Thursday, April 6, 2017

My Hardware #4 - Philips VG-8235 MSX2

MSX platform was never a popular computer system in Poland. During communist times we had some SVI's imported, but they never got very popular, mainly because of the lack of software available in my country. But as a retro computer enthusiast I was always interested in this format, mainly because it is so exotic here. My interest peaked in 2016, when I've seen an MSX2 demo Baltak Rampage by Traktor, released at Revision 2016. It amazed me, that this 8-bit machine has such great graphics capabilities, and I started scanning online auction sites for potential hardware. After months of waiting, I found Philips VG-8235 auctioned on It was unchecked, without any warrandy (sold "as is") and probably found on some German scrapyard. Nevertheless, MSX2's are very rare on polish auctions, so I placed a bid, and won the auction with final price of around 250 PLN (around 60 euro).

Here are the computers specifics from MSX.Org:

Brand Philips (Manufacturer: NEC)
Type VG-8235
Year 1986
RAM 128kB
VRAM 128kB
Media MSX cartridges, 1DD floppy disks
Video Yamaha V9938
Audio PSG (custom chip integrated in MSX-Engine S3527)
Chipset Yamaha S3527
Extras 360kB 3,5" floppy disk drive, external disk drive connector, reset button, firmware on disks (MSX-DOS1 - Home Office - Designer)

When I recevied the VG-8235 it was ultimately dirty, the disk drive wasn't working, and some of the keys didn't respond. But it booted into BASIC, so I had hope. On pictures below you can see, that the reason for keyboard problems was dirt, and that floppy drive had the rubber belt torn to pieces.

I replaced the drive belt, cleaned the keyboard parts and diskdrive with vacuum cleaner and alcohol, I also soldered a cable to connect an external floppy drive. A cool feature of VG-8235 is that it has an external FDD port, compatible with standard PC 3,5" floppy drives. So a 1.44MB 3,5" drive from my old PC works fine with it and formats 720kb disks. Which is useful, as VG-8235's internal drive is just single-sided with 360kb capacity.

So, after cleaning and some minor repairs my Philips VG-8235 is fully operational. I also equipped it with SD512 card reader/memory expansion module, which I described on my blog some time ago, so now my MSX has more RAM (768kb), than my vanilla Amiga 1000 (512kb). Below are some pictures from the current state, and a video showing booting from SD512 into SofaRun, and running Space Manbow *.rom image with .

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