The Exciting PC-8801 MK II

Some big projects at work have taken up most of the bandwidth I have for development and most of the energy I have for extra projects which require actual thinking. But not to worry I picked up a PC-8801 MK II from Buyee for about $20.

At least that was the list price. Sites like Buyee allow you to buy thing from Yahoo Japan and other auction sites and the sellers ship the items to their warehouse and they then ship them on to you. So the $20 went to $30 to get the PC-88 to Buyee then a whopping $60 to get it to my house.

So for just under $100 I got a classic Japanese retro PC.

PC-8801 MK II Details

The PC-88 line is a Z80 based PC like the ZX Spectrum, MSX, and a whole host of others. I think the PC-88 is much more unique though. Being a Japanese PC I don’t believe it was ever exported out of Japan. The MKII is the second version and there are many additional revisions some with more RAM, better sound, etc. They also made some models that were “cost reduced” versions with less features.

Originally targeting the business market the PC-88 wasn’t geared toward gaming until the later models. Some really great franchises got their start on the PC-88 like Ys, Sylpheed, etc.

I picked up the Untold Story of Japanese Game Developers as part of a Story Bundle and Volume 1 is a great book. There’s some great interviews with people who made games in the early 80s for the PC-88 as well as people who are working to preserve those early Japanese PC games.

I really want to know more about the early Japanese computer game scene. A slew of great companies got their start developing computer games. Companies like Enix, Square, and Falcom. I didn’t hear of them, and seems like most people outside of Japan, didn’t hear of them until they started to make games for consoles like the Famicom and PC Engine.

Playing those early games feels like a whole pile of awesome!

My PC-88

So here’s some pics of the PC-8801. I couldn’t resist taking the cover off and once you get inside it’s pretty awesome. I was impressed with the amount of chips on the board. In later models there are a lot fewer chips because the logic functions were condensed into a few larger chips. At least that’s my assumption based on the the small amount I’ve learned about retro computer design.

Couple of things I found very interesting about this machine, besides the number of chips, is the amount of bodge wires on the bottom. Those seem to be from the factory and from images of other MKIIs they all have a couple of bodges here and there. Must have been a quality thing at the factory, or they had some chips that were wonky and needed substitutions… or something.

Things Needed to Use the PC-8801 MKII

Before I can even use this awesome machine I’ll need to figure out:

  • The keyboard – there are some adapter projects to use a modern USB keyboard.
  • Video – need to find a way to get RGB from the DIN connector on the back if possible. Or at least a composite signal.
  • Disk Drive – since mine didn’t come with any floppy drives I’ll need to find a replacement and since I’m not into actual floppies anyway I’m thinking a GoTek solution of some type.
  • Audio – would be awesome to have something more then the standard PC beeper.

Anyhoo that’s my newest obsession and project. Hope it’s somewhat interesting.

Party on!