MSX USB Interface - preorder started

by snout on 28-12-2005, 18:16
Topic: Hardware

Jan Wilmans and Aaldert Dekker have launched a website, on which information on their MSX related projects can be found. One of these projects is the MSX USB Interface, a cartridge with which you can connect your MSX to the USB port of your PC. As of now, you can submit your pre-order if you would like to obtain one of these interfaces, which allow you to do the following:

  • Use disk images on your PC hard disk as disks on your MSX
  • Access files on your PC hard disk directly on your MSX
  • Access any media you can connect to your PC directly on your MSX (using the connect PC)

The estimated sale price of the interface will be € 50,-. You can submit your pre-orders to Jan Wilmans ( If the team receives enough pre-orders, the interface will go into production.

Relevant link: MyQuest

Comments (18)

By djh1697

Paragon (1696)

djh1697's picture

28-12-2005, 20:10

WOW! This is more exciting news for MSX users! I wonder if the different MSX USB interfaces, this one, Sunrise, and DUMas will have compatable BIOS handling? My thought... will the way that disk images, and PC harddrives be sofrware? If it is Sorfware will programs be interchangable ? Will there be drivers for FAT16? FAT32? This is really exciting news!

By legacy

Hero (570)

legacy's picture

28-12-2005, 21:43

This will be an very useful thingy. LOL! I just pre-order one.

By snout

Ascended (15187)

snout's picture

28-12-2005, 22:06

Afaik the DUMAS USB interface is a device that allows you to connect USB peripherals (keyboard, mouse, ...) to your MSX as long as there's a driver for it, whilst this USB interface is essentially different. It allows you to connect your MSX to the USB port of your PC to use the harddisk of the PC for nifty purposes.

By djh1697

Paragon (1696)

djh1697's picture

28-12-2005, 22:31

That means that I will need both devices... I am going to run out of slots very soon!!

By ro

Scribe (4922)

ro's picture

29-12-2005, 10:35

so what we REALLY need is a MSX Cartridgeport USB HUB Smile
I think I'll order one, since my diskdrive broke last year (mtrst)

By Sky_hawk

Champion (267)

Sky_hawk's picture

30-12-2005, 01:34

Hi everybody,

I would like to tell you that so far there are about 10 pre-orders for the USB-interface. Although so far this is not much, we are seriously considering creating a first series of USB-interfaces.

We are currently working on the PC software and ROM for the USB-cartridge.

The following things are working (but not fully tested yet):

- booting Aleste 2 from a disk image stored on a PC harddisk works (this means that any software that reads sectors directly from the disk, not using fat or anything probably works as well).
- booting dos1
- writing to disk images works, but needs further testing.

What does not work yet:
- No support for harddisk images, but we are working on that.
- Virtual drive support is not yet implemented (read on below).
- MSX1 support; we would very much like to make this work, but we're not sure how yet (so you could connect any a diskless MSX1 (or 2) to your pc and play good-old-games Smile). The problem here seems to be that disk ROMs require at least 64kB of memory and most MSX1's have 48kB (correct me if I'm wrong). Maybe if
we complete the c-bios diskrom, we could macguiver a diskrom ourselves that works with less RAM (a bit of ducttape here and there?).

I got a few questions about what will be possible with USB-interface. First of all, it should be made clear that _our_ USB-interface is a USB_CLIENT_INTERFACE. This means that the MSX-USB-cartridge will act as a client-device to a PC. This also means you CAN NOT connect other USB peripherals (mouse, keyboard, or anything else) to your MSX with it. It is just a connection between an MSX and a PC.

What features will/could/might be made possible:

- Use your PC keyboard and mouse to control your MSX; this might be possible, we are currently looking into this, but it is most likely not possible to do this for all games/programs. It might be possible to do this for all basic and DOS programs though.

- At the same time: display text screens of the MSX on your PC so you can use your MSX without a monitor in text-mode. This might be possible to do in graphical modes as well, but due to the speed limits of the MSX, it would just give you a few frames per seconds, so display would be delayed and choppy at best (expect a slideshow, not moving images).

- Copy a text screen from your MSX to your PC clipboard, so you can paste text into a Windows program (same limitations here, just basic and dos programs).

- Use your MSX keyboard and mouse to control your PC. I don't know why you would want this, but it could be done; all that is needed is a driver for this feature. If we get enough requests, we might consider implementing them.

- Internet on your MSX. Again, I don't see why you would want this, since your PC is probably standing 5 feet from your MSX, but it's possible. However, I'm not going to write the drivers, unless I get hundreds of people asking for it and a good bag of money Wink

- All software will be made open-source and the ROM in the cartridge is flash'able so anyone that wants to write software for it can do so.

- Also there probably are a lot of other things possible that we haven't thought of yet, so if you want something added, mail us, and maybe we will add it.

You should know the following:

- When the USB-interface is produced and sold, not all the mentioned features will be finished and we will probably need other people to help writing drivers if all features are EVER implemented.

- It is our intention to produce the cartridge with DOS2 integrated into it, but we're not sure if it is possible within the budget of 50 euro (and we don't want to make an expensive interface).

That said, what are the current specs of our prototype?

- The interface acts as two MSX drives: a: and b:. Your regular drives will become c:, d: etc.
- The PC host application has to be used to insert/remove disks (so you drop a disk image on the picture of a drive on your PC and the MSX will see it as a regular disk).
- DOS1 support (or rather: no DOS2 support yet).
- Virtual drive support, i.e. files in a directory on any PC harddisk, cd, dvd, pendrive can be accessed directly on MSX (you select a directory of the PC and the MSX sees that directory as a disk with files on it). This feature is currently working (read-only) in our emulator, but not yet implemented for the usb-interface. It will
probably become available as a software update later.

And we are working on these features:

- DOS2 and FAT16 support, so harddisk images up to 32MB can be used.

Also we need to do a lot of hardware tests before we go into production. Currently, the interface works on my Philips VG8235, DD, 1024KB, DOS2 machine, but we will need to test other configurations as well of course.

Q: Will there be FAT16/32 support?
A: FAT16 yes, very likely, we are working hard on it. Not on FAT32 as such, i.e. you cannot access FAT32 partitions on your MSX as a whole, but you can select any directory on ANY kind of file system that Windows understands.

Q: Will there be linux or Mac host-support?
A: Host-drivers will be in C++ and using SDL so they will work on any platform that SDL works on, which includes Linux and MacOsX. There also is a GUI for the host-program written in VB, but we are not sure if and how we will port this.

Q: Is it possible to access the internet using the usb interface?
A: Not out-of-the-box, but if you can find someone crazy enough to write drivers for it, yes it is technically possible Smile

Q: When will the USB-interface be available?
A: We really don't know. As soon as we do, we will announce it on Personally, I really hope we can deliver it in 2006. However, there are quite a few things that need to be done, including routing a PCB and finding a good/cheap way to produce them. If you have tips or want to help, please send us a mail.


Finally, I would like to set up a mailing list to keep you up-to-date on our progress. If you would like to subscribe to it, please send an email containing just "YES" in the topic to (or NO in the topic to remove yourself).


Jan Wilmans

By BiFi

Enlighted (4348)

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30-12-2005, 09:03

How many orders do you need then?

By Sky_hawk

Champion (267)

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30-12-2005, 18:59

bifi: I think we'll need about 50 pre-orders, I've calculated that if we produce around 30 pieces we will break even at 50 euro. but there are a lot of uncertain factors Smile, anyway, I will just wait and see how much response we get Smile

By Ivan

Ascended (9342)

Ivan's picture

30-12-2005, 20:06

...and most MSX1's have 48kB (correct me if I'm wrong)

Most MSX1s have 64Kb of RAM (+16Kb of VRAM).

There are few MSX1s with less than 64Kb an only one MSX1 machine, as far as I know, with more than 64Kb of RAM: the Yamaha CX5MII/128.

By jltursan

Prophet (2619)

jltursan's picture

30-12-2005, 20:20

Mmmm...sure it looks very interesting. I hate to transfer data between PC and MSX using floppies. I've not tried serial communication; but this one seems far more friendly.

By MäSäXi

Paragon (1884)

MäSäXi's picture

31-12-2005, 15:48

wow... using internet on msx............ (droolllssss.....:evilSmile

By mth

Champion (507)

mth's picture

02-01-2006, 13:18

Aleste 2 is a relatively easy game to run, because it only uses the BDOS sector load call and does not require the "mini BIOS" in page 0 of RAM. Other games, such as Undeadline, do need the "mini BIOS" in order to run. If you manage to get Undeadline running, please send me a patch for the C-BIOS disk ROM Smile

Anyway, I'll preorder one.

By iamweasel2

Paladin (709)

iamweasel2's picture

02-01-2006, 19:01

Most MSX1s have 64kb of ram.

Please, make it MSX1 compatible. If a user can get his old MSX1, plug your cartridge, connect it to a PC and run old msx1 software through dsk emulation or virtual drive, I believe it will be enough to many msx users (I'm included). The number of potential buyers to your product would increase. Of course, the other things you mentioned are really cool, but I'd be already satisfied if I could use just use it with my old Expert DD Plus. Smile

By gargamel

Expert (101)

gargamel's picture

02-01-2006, 20:18

I would love to have one! Smile

Does the Z80 handle the USB protocol or are there any slave MCU? Have you considered USB OTG?


Paladin (1012)

POISONIC's picture

03-01-2006, 18:56

Undead line already runs from my HD as a disk image using HDDEMU (for turbo r only There's got to be diverence Wink )

By Kwik

Expert (127)

Kwik's picture

05-01-2006, 17:21

Hi, i'm Aaldert and i'm one of the developers. We have received several emails about the USB interface, so we decided to open a website. It doesn't have a lot of information yet, but we're working on it. The address is:

By Kwik

Expert (127)

Kwik's picture

05-01-2006, 17:25

Ooops.... i seem to have forgotten how to post a link.... Sad

By Sky_hawk

Champion (267)

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06-01-2006, 23:56

Yesterday we confirmed once more what we already knew Smile The usb-interface works fine in a MSX1, we tested it on a toshiba HX10 and a Philips 8020. Both have 64kb ram.

gargamel: What is a slave MCU? or USB OTG?

I would welcome these and any other questions on the site forum