FM-77AV20EX System Disks

A while back, I posted about a three-pack of FM-77 system disks that I found. I bought them, copied them, then re-copied them just in case, and then resold them. I don’t have an FM-77, but it does work on my FM-77AV20EX, and that’s been just fine.

But last week, a set of system disks specifically for my model showed up. I expected them to be dreadfully expensive, but actually they were half the price of the FM-77 disks I’d bought before. I made a copy of them, and am currently using those, but I don’t think I’ll resell the disks this time. The price was not that bad, and it makes it feel like a more complete system (still need the manuals, though!).

The contents are different – there is an updated version of F-BASIC, now at 3.3 instead of 3.0. And Logo has been replaced with a system introduction/demo disk, which highlights and shows off the multimedia features of the system, as well as introduces peripherals and software available.

FM-77 System Disks

My FM-77AV20EX comes with BASIC built onto a system ROM, which makes it fast to load up BASIC and play around, and you don’t need anything else to get started using the system. But the BASIC it comes with has a big limitation: you can’t access disks or perform operations on them. This means you can’t format a disk, and while most games that make use of a data disk or save disk include a format utility, I’ve run across at least one that does not. The result was that I couldn’t play the game.

To perform operations on disk from BASIC, you need to get the “disk version” of BASIC. This is included as one component of the FM-77 System Disks set. This is so rare that I didn’t even know to look for it until it suddenly appeared in my recommended items list on Yahoo Auctions. Long story short, I just paid whatever was necessary to get it. That price was about 12,000 yen. Yikes. Let’s see what I got:

Yep, three disks, one of them blank. What a bargain! We have F-BASIC 3.0 and FM-Logo 2.0. I was willing to pay whatever the final price was, because I planned to copy them and sell them back on Yahoo Auctions later, presuming I could get almost all of my money back. Well, I only managed to sell them for 8000 yen (minus Yahoo’s fees, so nearly 7300 yen pocketed). That means I ended up paying about 5000 yen for two copied disks! I made backups and then backups of the backups, just in case.

But let’s see what we get here. It’s kind of neat. Do you remember Logo? I barely did.

Mouthy program. But I used Google to jostle my memory a bit.

The BASIC disk comes with, of course, the BASIC programming language, as well as some utilities. For example, the disk formatting utility which is basically the reason I bought this to begin with! But beyond that, it also came with a F-key command definition tool and a paint program that I don’t seem to be able to use at all, perhaps because I need a special mouse?

The BASIC disk also came with a demo of the system. Actually this was made for the FM-77, but mine is the FM-77AV20EX, so the demo works but doesn’t really demonstrate the full capabilities of the system I have it running on.

And there we have it! 5000 yen for copies of this. Welp, can’t win them all! Don’t get me wrong, it’s kind of a neat collection and I enjoy perusing the disk, just quite a chunk of change for what it is. Actually I want to find some way to get copies of this to people who need it, perhaps just have people ship blank floppies inside a postage-paid return envelope, so people don’t need to drop big yennage just to get these simple tools. But I’m not sure how I’d put that plan into action.

Spring Cleaning

Get it? It’s a joke. There are springs under the keys… and I cleaned the keyboard. It’s supposed to be funny.

Anyway, after I transferred this image to my PC and looked at it, I thought, “Why did I bother cleaning it? It looks pretty good as it is!” Certainly, at a glance, it doesn’t look bad at all. But if you look closely, especially between keys, you will notice a considerable amount of grime.

I find cleaning vintage computers gives them a breath of new life. To me, it is one of the most satisfying things about this hobby. To get started, I unscrewed the case and popped off the keys, and let them soak a bit in a warm water plus orange solvent solution.

After about five minutes, I rubbed each one clean with a rag. Then I took a pretentiously artsy photograph of the keys drying, because I am so clever. Well, at least the keys are nice and clean.

While the keys were drying, I did the thankless job of cleaning the keyboard’s board itself. It’s much less noticeable and much greater a pain to clean than the keys, but I hadd it open and ready to clean, so I went ahead and cleaned it. Snap the dried keys back on and then put the case back together.

And finally, set the keyboard back up on the desk, now ready for use! Very satisfying.

Fujitsu FM-77AV20EX

How’t that for a model name? Rolls right off the tongue, right? I have to mentally prepare myself a bit to say it. But it’s quite a sophisticated machine. FM-77AV is one of few Japanese 8-bit computers to support hardware scrolling, so in theory it should have some of the best-playing games. Unfortunately, I have very few games to test it with at this point.

I got this as a fairly standard auction on Yahoo Auctions from yugen2plus, a reputable seller, fully tested and working. It was a low-risk, high-cost purchase.

It is a pretty grand machine, though. It features a handsome black case and keyboard. One nice thing about the keyboard is that the cable is completely removable and replaceable with a standard S-video cable. In fact, mine had already been replaced with an exceptionally long S-video cable, which came in handy.

It comes with BASIC on ROM, which means even without games you can poke around on the system a bit.

But frustratingly, it has a separate, disk-loaded version of BASIC that you need if you want to access your floppy disks from BASIC. This means you can’t even format a disk unless you track down the disk version of BASIC, which has proven hard to find. Not impossible, though!

It also has a 6809 CPU, which I’ve heard referred to as the most powerful 8-bit CPU available. Earlier models had the choice of one or two drives, but by the time we got to the 77AV20 models, all systems came with two 3.5″ 320KB floppy disk drives. Stock RAM is 128KB, video RAM at 96KB, capable of displaying 4096 colors at 320×200.

Someday I would like to upgrade to the even more powerful FM-77AV40EX, but for now I will be satisfied with this!