NEC PC-TV151

I’ve got so many computers that either require or look best over digital RGB but only one monitor that supports it. If anything happens to that monitor, I can’t (optimally) use many of these machines. I decided to mitigate the risk by replacing one of my other monitors with this one. Nice and crisp text output, although photos come out slightly blurry due to the front glass cover.

The NEC PC-TV151 supports digital RGB, JP21, and composite. This is an excellent combination as I have a few systems that output over JP21 as well. But this one supports digital RGB using 15 colors, as opposed to the 8 colors that most digital RGB monitors support. Of course, supporting 15 colors is useless unless the computer also supports 15 colors, but that is indeed the case with the PC-6001mkIISR.

I don’t know how many games take advantage of the 15 colors, but one such game is Dig Dug. Here is a side-by-side comparison of 15 color more on the PC-TV151 and 8 colors on the PC-TV455.

The title and high score screens have some noticeable differences, for example the 8-color mode completely lacks orange, and the 15-color mode has differently mapped shades of blue, and although it came out a bit subtle in the photo, two shades of green (the 3rd and 4th high scores). But the major difference is in gameplay. The colors in 15-color mode are more natural because 8-color mode doesn’t output brown. The 15-color mode matches the colors output over composite on the PC-6001mkII (non-SR version).

Sharp X1 Turbo Z Keyboard

I had a perfectly functional and definitely nice-looking Sharp X1 Turbo Z keyboard, but I managed to find one that looked just a bit better still. This one was super clean and the big advantage over my old one is that the logo had greatly faded over the years. The new one has a solid logo and red accents to match the main computer unit.

I hoped to get about 60-80% of my money back by selling the old one, but in reality I got about 40%. I guess this one’s condition qualified for the premium pricing level!

Pac-Land and Controller

I have been after this controller for quite a while. It’s a dedicated Pac-Land controller designed to mimic the arcade controls on your X68000. It uses three buttons, defaulting to: left, jump, and right. These are configurable in the in-game menu. This controller was included with the game originally, but is not required to play. However, you may find some parts difficult if you are using a regular joystick, and perhaps nearly impossible with a gamepad.

First, let’s look at the controller itself. It looks in good shape for being around 30 years old. It is a sturdy metal case, not so heavy but definitely with a bit of weight to it. It operates as expected.

I’ve always loved the Pac-Man characters, with their vibrant colors and distinct appearance. And I love the image of the original Pac-Man maze. But if I’m being brutally honest, the game is very simple and these days I can’t play it more than about once in a sitting, and with a fair amount of time between sittings.

Pac-Land and Pac-mania are great evolutions of the original; Pac-mania staying true to what made the original so loved, but adding a lot of new features, while Pac-Land takes a few key elements from the original, but heads in a bold new direction. Both became treasured games in my youth, although I only played them in the arcades. Here are some scenes from this game.

This is very faithful to the original, as X68000 games tend to be. Below is the first critical spot where the custom game controller comes in handy. When you jump off the platform to cross the lake, you crash pretty fast and land in the water, losing a life. To prevent falling, you have to alternatingly press left and right to “flutter” to the ground. I’ve managed to do it on a joystick, but it was after several failures, and it was a very deliberate task, turning the joystick ninety degrees and using my right hand to go up and down as quickly as possible, and even then I don’t always succeed. A D-pad would probably be substantially more difficult still. But these buttons make it a breeze. The jump itself can be a little difficult to nail, though.

Once you pass the lake, you continue a little bit more before you’re rewarded with special jumping boots and you can start to make your way back home. After your family greets you at home, you begin a level similar to the first, but it becomes later in the day and quite a bit more difficult. I haven’t gotten much further than this.

Game over, and this might be my highest score thus far in Pac-Land, but I’m sure it’s not that high compared to people who are actually good at the game. Gotta get in a bit more practice!

Sharp CZ-8RL1

The X1 series of computer has a proprietary CMT (tape player) port, and the tape players are also kind of special, and they are prone to failure. So if you see a working one on Yahoo for auction, you shouldn’t be surprised to see it get up to about 40000 yen.

But I found one in a bulk-lot auction, and I saw the potential to get it quite a bit cheaper. So I bought the whole lot for about 30000 yen and am now in the process of seeing how much I’ll be able to get back by selling unneeded items. The tape drive was untested, but fortunately, it works!

So after having Mario Bros. Special for about a year or so, I was finally able to play it. Well, that’s not entirely true, I’ve been playing it all along as a disk image via the HxC floppy emulator, but using the original was a first!

The tape drive is a little unique in that the controls are digital. Unlike most tape players, you don’t really push the buttons “in”, it’s more like clicking the buttons like a VCR. It gives it a more technologically sophisticated feeling. The machine can also receive instructions about what to do from the programs, so many games rewind themselves after loading, while Mario Bros. Special just ejects, and Pro Wrestling automatically queues to the correct loading position of the tape, which I suppose saves time.

HxC on Sharp X1

There’s a good chance you know this device already. It’s a floppy disk emulator. Here’s how it is supposed to work: you take a well-organized, homogeneous group of disk image files, tell the software to bulk-convert the images to .HFE format, move them to a SD card, plug the SD card into the emulator device, and plug the device into the computer. And in theory it is pretty much that simple. Here’s an idea of what it looks like:

First is the hardware kit:

And then connected to a computer, loading a game (first directory, then file, then using the disk image):

It keeps track of the current drive (it supports up to two drives simultaneously), the current operation (R)ead or (W)rite, the current track, the total number of tracks, and the side of the disk being accessed (0 or 1). Here it is in action, loading Galaga from system bootup.

And there you have it, Galaga is ready to go!

But here’s my story about prepping a batch of X1 images to work on the HxC emulator. Learn from my mistake; don’t do it the way I did it the first time!

A while ago, I had images for about 180 games to process, some with multiple disks, for my Sharp X1 Turbo Z. I was given a mish-mash of .2D and .D88 files to work through. As D88 is a supported format by the HxC conversion software, I was able to conveniently bulk-convert to HFE, everything worked ultra-smooth with those files. Cool!

.2D, on the other hand, was a nightmare. The only converter from .2D to .D88 that I could locate was an ancient command-line tool that Windows 10 won’t even touch. I set up Windows XP on my machine via VirtualBox, but that was where the tedium began. I had to rename files to meet 8.3 standards and manually make a batch file that processes each file independently (no batch mode on the converter). Then move everything back to the non-virtual machine and convert *those* files and, in some cases, merge them with the files that were already in .D88 format, and usually rename them back to long filename standards.

But I powered through it. It was like 100 games that were in .2D format and it wasn’t worth asking for help regarding a better way to do it, and waiting for answers.

A few months later, I found a much bigger collection, about 900 images! And it was again a mish-mash of the two formats. I had a lot more motivation to ask for help this time!

The creator of the HxC floppy emulator is very helpful and active on his Facebook group. He answered me within a couple of hours, asked for an example .2D file, and showed me that I could set up the converter software to treat .2D files as raw files, by setting the correct disk parameters.

Unfortunately, even with this solution, I still can’t bulk-convert in one big batch, because the software doesn’t handle raw images and prepared format images simultaneously. But it did save me the whole process of renaming, moving to virtual machine, creating the batch file, moving back to the host machine, and reverting the names. So although it was about five times the number of images, I finished in less total time!

If you find yourself in this situation, here are the steps you need to follow to use .2D files as raw. First window, click “Batch converter”. Second window, check “Treat input files as RAW files.” Third window contains the parameters you need to set for the conversion to work correctly. Now when you select a directory of .2D files to bulk-convert, it should output an identical directory structure with .HFE files!

As some games or collections have a mixture of .2D and .D88 files, the most confusing step is to separate those and convert separately, then putting them back in the same directory once they’re in .HFE format. It’s also a good idea to use your favorite file rename utility so you don’t have massively long filenames, because the device screen can only display 16 characters at a time. My recommendation (although this is a fair bit more manual) is to make a directory with the game name, but inside the directory simply call the files disk1.hfe, disk2.hfe, etc.