Cloud Kingdom for FM-7

This is one of the more unique games I’ve come across for the FM-7. I picked it up quite a while ago but if memory serves, I believe it came in a lot of several games. The box and tape are in good condition, but unfortunately it’s missing the manual.

It’s a colorful game with crisp, highly detailed graphics. You play a bird-mounted warrior and travel around the clouds looking for enemies amid cloud formations and fortresses, and shoot them with arrows. If you hit an archer, he falls satisfyingly from the castle.

The combination of bird flapping physics and arrow trajectory makes it rather challenging, and capturing a screenshot without pausing is all but impossible. One thing that seems a little absurd is that if you fall below the clouds, you die. I guess your bird can’t fly below cloud level… because that’s the sky down there.

Once in a while, you find a screen with some sort of bonus. Also, beware of surprise hands!

Fujitsu FM‐NEW7

I bought and didn’t even write a blog post about the Fujitsu FM-7, and I’ve already traded it in for an FM-NEW7. Now, I wasn’t there thinking, “God, I’ve just GOT to get the latest and greatest version of this machine!” when I switched to the NEW7. In fact, they’re practically the same machine. It was a chance happening of a good deal on Mercari, an untested FM-NEW7, which was in better condition than my (then) current, somewhat-yellowed FM-7.

When I got it, it didn’t work. It powered on and came up to a blank screen with a flashing cursor that basically reacted to nothing, but I did notice that if I held “break” while powering on, it stayed in 80-column mode instead of its usual shift to 40-column mode, so I felt it was still being as responsive as it could; it was probably a simple problem.

Well, I’ve got this FM-7 that works, let’s see if I can transfer chips from the FM-7 to the FM-NEW7 and fix it. The machines shared only two socketed chips, but lo-and-behold, one of them fixed it! A kind donation of a working BASIC ROM from Curt later, and I had a working FM-NEW7 and a working FM-7 to sell.

Starting with the FM-7 and continuing all the way up to FM77AV, Fujitsu’s FM series provided the most amazingly convenient access to expansion cards. In the case of FM-7 and FM-NEW7, just take off the raised lid and plop them in. Pretty neat! I’ve got no expansion cards, however.

And I kept the cover from my old FM-7. So at first it looks like just an FM-7, so if a thief sees it they’ll think, “I don’t want this old crap.” but secretly it’s the FM-NEW7!

The quality of the cover is very good but I’m not sure what was intended by the length of the hang. They seemed to clearly want to provide access to the power plug so you don’t have to unplug that. That makes sense, and directly below the power plug are the reset button and the cassette DIN jack, so you don’t have to unplug the cassette either, good thinking. But then the CRT DIN jacks are both mostly covered. Do they not want me to leave those plugged in? I mean, the cover will go on even with them plugged in, but it’s as if they wanted to cover them. Anyway, I leave the cover off when I’m using it (of course), and when I’m not using it, I unplug everything and put it in my storage cabinet, anyway, so no big deal.

If you’ll notice, there is no joystick port. And keyboard-as-a-joystick implementation on these machines is a bit odd. The keyboard doesn’t have a means to detect when a key is released, it only sees that a key is being pressed. So when you play a game and you want to stop moving in a certain direction, you have to press another key. That key can be another direction, or a neutral key designated as a way to stop. This almost always pans out as using the number pad as a joystick, with four or eight direction movement keys surrounding the 5 key, with 5 being used to stop. This is very abnormal control compared to other systems, and not so easy to get used to.

Besides that, though, the FM-(NEW)7 is a stellar gaming machine. With its high-res graphics mode and crisp digital RGB output, the games look beautiful, certainly on par with the Sharp X1. Here are a few examples:

Mario Bros. Special, which is available on many Japanese 8-bit platforms:

Lydia, a graphical adventure with some action scenes (I didn’t play long, I’m not sure exactly of the flow of the game). Very notable for coming on four tapes and having 3D glasses, not that I can see 3D:

Front Line, an action battle game:

BlackHoll 2 (I assume this is supposed to say BlackHole 2) a pair of space shooter games:

And last but not lea… wait, least. Definitely least. Shogi. It gets an honorable mention because of the stellar box art, which was probably 98% of the budget:

Introduction to FM77AV20EX disk (5 of 5): Additional Software

This final branch of the demo disk is probably the most interesting to me. I love games, but I’m also really interested in 8-bit productivity applications. This highlights some of the productivity apps available for this system.

First up is Graphic Editor. It’s a ineloquent version of Photoshop, but then again, Photoshop 1 was also an ineloquent version of Photoshop! Actually I can’t judge its eloquency, but the demonstration was definitely over the top! This reminds me of an “examples of bad photoshop jobs” web page. But I think the reason was probably just limitation of technology at the time. It was 1987 on an 8-bit machine, after all!

I mean, okay, most of it can be explained. buildings in the background, sure. Bird in the sky and kayak on the water, only natural. I know I have seen elegant images of pianos on the beach, probably in music videos and the like. I’ll even give it the computer. Perhaps they were trying to make a statement, the computer looks as elegant on a beach as the piano, or perhaps it was just a cheeky placement of their product.; either way is fine. The three Leaning Towers of Pisa, though?! That’s just jumping the couch!

Three!

Next up is some animation software. Now, I don’t know what potential this software has. The demo is certainly unimpressive, but it might have good applications? I mean, it has the NTSC converter/superimpose/VCR output card as an option, it might not be too far a stretch that this could be used in a budget production system to create some simple multimedia animations to go with other video content. But I am not sure you would jump to such a conclusion by seeing this demo.

It establishes the three shapes as objects and seemingly automatically morphs from one object to the next as it goes across the screen. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Third is a demo of FM Teleact/FM Communication, which is a simulation of dialing into a Japanese data service/BBS system. I probably missed out by never doing this when I was a teen. But not only did I not have a modem, I didn’t really even have the concept of computers accessing remote services at the time. I probably would have enjoyed it.

The first screen introduces the software, and the second screen is the main menu when you launch the software, allowing you to connect to or to set up your services. The following three screens are all setup screens, just to show what options were available.

Finally, in the sixth screen, we connect and log in. The seventh screen shows us a menu of services, from which 3 is selected – a bulletin board system. On the eighth screen is a list of options for interacting with the bulletin board, you can manage your profile, engage in free talk, talk about hobbies, travel, and books, etc. The “user” chooses 9, a bulletin board to discuss computers and word processors. Beneath that, a list of posts are displayed. The user opens one and reads some information about advanced features of the FM77AV20EX and logs out. Probably don’t want to stay connected too long, I imagine getting on these services was quite expensive in Japan in the 80s!

Finally, and this is the most interesting to me, is FM Japanese Sheet, an application similar to a spreadsheet that allows your to enter user-defined columns of data and manipulate the data using a GUI. I really wish I could find a copy of this and try using it!

And this concludes this series on highlights of the FM77AV20EX system disk. Now to find something to do with my newfound free time!

Introduction to FM77AV20EX disk (4 of 5): Audio Software

As alluded to in the third article in this series, the machine has a 3-voice FM synthesizer (in addition to a 3-voice PSG synthesizer, for a max of six voices at once). I believe you could squeeze the full functionality of this by simply using the PLAY command in BASIC, but I am sure musicians would generally prefer a music composition software package with a GUI that is more intuitive and visual. Fujitsu’s got you covered!

First is FM Music Editor. Based on my experience with the Sharp X1 music editing software “V.I.P.”, I probably wouldn’t really be able to do much with this software even if it were physically possible, but unlike the X1, the FM77AV20EX doesn’t actually come with a software package, just demos, both passive and interactive. This demo was passive so it just started playing a song while displaying the music someone else had already composed. Which is good, because I couldn’t make that!

Next up is the sound editor. Again, not a clue what I’m doing. But it is an interactive demo, so I altered some values that caused the little triangle doohickeys to change shape, and that affected the overall sound. But I don’t think it necessarily sounded good!

And that’s actually kind of all for the music composition. The remainder of the software is for non-musicians. The third item in the menu is FM Music World, which I gather to be something of a multimedia encyclopedia of music. You can activate different parts of the world and make an improvised musical performance.

And finally, FM Music Box. It is a late-80s, synthesized music only version of WinAmp. I don’t know if it really kicks the llama’s ass or not, because this also is a non-interactive demo with only one song. I kinda feel they could have offered more so you could get a sense of what interacting with the software was like.

And that wraps up the music software menu branch!

Introduction to FM77AV20EX disk (3 of 5): System Features –

This begins sort of the core content of the disk. You’ve been warned not to flush your floppy disks down the toilet and you’ve become a master typist, now it’s time to see what makes this computer special! On today’s menu, we have:
– 4096-color generator mode comparison
– 4096 color chart
– FM sound synthesizer
– System specs
– Optional devices

First the color mode test. A scenic picture with an FM77AV20EX “photoshopped” in place. More on this in article 5. The progression goes from 8 colors to 64 colors to 512 colors and finally 4096 colors.

Look at that, 4096 colors. In 1987, I was still limited to 16 colors on my Commodore 64 or 128 (I forget when I actually upgraded). Look, I’m not knocking Commodore by a long shot, I have such a history with it. But this is 4096 colors! It has the same amount of RAM as the C128, so how does it squeeze out those extra colors? Blunt force. There’s a solid 96KB of video memory. I really should check into whether there was any sort of demo scene or art scene active from this era, because I’m certain it could be pushed much further than this picture shows.

Next is the color chart. Same concept, same progression.

It kind of looks less impressive shown this way, but we have seen a couple of examples already of how this can be used to good effect.

Third from this list is the FM sound synthesizer. It seems that the FM77 got its name from the fact that there are 77 instrument samples, and this demo highlights seven of them. The text is just a brief explanation of the utility.

I really ought to record some audio here, not because any single piece of music is that impressive sounding, but to give an idea of how clear the sound comes through. And again, I now want to search down more compositions.

Well, that concludes the exciting, multimedia portion of this menu branch. But we have a bit more content, continuing with the system specs:

It’s straightforward enough you probably don’t need much Japanese to figure it out. The CPU is a 6809 and it also has a 6809 for a “sub-CPU”. I’m not sure offhand what a sub-CPU means. I don’t think it’s exactly dual-processor, but perhaps delegates secondary tasks or something? The main RAM can be upgraded to 192KB, and it also has a 128KB kanji ROM.

Finally, optional devices. It’s broken down into three categories – audio, visual, and communications.

Audio:

1. Music Stereo Box – provides up to 8 FM voices at the same time through stereo channels (standard is 3). It provides an MML sequencer (music macro language) that allows for midi synchronization.
2. MIDI add-on – adds MIDI connectivity addressable through the BASIC PLAY command so no additional expensive software is necessary, but some programs are supported.
3. Voice synthesizer – add Japanese voice to your applications or reports.
4. Voice recognition – issue 64 different voice commands, and to customize your own command set.

Video:

1. Video digitizer card – real-time digitization of video images from TV or VCR. It converts them to 4096 color images in realtime (1/60 of a second) and dumps it to video RAM.
2. Video card – converts analog RGB signal to NTSC video signal. This can also be used to superimpose video signal and create videos for recording to a VCR.
3. Handy Image Scanner card – digitize materials and save them to disk.
4. NTSC adapter – Connect a TV or VCR to your FM77AV20EX

Communication:

1. 300/1200 baud modems – two different modems that allow you to dial into data services and networks.