided a long time ago that I was not going to run ads against my personal blog.
This means that the most you will find on this website is an occasional affiliate link to products that I like and use, and nothing more.
And if you do find more than this on my website, either I'm no longer running it or you're reading an illegal copy. And at the moment I'm typing this, it has to be the latter.
The Yamaha CX5M Music Computer was one of a number of MSX computers released worldwide in the 1980's, as well as one of only a few marketed in the United States. Project CX5M is my attempt to document this vintage computer, and I want to give it a proper treatment.
I know that many of my US-based readers have never heard of the MSX standard. That is understandable, as MSX largely bypassed the United States. Only two companies marketed MSX computers in the US (with Spectravideo being the other company, if you're curious).
Anyways, Yamaha's CX5M Music Computer is a notable entry in the annals of computing history. While I have found evidence that computers were used in the music production process, as well as marketed for their sound generation capabilities prior to the CX5M's release, the CX5M may be the first computer specifically marketed for music production.
After all, Yamaha was no stranger in the music industry. For example, their DX7 synthesizer created some of the most iconic sounds in 1980's pop music, though programming new sounds on it proved to be difficult.
And yes, Yamaha sold a cartridge for the CX5M that could be used to more easily create new sounds for the DX7. It was among the first set of cartridges launched for the CX5M.
You might be wondering why I would even bother with physical hardware at all. Any CX5M hardware that I do find is going to be over 30 years old. And interfacing modern hardware with vintage computers can present a unique set of challenges.
For example, while MSX-DOS used the FAT12 file system, macOS no longer supports external USB floppy drives. Fortunately, Linux and Windows still do... but for how long?
And it's not like you are going to drive down to your local office supply and find a double-density floppy disk to use in your vintage computer. (Fortunately, eBay is a good source for new old stock disks.)
Also, vintage computers usually output video at a non-standard 240P, instead of the NTSC standard 480i. CRT-based TVs were totally fine with displaying 240P – and if your TV was small enough, you would never notice the missing scan lines were missing from the signal.
However, since 240P was never a standard, many modern TVs and video capture devices will flat out refuse to acknowledge that there is a signal.
Furthermore, some video controllers of the day, including the TMS9918A found in the CX5MU (that's the designation for the US-market CX5M), did other tricks in the name of making video output computationally easier. Unfortunately, these non-standard tricks cause undesirable artifacts in modern video equipment, as shown in these examples.
I'll elaborate on these "tricks" in a future post.
But emulation also has its drawbacks. MSX emulators do exist, and they have support for the CX5M. Some emulators let you record the screen, which would result in a far better picture than composite video could ever provide. Or if the emulator didn't support this feature, screen recording software could come to the rescue.
Emulation also would not let me experience what it was like to actually have a CX5M in the 80's. And there is a certain je ne sais quoi from hearing the sound from the actual synthesizer hardware, instead of an emulated approximation.
That is, if any of the MSX emulators even attempt to emulate the SFG-01 and/or SFG-05. I have so far been unable to get far enough with any of the MSX emulators to make that determination.
Therefore, I will press forward with using actual CX5M hardware, but will still investigate using MSX emulators to help fill in gaps in the story of the Yamaha CX5M Music Computer.