Sharp MZ-700 Briefcase

A company called ACE made a suitcase specifically for the MZ-700. It came in a beautiful burgundy color, fits perfectly around the MZ-700, and has the MZ-series logo on the case.

I’ve seen them now and again, but either end too expensively on Yahoo, or are in gnarly condition on Mercari, but then this popped up on Mercari yesterday. It sure looked good in the photos, and came with a handful of extras, which helped make the price a little easier to swallow (although this was by far the best bargain I’ve seen thus far). So I took the chance. Due to the amazing courier service in Japan, it arrived in under 24 hours and it is as good in person as it looked in the photos.

Barely a scratch on it, no rust on the locks or other hardware, and still with the keys and bag manufacturer’s introduction card. If I hadn’t bought it on Mercari and someone said “Oh, look at my new briefcase,” I’d definitely be all “Hey that’s a nice new briefcase you got.” Sorry some shots are darker than others, I was kinda playing with my new phone’s camera features.

I am no bag expert, but I noticed that in several places, they took care that the internal pouches wouldn’t get stretched. The big center pouch has two latches on the side to hold it in place, and they’re adjustable in case you have more stuff to stow inside. And the two smaller pouches have a loop for each button so it can move without stressing the pouch itself depending on the shape of the contents.

The machine itself works and it came with some extras: a user manual, an MZ-700 programming book, a bound copy of a Turtle graphics software package user’s manual, and some printer hardware. This is also the first time to receive a set of plotter pens. Surely they’ve dried out by now but maybe I’ll give them a shot.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve picked up five MZ-700s. Basically I get them to convert the tapes to wav files, maybe keep a couple of original tapes, sell on the system, etc. I definitely don’t need five MZ-700s! But of all these lots, one thing that’s still managed to evade me is a clean user’s manual. This is the nearest I’ve gotten, it’s pretty clean but there’s a giant crease in the front cover. And while there’s a plastic film protecting the cover that can be cleaned up well, this has a bit of dirt that actually seemed to have penetrated the film and just won’t clean up.

Ice Warriors

A tale of two MZ-700s. The game Ice Warriors was developed for the MZ-700 in Europe, but I have an MZ-700 for the Japanese market. The systems are compatible, having the same hardware configuration. The only differences are on the keyboard and in the character ROM. But sometimes that’s critical!

I picked this up on the cheap from eBay, even shipping to Japan was not very expensive. However, when I tried to load it from the monitor, it didn’t find any data. Is the format of the tape somehow inherently incompatible? Is the tape bad? I tried both sides, but nothing.

Then one day, I stumbled upon some information: programs written in BASIC are saved with a different identifier and not picked up by the monitor’s loader. Now that I think about it, it makes sense, since the MZ-700 has no built-in BASIC. So I tried loading BASIC, switched the tape, then loaded Ice Warriors. And it found the program! And then READ ERROR!

But I’m not going to be deterred at this point. I tried a few more times with no success, so I tried the back side. It also produced a load error, but the second time it worked! I can play Ice Warriors!

Well, the title screen looks pretty good, if you assume the text is actual Japanese. The problem is, it’s not. The difference between the character ROMs is affecting the ability to play the game. What that is actually trying to say is:

ICE WARRIORS
of VALTEC
Copyright Solo Software
Please wait whilst game is set up.

Or at least, I would bet money that is what it’s supposed to say. It’s what I expect it is saying based on the length of each word, repeated characters, commonly used verbiage with old games, and process of elimination.

But I still refused to give up after I got this far. I slowly worked through the cryptogram to create a character and get into the game, even going so far as to have one battle, which was also messed up due to the character ROM differences, but that’s okay. I felt very satisfied getting this far! And those beautiful graphics were worth my several hours of effort over the past year or so.

HuCAL

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.

Video Mode Comparisons

First, let me preface this by saying it’s not a tremendously scientific experiment. Although I made sure my major camera settings didn’t change, there are a lot of factors on the monitors themselves that I’m not sure how to control or don’t have the ability to compensate for, and some results I can’t interpret in terms of what is causing what I see as differences and shortcomings. Also, I’ve made the images quite large, larger than usual, because it can be hard to discern the detail when they are small.

And nothing new or unexpected is happening here. This is just a light comparison in how much improvement can be achieved by using the best output mode. Anyway, here’s what I did.

First I put my MZ-700 up to the task. I connected it by both composite video (to my NEC PC-TV455) and by digital RGB (to my Sharp CZ-600DB) and then loaded the game “Ottotto”. First with lights on:

Then with the lights out:

The digital RGB is of course much clearer. I kind of feel that composite should have been better than it appears to be, though. But I’ve tried the composite output on another monitor, and it’s about the same. I wonder if something is not working quite right in the composite output circuitry.

Next I changed everything. The computer for this round is the Sony HB-F1XD (MSX2). The monitors are the same, but this time their functions are swapped – the PC-TV455 gets analog RGB and the CZ-600DB gets the composite. I shot it with both BASIC and the game Last Armageddon. Again, lights on:

And same scenes with the lights off.

And again, the analog RGB looks much nicer. It’s also noticeable on the MZ-700, but especially on the MSZ2, which displays kanji, the big difference is in the clarity of the text. Although my Sharp X1 Turbo Z in high-resolution mode by far provides the clearest text, upgrading from composite to RGB is still tremendously helpful in terms of clarity. Also, the color palette is surprisingly different, and some of it may be down to settings on the monitors, but at least to some extent, the color differences exist even if used on the same monitor.

Umm, also, if anyone knows how to remove that gigantic “P.”, I’d be really grateful! I think it requires the remote, which I don’t have.

Pac-Man

This is my copy of Pac-Man for the Sharp MZ-700. It is a Japanese release, but I got it on eBay, not Yahoo Auctions, from a US seller. Probably a bit cheaper than it would have been locally. The box was in pretty dirty condition when I got it, and am pleased with how nicely it turned out after a cleaning.

As I mentioned on my MZ-700 page, the computer does not have a graphics mode by default. So how do the games look? Blocky! But the system still got major releases like Pac-Man and Galaxian. And serious effort was put into the playability of the games. They are a lot of fun. From the high-score data that won’t get saved to the unique “coffee break” scene that mimics the cut-scenes in the arcade, this port is a fantastically unique port of Pac-Man.

One thing, and to me this is so ridiculous it’s awesome, is the chomping sound. It is so deep and bass-y. To really drive it home, the computer has an internal speaker, and the controls are on the keyboard, so you can feel the vibrations of the sound through your hands. What an experience!

I took the time to record the gameplay, so why don’t you watch it?

By the way, I said there was no graphics mode by default. There was a (rare and expensive, of course) peripheral that provided a PCG (programmable character generator) which allows a replacement 256 character set with per-pixel color to be loaded. This is the same feature that drove the Sharp X1’s arcade game ports to be so realistic. Pac-Man is one of the games programmed to take advantage of it, it is on the reverse side of the tape.