Fri. Jun 14th, 2024

I’ve had my eyes on FM Towns ever since I started paying attention to the Japanese vintage computing market. It had always been in the back of my mind to get one, but they can be pretty expensive and it was something I decided I would just put off until later. I was certainly not expecting to buy one right now, because my room is hitting a tipping point in storage, and I’d just picked up a second X1 a few days before.

But it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I saw this full system on Yahoo Auctions and it would appear in my recommended items list from time to time.

I expected it to end expensively, but as time went on, there continued to be no bidders. I checked at the last four hours, the last hour, and even the last five minutes, but there were no bids. So I bid on it and watched the clock down to the end of the auction. No competition! I got it for the paltry sum of 10,000 yen plus about 2000 yen shipping.

It was untested, but even if nothing else worked, the keyboard often goes for that price, and non-functioning keyboards are pretty rare, so I thought it was a good gamble. But when I got it home and started plugging things in and testing it, it all just worked. Amazing!

At least, to the minimal extent I could test it. I couldn’t figure out how to get to the BIOS, and I didn’t have any bootable media, so I could only really test the monitor and that the system could pass the memory check. But it was a promising start!

One potential reason for the low price was that the auction only had one photo attached, which showed the small amount of damage visible to the corner of the CD ROM drive, but what wasn’t apparent was that the rest of the machine was so clean.

The main system:

The monitor:

The keyboard:

The next day, on my lunch break, I went to BEEP in Akihabara and bought a game called Mega Spectre for 980 yen. Bonus, I found a mouse there, too! But compared to the rest of the system, the mouse now seems expensive.

It was just to test the system, but it’s a kind of weird game with unusual imagery, so I was kind of intrigued. It’s fairly straightforward to play, you drive a vehicle and capture flags, shooting other vehicles you encounter. The best news, though, was that I could confirm that the system works! The only thing I haven’t been able to test yet is the floppy drive.

My model is FM Towns 2F. At its core is a 386-16MHz with 2MB of main memory and 640KB of video memory. It has a CD-ROM drive and two floppy drives, and while there is no hard drive, one can be added by the external SCSI connector on the rear panel.

By Sean

6 thoughts on “Fujitsu FM Towns 2F”
  1. I love the look of this thing. It has a wonderful retro future aesthetic. I’m super jealous of that score. Now that you have your mouse, weighing in at 40% of the entire FM-Towns setup, I’m curious how the Lucas Arts games are. I’ve heard they are some of the better versions, especially Loom.

    1. Yeah, I definitely want to try some point-and-clickers on this, apparently they were very well done. My first such game, King’s Quest V, apparently has a Japanese translation available for this system. I want to try that, too. I’ll give Loom a shot!

      Thanks for the images on that thumb drive, it will be so helpful. I heard I have to write at as low a speed as possible, but I wonder why that is the case? Are the bits recorded “sloppier” at high speeds or something? Anyway, it’ll be a bit of a learning experience. I haven’t burned a CD in about ten years, so this will be a bit of a learning curve I bet.

  2. Thank you very much for preserving Japanese computer history! FM TOWNS represents the finest days of Japanese retro computers.
    I’ve visited Akihabara Beep about the same time you bought Megaspectre, but I didn’t find it. I guess I barely missed it.
    I suppose you got a 2F with working CD drive. FM TOWNS was famous for the world first consumer computer that put a CD-ROM drive as a standard device. Unfortunately Fujitsu’s vision was too futuristic in 1989, just like they put two CPUs in FM-7 series 20 years too early, the drive was not standardized, and the pin out and device-CPU communication protocol is not published, which means once the drive is dead, it is hard to find a replacement without cannibalizing another unit. I have a 2F (the actual one I was using in my high-school days), HR, and MX here in Pittsburgh. Only 2F has the perfectly working internal CD drive. I am developing a rescue boot loader for substituting a SCSI CD-ROM/CD-R drive in place for internal CD drive, please check it out if you are interested:
    For some reason, it doesn’t seem to work with 386SX models (one report from a UR-model user), but I’ve tested the FD boot loader on my 2F. My recent biggest achievement was a boot loader that directly boots from SCSI CD drive, but it needs to be FM TOWNS II models. (Not applicable to model2, 2F, and 20F, and for some reason doesn’t work with 386SX models).
    I am also working on FM Towns emulator project as well 🙂
    If I linearly extrapolate the user-test results, it runs more than 97% of the FM TOWNS software titles. (170 out of 175 tested titles run perfectly or with a minor glitch.)
    By the way, Psygnosis titles like Scavenger 4, Megamorph, Microcosm are very famous, but I don’t recommend to run Psygnosis titles on actual hardware. The disassembly of their Fractal Engine showed that it constantly sends SEEK command to the drive, which might stress the motor and may shorten the life of the internal CD drive. If you want to run, I suggest to limit it to the special occasions.

    1. Hello! Thank you for your informative comment. It is my joy to try out these different vintage Japanese computers and give my impression about them. I’m not very technical, though, so I don’t have a whole lot of in-depth information to share.

      I will have to check your boot loaders to see if I can someday use them for my system. Once the CD ROM drive stops working, it will be a very sad for this machine. Booting directly from SCSI CD ROM sounds very useful, so maybe someday I will need to get an FM Towns II.

      I have a couple of Psygnosis titles (just copies). I don’t have a habit of playing them very often, but now that I know, I may never play them again. The FM Towns CD ROM drive seems very prone to failure. Even mine, which is working now, sometimes is a little inconsistent in completing reads, so I fear it may be slowly dying.

  3. Sure. Contact me if you need technical info about FM-7 series or FM TOWNS series! Dead CD drive is a major problem of aging FM TOWNS models. I have a long-shot project of reverse engineering internal CD drive of desktop models like HR, HG, MX, and MA, and make a FPGA bridge that connects internal-CD connector to a SCSI or IDE CD drive. One day I may be successful, but until then I am hoping my boot loader will save many of them.
    By the way, I am wondering if I met you in front of Akihabara Beep last summer. I remember I talked with a group of three outside of Beep. Were you one of them?

    1. Thank you! I might indeed need to do that. I have your email address from the comment.

      I used to work pretty close to Beep, so I would go after I finished my morning work around once a week, but it was almost always alone, so I don’t think it was me.

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