An Introduction To MSX Canon V-20 Computer!

Not many people will recall MSX, one of the very first standard home computers firstly announced back in 1983 by Microsoft. Kazuhiko Nishi known through his corporation ASCII joined forces with Microsoft Japan

MSX V 20 Canon

 and created the “MircoSoft eXtended”, even though more recent interviews claim that MSX originally intended to be”Machines with Software eXchangeability“. The computer was mainly connected to a TV as it did not have its own monitor like a Commodor 64 for example, and lots of popular companies such as Sony, Sanyo, Canon and Philips released their own versions.

Back in 1984 I was lucky enough to purchase a MSX Canon V-20 model, my very first PC. Unlike other consoles, the MSX V-20 was loading games via tapes (you had a feeling you were about to play a music tape, although the sound was primitive reminding dial up modems sound in a much more aggressive version) or cartridges and the version I had my hands on was an 8bit with 64kb memory. Loading a game via the tape recorder could take up to 40mins while cartridge disks would load a bit faster.


The first game I played with MSX was the 3D knockout, a box fight simulation and the title 3D immediately captured my attention. You see back then 3D was a BIG deal! Maybe something totally imaginary as we are talking about 8/16 and 24 bit computers. The graphics of the 3d game were really awful (nothing close to even what a 6 year old may consider “3D”), maybe the worse graphics human mankind had experienced to date while it’s gaming sound made Gameboy’s Mario Bro music imagine like a true orchestra. It was years later until a MSX game would become famous, that is the Kojima’s known Metal Gear 1 and 2 which was introduced in 1997 on MSX2 computers. As far as I remember most MSX 1 games were single player and the most popular one was Alliens which was released in 1987. I was lucky enough to find a video on youtube, it is amazing to see its simplicity in movement, graphics and sound yet to remember how excited I was playing this game for hours (I must confess that the loading screen at the start of this video brought up memories and a smile on my face:

Where MSX differed from the competition

meta gear msx

Despite all the above, something that was really remarkable on the MSX computers was that you could find a lot of programming and gaming books in the market, offering you some default coding that you could type and  directly build your first game. Although most of the “chapters” were refering to games such as pac-man and tetris, still you could end up having your own version. Those who were more aware of coding or being a little more creative than myself would be able to combine code and make their own small versions of games. Such a shame internet and forums were not in existence back then, I can easily imagine a community with people exchanging code and ideas while developing their own programs and games.

Why noone remembers the MSX computers

It is sad to say that MSX never conquered the market despite the opposite preductions and the original enthusiasm.

    • To start with even if Microsoft Japan was the company behind it’s production, the computer was not particularly popular in the ASIAN or the USA markets (even though there was some success in Europe and Russia). The first 8bit edition was quickly left behind as Atari ST and Commodore 128 introduced 16 and 24 bit computers in the market, forcing MSX to quickly release MSX 2, MSX 2+ and MSX turbo and abaond the “cheap 8bit” model they counted their success on.
    • Secondly Commodore and Atari were already offering “cheap” computers in the market with much better games and MSX seemed to be lagging in good game production.
    • Despite the computer was backed up by big brands it never appealed to the market as much as its main opponent the Commodore 64. Not sure if this is due market share or inability to sustain in the computer market from a marketing and branding point of view.
    • Despite being a brilliant low end computer, it was not a disk based system making loading games and programs a very slow process.

Some hopes were in the horizon when Toshiba announced that it was planning to release a single chip MSX machine but by the time it was ready, most MSX machines and equipment had already stopped developing. American companies froze their interest in putting the computer in production and that made things even harder as Microsoft’s trademark wasn’t enough to convince software companies to carry on releasing game titles. The computer officially ceased in the mid 90s and will be always remembered as one of the best and most promising low-end computer that was always a little late.

Posted on by Vassago in Computing, Retro

About Vassago

Vassago is from Athens, Greece, but spent much of his upbringing in Brussels. Music and computer games are his two biggest passions - he's been an obsessive since the age of five, when he bought his first PC - an MSX Canon. Currently he lives in London where he works as a senior digital analyst and SEO/PPC consultant trying to outwit Google! He has been reviewing albums and conducting interviews and band reviews since the late 90′s, via an Athens-based radio station and through magazines such as Starvox (Retired), GothicTronic American Online (Retired), Chaotika (Retired) and even had his own publication Enochian Apocalypse, which had more than 10.000 registered members over ten years. He has also played bass for a couple of bands and released two electronic soundtrack albums through Hypervoxx/BMI under the name Akron.

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