I picked up this MZ-700 application. I enjoy poking around with them, just to see what productivity was really like back then. The most productivity I can recall doing back in my childhood was using Magic Desk I on the Commodore 128. It was basically a typewriter emulator, so doing more sophisticated things like this spreadsheet application is a pretty new experience for me.
It loaded (on the fourth time) and I was up and running. I could figure out some of the basics, such as entering text, entering numbers, inserting and deleting rows and columns, adjusting column width, and entering the expression editor to perform simple mathematical calculations. The one thing I really would like to figure out but couldn’t is how to perform calculations by cell reference (for example, in Excel, navigating to C1 and entering “=A1+B1” would add the values of A1 and B1 and put it in cell C1). I can’t seem to find any syntax for it online, and in fact, I can’t seem to find much about this program at all! So it’s more a curiosity.
As I mention from time to time, I enjoy checking out and using productivity apps on my old machines. I recently joined Mercari and I found this little treasure nobody wanted.
It’s Shogun, a word processor for the Sharp X1 Turbo Z. Yes, you need to go all the way to the Z model, because it comes on high-density floppy disks. Actually, the disk claims it’s for X1 Turbo, so it was probably released on double-density floppy disks, as well.
When you boot up, you are greeted by this beautiful opening screen. I had to get an animation of it!
But once you get down to business, the glamour of the fancy title screen fades away quickly and you are greeted by a blindingly white screen.
I’ll need to go back and take some better screenshots sometime. They looked pretty good on my phone, but uploading to full size they are quite blurry. For now, here are my low-quality captures of my text-typing adventures. The images kind of tell the story as I go, if you can read them First in English:
Then a Japanese entry tutorial. Figuring out how to enter Japanese was a bit counter-intuitive, because they re-purposed the kana key on the keyboard. So I had to tell the menu to use full-width entry, then to use Japanese by pressing the kana key on the keyboard, which normally only allows you to type in using direct Japanese symbols, which is an outdated method of text entry. The software is smart enough to use romaji entry, so might as well take advantage of that, for sure!
And one more type-up in pure Japanese. It was nowhere near as smooth to type as it is in modern Windows, but I could get the hang of it a bit.
These are the disks included with my system, the Sharp X1 Turbo Z, and the Sharp X1 Turbo, which I don’t have but picked up anyway. It’s all compatible with the X1 Turbo Z, anyway.
I just love the aesthetics of the disks and the cover they came in. They are their own works of art.
In the X1 Turbo lot, there are five disks , all double density. Applications included are: – Disk BASIC CZ-8FB02 (programming language) – Word Power (2 disks, allows for Japanese commands in BASIC) – Lexicon (I think this allows you to customize Word Power) – Demonstration Disk (non-interactive demo highlighting system features and software)
In the X1 Turbo Z lot, there are three disks, all high density. Applications included are: – BASIC CZ-8FB02 (programming language) – Graphics Tool (image creation/manipulation package, fairly feature-rich for the time) – FM Music Synthesizer (allows people with the talent [not me] to create music)
Sharp X1 music tools. It includes a tone creator, music composer, music player with a visualization, and a program to link your creations into, if I recall correctly, your programs. It is one of few programs that was made available on 5.25″ HD floppy disks for the system, most used 5.25″ DD disks because it was the lowest common denominator in the X1 series. It also ran at 640×400, which was not so unusual because there were two generations of their systems that could use this higher resolution.
If you thought my art was crappy, I’m far less talented in music. First was the tone creator. To create tones, I think you need some particular kind of understanding of math, or at least an understanding of how to work with the building blocks of synthesized sound. In any event, I had no idea what I was doing.
The music compisition went a little better, but not much. I was able to generate the notes necessary for a single instrument rendition of Mary had a Little Lamb, but if I tried to add a bass line to it, it refused to play? It probably explains well in the manual, it’s very detailed, but I don’t think this is really ever going to be my strong point!
This is no fault of the X1 Turbo (Z), though. They have great sound, quite sophisticated for an 8-bit computer. It produces music by either PSG, FM, or there are even some games that use both.
The music player is pretty cool. Too bad it has such a small stock library but I guess they were counting on you making your own music! I imagine there were magazines with type-in songs, BBSes with downloadable songs, etc. I’m probably a tad late for all that.
There were around ten default songs, most recognizeably “Invisible Touch” by Phil Collins. The other song I uploaded, Oteyoman, is a kind of funky song. The others that I’ve listened to tend to be more mellow songs, undoubtedly to appease their conservative user base.
I finally got around to firing up my X1’s included “Graphics Tool”, part of the included “Z’s Staff-Z” software bundle that came with my system. I am no artist by any stretch and I figured loading up and attempting to use an 8-bit paint program would be an excruciating exercise. But I wanted to explore more about my Sharp X1 Turbo Z. There were definitely moments of frustration, but it was also a great experience.
The opening screen launches you into low-res mode where you have two choices for video resolution – 320×200 or 640×400. Images made in one resolution cannot be opened in the other. I went with 320×200 for starters.
The interface appears minimal, with a single row of menu options at the top. The entire screen is your canvas.
If you look at the final picture, most people would probably imagine that the background was filled first first, but that’s for people who have a plan, and that does not include me! Nonetheless, to make it look like a progression of the picture creation process, I went back and took a screenshot of a black screen.
Here’s what actually happened first: I’m not particularly creative in this kind of environment, but I grabbed the mouse and started free-drawing a curvy line. I thought perhaps it could become a tree, so I went with that. When I finished the base structure of the tree, I mixed a custom brown color and filled the tree, then I thought the tree didn’t look quite normal, but perhaps I could give it some legitimacy by making it a creepy environment, so it became a nighttime sky.
Next I finished the moon with just a simple circle and added some “craters”, which sounded good at the time but actually probably made it worse. Added some grass by drawing sloppy lines with the freehand tool. But the part I like best is the clouds. I struggled with those clouds, trying this and that with different pen sizes, different shades of gray, different diffusion tools, nothing I tried didn’t look like garbage. I actually gave up on the clouds for a while, but there is no screenshot of that stage, so here’s another fast-forward screenshot:
Having given up on the clouds, I thought I’d make a wooden fence. I thought I saw a tool that would be good for that, but once I started drawing the fence with it, I quickly learned that this was, in fact, the tool for drawing clouds. The fence was ultimately made by a series of thin, dark brown lines (so dark it barely shows up in my photograph, but believe me, they’re there!), and then going back to the freehand tool with black to give the fence a more unkempt appearance.
And that’s about enough for the picture. Hokusai, I am not. But the program left a good impression on me. As much as I thought that this antiquated program would be tedious for me to get anything done with, I was pleasantly surprised. For a 128KB computer, they crammed in a lot of features and made it a nice tool to explore and even an amateur can have a little fun with it.
The edit page was surprisingly powerful compared to my impression of the icons. I assumed it was just simple things like flip or rotate the entire image, but actually you make a selection of what you want flipped or rotated. You can also copy and paste (which I wish I’d known before I did the grass). It also has a “grow selection” function that does a decent job of stretching out elements of your image.
The text input took some time to figure out. You can only add one character at a time, and it appears to be fixed spacing. But there are some cool effects available, too. You can use or turn off any of the three features – characters, outline, and shadowing. Outline and shadow are basic but the unusual thing to me is being able to turn off the characters, so you can just have the outline and/or shadow. You can also set double width, double height, and italics for the characters.
The only part that I find really frustrating is that it has no concept of “undo”. But I think there just isn’t enough memory for it to remember what pixels were changed and what their original colors were. So “undoing” is actually “cover up with an appropriate color” or “restore from last save.”
So getting back to the resolution choices at the launch of the program, the reason I went with 320×200 is because it allows access to the computer’s generous 4096-color (12-bit) color palette. Thanks to a hefty 96KB of video RAM, each pixel can have its own color. Obviously I didn’t take advantage of that, but I could have!
The software offers you five pages of 16 quick-select colors, but you can alter the colors anytime with the HSV (hue/saturation/value) sliders, and changing a color does not affect pixels already drawn on the canvas using the previous color.
640×400 is four times the resolution, so is limited to 8 colors (3-bit color). Some of the interface elements are replaced with kanji so it looks a little different. And as you can see, it looks a lot cleaner. And of course, all the extra real estate that 4x resolution provides is nice. But you’re giving up 4088 colors!
For those curious but maybe don’t know how to calculate it, I checked the numbers and it is indeed necessary to drop down to 8 colors to achieve 640×400. Look: 320×200 = 64000 pixels, 4096 colors = 212 (12 bits = 1.5 bytes) 64000 * 1.5 = 96000 640×400 = 256,000 pixels, 8 colors = 23 (3 bits = .375 bytes) 256000*.375 = 96000 As the computer has 96KB of video RAM, these are the limits at these resolutions.