Toshiba Pasopia7

Toshiba was not one of the top players in the Japanese computer industry in the 80s. They started with the Pasopia, and later they introduced their second-generation 8-bit machine, the Pasopia7, neither gaining widespread adoption. They continued with their 16-bit offering – the J-3100 – but that was tightly connected to the contemporary IBM PC architecture, and while it had its own modest software library, it can, in fact, boot a Windows 98 boot disk and launch DOS software.

But I think there is quite a bit of good to say about their 8-bit offerings, regardless of popularity. This time, I’ll introduce the Pasopia7. Like the Pasopia, it’s a Z-80 based system with 64KB of system RAM, but with strengthened multimedia capabilities. They tripled the video RAM (up to 48KB) and added not one but two dedicated sound chips (SN76489), allowing for six voices.

This machine is also unique in that it came in different colors. Sharp X1 (and to a very limited extent NEC PC-8801) also offered color variations, but the truly unique thing about the Pasopia7 colors is that it *didn’t make you choose*. It included three keyboard perimeter overlays in the box: brown, blue, and red. How about that, iMac?

So in that sense, objectively, Toshiba put some consideration into the aesthetics, but in my opinion, the keyboard overlays are merely the finishing touch. I think this is overall one of the most handsome computers in my collection. Highlights include the sleekly-covered cartridge slot, the typeface on the keycaps, the color accents on the keyboard, the recessed power switch, and the style of the logos. Here are the results of its vanity photo shoot:

Another unusual thing is that support for floppy disks is built in to ROM BASIC. It isn’t necessary to boot from a separate disk to interact with floppy drives. It asks you how many are connected as soon as you boot the computer. After you answer that and the number of files, you are thrown in to BASIC. The keyboard is a pleasure to type on, the keycaps feel smooth to the touch, the travel is satisfyingly deep, and while not clicky, has a pleasant sound from the spring action.

The consistent drawback of unpopular systems is the scarcity of software, and the excessive prices they go for on Yahoo Auctions when they do surface. I happened into a couple of halfway-decent deals, including DoorDoor and Fly Boy (not pictured), but competition is fierce!

So, how many aliens can *you* shut up? Me? Not so many!

Pasopia Goodies

There was a small bundle of items related to Toshiba Pasopia on Mercari for a while. The price would go down, then the seller would find some more related items, so the price would go up, and then back down. Eventually it hit a pretty sweet spot and the guy agreed to a small discount, so I bought it.

My Pasopia doesn’t get a whole lot of love because software is rare and expensive, and it doesn’t have much of a fanbase like its peers such as PC-8001 or (maybe?) FM-8, so even searching for software online is not a very fruitful endeavor. So this was a pretty unusual collection of treasure. It has two games: The Golf and Pro Racer, the original system demo tape, and a T-BASIC reference card.

Pro Racer is the only game that is actually completely new to me. The demo tape and The Golf I had already found online. Pro Racer is a very simple game that makes use of the primitive graphics available on the system. Still, fun to play around with once in a while.

Toshiba Pasopia

The Pasopia by Toshiba seems not to be as famous as others like the PC-6001, MZ-700, X1, or FM-7. But cool, it’s a road a little less traveled. Mine’s a little banged up, but overall pretty clean.

I got it on Mercari for a song, it was listed at an already reasonable price but I got a little discount by making an offer. When I received it, I saw that there were two options for output – composite (black and white) and digital RGB (color). For convenience, I started with composite and I was pleased when it powered on and displayed without difficulty.

Well… I was pleased at first, anyway.. It seems that the RIFA capacitor in the PSU shorted out and popped after about 15 minutes. It let out quite a bit of smoke, as you can see. It was the first time I’ve had quite that experience, which is pretty impressive considering the number of computers that have come through my hands. People complain about the peculiar smell of a popped RIFA cap, but I thought it smelled a little like roasted marshmallows. 8/10, would let explode in my room again.

In retrospect, I love that this happened after I typed “do something cool”. It was a class-act effort. Apparently that capacitor wasn’t terribly important. After I explained the situation, I was told by a handful of people that it is just used for filtering out noise and the computer would operate fine without it. I removed the cap and pulled out the soldering pad in the process, so I sure hope it’s not necessary. The computer is working fine.

One thing that is kind of surprising, or perhaps I should say inaccurate, is that it somehow manages to display some color over the black and white composite output port. It doesn’t display color *correctly*, but it does display color, at least, in some instances. You can compare the monochrome composite on the left with the digital RGB on the right. In the first image of each pair it’s displaying in black and white and the second image is in color, as they should be. Everything as expected.

One program on Toshiba’s demo tape for the machine displayed with color. Again, “monochrome” composite on the left. First it displayed splotches of red and blue, then it switched to a more colorful display. If you compare to the digital RGB on the right, you’ll see how those colors are incorrect. But why color at all? Having no real fundamental understanding of electrical components, the only straws my brain can grasp at are that somehow the signal for the digital RGB is bleeding into the monochrome composite output.

And sometimes some third-party games display this behavior suddenly after drawing a screen. I haven’t quite figured out the pattern yet but it might be related to the cable or the TV, instead or as well.