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The NEC Retro topic

Discussion in 'General Sega Discussion' started by Black Squirrel, Dec 31, 2021.

  1. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    [​IMG]

    はーりいふぉっくす


    Translation issue of the day: "Harry Fox" or "Hurry Fox"? (or "Hari Fox" or "Ha-Ri Fox"). The internet is split.

    I have no preference - I just want to get as many of these pages stubbed as I can.
     
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  2. kitsunebi

    kitsunebi

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    Well, according to the Wikipedia page on the game, the plot is about a mother fox on a quest to find some sort of special fried tofu to cure her child of a disease, so I at first thought "hurry" might be appropriate since presumably her child's life is hanging in the balance.

    But further down the page, it says that は〜りぃ is the fox's last name. So...I suppose "Harry" could work as a last name (which would make her given name "Fox.") Certainly Debbie Harry and Blondie were probably famous worldwide by 1984.

    Or it could always be "Hairy Fox?"
     
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  3. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    I suppose I could make it so it picks a random name every time it's used (in the page body at least). See how long it takes until someone notices.

    There's also a sequel, "は~りぃふぉっくす 雪の魔王", or "something Fox Yuki no Maou"

    [​IMG]

    Cartridge isn't an option for NEC platforms but on the MSX you could buy it twice with completely different artwork.


    Anyway a tedious lesson in research - most of the PC-8000 and PC-6000 series libraries haven't been documented properly. There are lists, but put some of the names into Google image search and you'll get nothing. Other than things from NEC Retro.

    There is a trick to it though:
    https://aucfan.com/search1/q-pc.2d8001/s-mix/
    Aucfan, which I think is meant to aggregate the contents of Japanese auctions sites, keeps records going back to December 2011 (scroll down, left hand side). Not everything has survived, but in many cases, it's the only proof on the internet that these games actually exist.

    Games like
    https://aucview.aucfan.com/yahoo/b168500786/
    BEGGER SNAKE

    Obviously I'm only after NEC platforms right now, but were someone else to take an interest in... anything, this could prove handy.


    I mean as I keep saying, the PC-8001 can't really do graphics, and yet we've passed 220 games for the system. Imagine the possibilities with a computer with real graphics options!
     
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  4. kitsunebi

    kitsunebi

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    Last edited: Jan 19, 2022
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  5. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Yes a lot of these games seem to have started off life as type-ins, which is why I wasn't super confident in the lists already out there. Technically a type-in is a "published" video game - were they counting those, or just physical releases, etc.

    Type-ins will be in scope for NEC Retro (there's probably some SC-3000 ones for Sega Retro too), but I don't know how to handle them yet.
     
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  6. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Kicking ass and taking names. And now we're playing some games.

    [​IMG]

    I had some leftovers on this PC from the last time I experimented with the PC-6001, back in 2015. I didn't take it very far, probably because I had the emulator set in PC-6601 SR mode and everything was in broken Japanese. Oh well.

    Life's moved on a bit - apparently PC6001V is the way to go, and while it's still mostly in Japanese... the computer is so simple it doesn't take too long to figure out. Of course the first issue is academic: screenshots.

    I want to get off to a good start here. The PC-6001's screen resolution is 256x192, as is common across many computers of the time. But here's the thing, by default the emulator stretches to 4:3... and everything gets thinner. But 256x192 is 4:3, so uh... what.

    [​IMG]

    There's a border. PC6001V renders a 360x230 window, and this seems consistent with real life:

    [​IMG]

    Why isn't this a thing with other home computers on Sega Retro? Well it is. Probably. I just didn't fully understand what was going on at the time, and only learnt much later that there were Commodore 64 demos drawing in the border space. You can file alongside "probably wrong palettes" in the multitude of issues I've had over the years with computer screenshots; it's uncharted territory and we're all wrong, it's just a degree of how much.


    So the question: yes or no to borders? We can (and will) correct the ratio through Mediawiki regardless, but one could argue the border is more representitive of what the game actually looked like on-screen. Others might say it's wasted space. Make the call.
     
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  7. JaxTH

    JaxTH

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    Jack shit.
    I would say keep the borders.
     
  8. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    The PC-6001 has four "graphics" modes:
    - Mode 1 is basically just for text
    - Mode 2 is very low resolution (64x48) "semigraphics" that nobody really used
    - Mode 3 is 128 x 192, 4 colours, where you get to choose between "red yellow green blue" or "white cyan magenta orange", neither of which are great
    - Mode 4 is 256x192, 2 colours.

    IBM PC fans will be aware of the composite video mode of CGA cards. If you're not, here's an old 8-Bit Guy video, but basically it was a trick, where by exploiting deficiencies in NTSC video technology, you could simulate more than four colours (at the expense of picture clarity). In mode 4, the PC-6001 can do something similar.

    [​IMG] -> [​IMG]

    There's fewer combinations to play with, but "white-ish, black, red, blue" is a nicer palette to work with.

    Some games even give you an option between modes 3 and 4:

    [​IMG] [​IMG]



    The caveat being that you need a composite TV or monitor for this to work. PC6001V emulates one - I think it's "good enough", but it'll never completely accurate. And also, not all composite monitors are created equal:

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    PC6001V emulates those too. But I think it's safe to assume the default will be "correct" most of the time.

    [​IMG]
    And apparently you got slightly different results on a PC-6001 mkII. So yes, good plan to include the borders.


    Anyway I say the PC-6001 is simple, which it (mostly) is, but the PC-6001 mkII does its best to scare off new users:

    [​IMG]

    Hey lads which of the five modes of BASIC do you want to use???

    Here modes 1 and 2 are stock PC-6001 machines with 16 and 32KB RAM, respectively, while modes 3 and 4 are for the extended BASIC cartridge which I think only applies to floppy disk games (so far everything I've encountered has been on cassette). Mode 5 is for PC-6001 mkII software.

    Luckily the dumps that exist kindly label the instructions for us:
    [​IMG]
    "mode 2" (PC-6001 with 32K), 2 pages.


    On the plus side, after that it's usually just "CLOAD" and "RUN".
     
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  9. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Told you it affects Sega Retro:

    Space Harrier: Mode 2, pages 2.

    Does that mean it works on a 32KB PC-6001?

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    No. Although it is almost playable for about five seconds.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    You need a mkII. Which to be fair, is what it says on the box, but PC-6000 series tape dumps throw everything together, and the internet seems keen to point out that modes 1 and 2 are for backwards compatibility. Clearly there is nuance to the memory map.

    Scary thing is, this is a decent port o the game. Yes all the scenery is reduced to squares, but it runs really smoothly, the music is pretty close and it plays like Space Harrier. Or at least it would if I could figure out how to go down.


    But the composite colours, man. The default PC6001V setting is blue and red.

    [​IMG]

    Is it meant to be green and magenta? I'd probably need a real machine and an official NEC monitor to get the answer. The internet doesn't seem to care enough, so all sorts of colour combinations are in use.

    [​IMG]

    Maybe avoiding composite is the option. No arguments about accuracy here, but it won't have been the original intent. What a mess.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2022
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  10. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    [​IMG]

    Hey it's a game where you play as Jesu- uh "Chrith", healing people. I mean obviously I need to play this.

    [​IMG]

    Oh. Not enough faith I guess.


    There's a collection of PC-6001 image dumps on archive.org... and it's pretty dire. Once you filter out the public domain and type-in games, I'd say about 10% of the software library is in a state where it can actually be played on an emulator. The process can be fiddly - some games have special ways of loading, and/or require the equipment to be set up in a certain way, but if we're endlessly looping around the cassette to find things or running into (what I assume are) syntax errors, I think it's a clear sign the dump is bad.

    As such, I've pretty much been through every working PC-6001 and PC-6001 mkII game over the course of this weekend. Some of it is fascinating - officially licensed arcade ports are often surprisingly accurate, but overall, not much to say, because there's not much here. If other Japanese machines are like this, software preservation is not in a good state.
     
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  11. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    [​IMG]

    Round 2, which probably should have been round 1, but whatever - the PC-8001.

    The emulator this time is j80 and it's... less pleasant than it should be. It starts off looking for BIOS ROMs with specific names in specific directories that don't exist, but once you sort that noise out, it's mostly fine. It's authors need some lessons in user experience - it's obsessed with heavily commented config files, so if you just want to play the games, life might be difficult tof you.

    The emulator renders a 664x442 window, but I'm less bothered by the borders this time so I think I'll just crop the image to 640x400 and let the wiki stretch it to 640x480.


    But wait aren't those double-sized pixels - why not 320x200?

    [​IMG]

    And a lot of games are designed for this mode.

    [​IMG]

    This version of Deep Scan (which I'm fairly confident now has nothing to do with Sega) uses 80 columns. And no those aren't "graphics", they're text characters - I think you can swap colours mid-rendering to get a pseudo 160x100 display - don't really understand it yet, but I'm sure it's clever.
     
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  12. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    So remember when I said the PC-6001 community wasn't very good at dumping software? Well the PC-8001 community isn't much better.

    I've got a ZX Spectrum emulator. I can't even remember what it's called because it hardly matters - it'll run cassette images, it'll run disk images. You don't even have to type anything most of the time. It just works.

    j80 will do cassettes, but it needs a couple of system ROMs first. That's fine - it's copyrighted material which isn't free; one which contains N-BASIC (i.e. the "operating system") and another that contains the font. They're easy to find (the internet even has three different versions of N-BASIC) and once you get j80 pointing in the right places, it's all good.

    Now on an emulator, cassette tape loading is a non-event, but in real life, it's a bloody pain that can take 5, 10, 15 minutes, if it even works. From a preservation and documentation pespective, the response is "stop whining", but if you wanted to use real hardware, you're generally better off avoiding cassettes where possible. Not really an option for the ZX Spectrum but on the PC-8001? Let's use floppy disks instead!

    [​IMG]

    This is the ironically named "mini" disk unit, the PC-8031-2. There are others of varying densities and disk types, but all are generally better (albeit more expensive) than using a cassette to store data. Copy your cassette-based game onto a floppy, and you've got both a backup and a more convenient way of playing games. Great.

    j80 will cope with cassettes. Will it cope with disks? Yes! .... no!

    See in order interface with a PC-8031-2, or any floppy disk drive, you need to use "disk BASIC". Where is disk BASIC? It's copyrighted code stored in one of the ROMs in this unit. And it hasn't been dumped.

    So j80 has floppy disk support, but for all intents and purposes, it doesn't, because finding a system ROM that will enable it is neigh-on impossible. In fact, it doesn't even show the "disk" menu unless it finds a file (even if the file is incorrect), so I wasn't even sure the feature was supported. And I mean fair enough, it's a faff, most PC-8001 games came on cassette anyway, so while annoying for the games that shipped on disk, we can at least get somewhere.

    Except we can't, because the Japanese backed up their cassettes on floppies... and then dumped the floppies. So I have 145 disk images of games that I can't play, most of which shouldn't be on disk to begin with. Fantastic.

    Now we do have cassette dumps and I got a lot of them working, but the situation ain't great. Also some games in the collection come as "n80" files - these are neither disks nor floppies, but copies of the system's RAM after the software had been loaded - glorified savestates. Where did they originate from? Who knows!


    Now I say the disk BASIC ROM hasn't been dumped but a) my terminology might be incorrect (supposedly you need a boot disk as well, similar to DOS on old versions of the IBM PC (dumps exist for those!)) and b) there's overlap between NEC's various computers that I don't fully understand. I think the drive above might work with a PC-8801, and maybe solutions exist in that camp that haven't been filtered down. But I can tell you one thing for sure

    Code (Text):
    1. //  DISK    ../res/j80/PC-8031-2.rom
    You will not find this file online.
     
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  13. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Okay don't even bother with dedicated PC-8001 emulators. My understanding was there can be backwards compatibility issues if you use the PC-8801's "N-mode", but the fact you can use a PC-8801 emulator without a computing degree is a good enough reason to ditch j80.

    M88 is the PC-8801 emulator of choice, and while its Japanese-ness can make the dialogs confusing to English speakers, the BIOS ROMs can be found and the emulator can be made to work. Tapes, disks and a full spectrum of NEC computers to play with - there's still tons of software that hasn't been dumped, but as it's a computer people have vaguely heard of, there's a few hundred games in a playable state. Most of its software was (legitimately) sold on floppy disk, and the emulator doesn't have unreasonable demands about getting disk drives working - put a disk in the computer, reset, and it'll boot the contents straight away.

    The original plan was to have emulators set up specifically in PC-8001, PC-8001 mkII, PC-8001 mkII SR, PC-8801, and PC-8801 mkII SR modes, rather than rely on backwards compatibility (seeing as it produces inconsistent results with the PC-6000 series). I can no longer be bothered with that - the screenshots I'll be taking may not be 100% accurate, but being "95% accurate, full resolution PNGs" is good enough for me.


    There's a 2GB PC-8801 archive on archive.org and plenty of cack to sift through. I'll post some interesting finds as we wait for an orange badge to turn up to fix the wiki.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2022
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  14. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Here's something terrible!

    [​IMG]

    "Emmy", for the PC-8001, could be the first dating sim ever made. Seduce this girl (lying in a puddle?) and she might get her pixels out.

    I don't really have words to describe this - it's historically significant, but kinda dumb, yet you almost want to congratulate it's authors for making a convincing looking human from a text-based 70s computer with only eight colours to choose from. It's one step above "(.Y.)" or writing 80085 on a calculator display.

    idk, I thought you should know this exists. There was a sequel with the imaginitive title of "Emmy II", but by then you could render skin tones so it's just plain old perverted garbage.
     
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  15. kitsunebi

    kitsunebi

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    It's pretty funny that this is the first thing spit out by google when searching for PC-8001 games.
    [​IMG]

    There's an article about this series at Hardcore Gaming 101. Not much similarity to modern dating sims - it looks more like an extremely simple AI/conversation sim. With the end goal being to see naked pixels, of course (which is the end goal of 95% of the computer games made in Japan, I think.)
     
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  16. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Square Enix is one of the biggest video game publishers in the world.

    Not that you'd know from visiting Sega Retro. Square never published a game on Sega systems and Enix only published a few, and only in Japan. They both picked one side and stuck with them.

    (in fact I remember when they first merged - my initial response was "who's Enix?", such was the impact of Dragon Quest in the UK)


    It turns out Enix are the saviours of the PC-8001. Many PC-8001 games look a bit like these:





    Blocky, clicky things that resemble relics from the 1970s - perfectly fine for what they are, but hardly a showcase for the hardware.

    Enix cared a bit more.



    "Fan Fun" has physics, and is a genuinely original idea. You've only got 32KB - who wastes space putting in a rolling demo/tutorial in 1983? Enix does!



    "Zaxus", or "Choplifter in reverse", has parallax scrolling (kinda). The little men have diving animations as they enter bodies of water, none of which has any material effect on gameplay. There are games released in the 90s with less personality than this.


    I mean yeah it's spoiled a bit when you realise it's one guy getting games published by Enix, rather than some Nintendo-level wonder team churning out hits, but hey, it's more impressive than what Square were doing at the time (basically nothing).
     
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  17. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    There's a psuedo-myth floating around for the two people who might care. I've been caught out by it, others will too.

    The PC-8801 mkII.

    [​IMG]

    As I mentioned before, this is (as the name suggests) the second computer in the PC-8800 series. Not that NEC's machines were ever that pretty, but here's where the company dropped any class the original model had in favour of something utilitarian and beige. But by having integrated disk drives and an overall more sensible design, it was the model to own in 1983. It stopped being the model to own in 1985.

    When NEC previously released the PC-8001 mkII and PC-6001 mkII, they included upgrades, mostly in terms of graphics, carving out a brand new format in the process. You would think, as I did, that the PC-8801 mkII would be doing something similar. In fact some sources seem to believe as such - minor updates in comparison, sure, but updates all the same.


    I don't see any compelling evidence to suggest the PC-8801 mkII is technically any different to the standard, 1981-spec PC-8801. But to be fair, they don't make this stuff obvious:

    [​IMG]

    Because it's always fun to have 16 unmarked dipswitches and a bunch of jumpers, NEC let you configure the computer in a number of slightly awkward ways, basically turning off features you didn't like. The only reason you would typically care from a gaming perspective is if you wanted to use N-BASIC instead of N88-BASIC, aka the backwards compatible mode that lets you run PC-8001 titles. Why this isn't in software (like it is with the PC-6000 line) I can't say.

    Despite the multitude of options, there's no secret "mkII mode" here (unless you can see it in the manual).


    But you get games that can convince you one exists:

    [​IMG]

    I originally read this as "PC-8801 mkII, also compatible with SR/FR/MR units". In reality it's a PC-8801 mkII SR game; the second revision of the hardware, and the model of choice from 1985 onwards. Bullet-Proof Software decided to split this fact over multiple lines, because they're annoying, but NEC are just as much to blame for having a stupid naming scheme.



    [​IMG]

    The PC-8801 mkII SR is the real upgrade and is the definitive PC-8800 series computer.

    [​IMG]

    And this is why - it's basically three computers in one. You've got "N-Mode" (née N-BASIC, aka PC-8001 support), "N88 V1 Mode" (the stock PC-8801 mode seen in prior machines) and "N88 V2 Mode" (the brand new mode for brand new mkII SR software). They even get separate LEDs; you know what's going on (although a good chunk of V1 software will run in V2 mode regardless - don't ask).


    Except you don't know what's going on. Lyrane is a PC-8801 mkII SR game, but it's not strictly a V2 Mode game. Confused yet? Yeah, so was I, because I read the label incorrectly and loaded the game on the wrong machine:

    [​IMG]

    Oh you see you're an idiot because you just tried to run the game in what we're now calling "V1 Mode", but it's the wrong V1 mode. You want V1-H, not V1-S. Because even though we soldered in three LEDs, there's actually four modes LOL.


    What is V1-H? Well some sources say it's "mkII mode"... but it isn't. The H stands for "high-speed" - the mkII SR is a faster computer, and if you want, you can deploy some of that speed into backwards compatiblity - exactly what recent video game consoles have been doing (except the old V1-S mode has to stick around because some software is closely tied to the old hardware). Lyrane is for all intents and purposes, a stock PC-8801 title, but it wants a bit more speed, and will whine if it doesn't get it.

    So you need a mkII SR to run the game. Except... V2 mode is standard on the mkII SR, so they could have made that the base and reaped the benefits of the new hardware. There are no V1H-only machines - I just wasted a chunk of my day looking for something that didn't exist.


    As a modern comparison, the garbage Grand Theft Auto trilogy remasters from a few months ago shipped in a state where the optimal way to play was the PS4 app running on a PS5. The above is basically this, but not letting you run the PS4 app on a PS4. Because this is a sensible proposition and won't raise any questions at all.
     
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  18. Overlord

    Overlord

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    I swear every new post you make on this topic raises more questions than it answers.
     
  19. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Some games flat out lie.

    [​IMG]



    This is Final Crisis - it's a very late horizontal shooter, released in 1991. So if you thought the Dreamcast did it first, think again.

    [​IMG]

    Both front and spine say "PC-8801 SR series". Which as said before, is totally normal - the PC-8801 mkII SR was the baseline system for years, and NEC's wacky naming schemes with hardware revisions caused many publishers not to mention anything else. 99% of PC-8801 games will run on a mkII SR, so you'd think this would be fine.

    [​IMG]

    Say what now.


    The PC-8801 is an 8-bit Z80-based system (though strictly speaking NEC manufactured the chips and called them something different, but whatever), and for the first five years, the CPU was always clocked at about 4MHz.

    [​IMG]
    This changed in October-ish 1986 when NEC released the PC-8801 MH and PC-8801 FH. Now you could toggle between 4MHz and 8MHz, and while that sounds great on paper, in practise it doesn't make a huge amount of sense. Software was coded with the 4MHz frequency in mind, so while 8MHz would help with draw speeds (since there's no dedicated GPU in this system), there's a high chance your game logic would run too fast. Newer software might be fine if the developers cared, but realistically you're going to be knocking it down to 4MHz quite a bit if you want to play older games.

    Of course every machine made after this date also had this feature, so it's not totally unreasonable to believe that by 1991, you could indeed "set 8MHz mode".


    But you can't do this on a mkII SR (or a TR or an FR or an MR) - it's not an "SR series" game, it's an... "MH/FH series" game.

    So not only do you need to know the order in which NEC's computers were released, you also have to watch out for false advertising.


    Luckily this is the only offender I've come across so far... although there's a bunch of "SR games" that seem to boot fine on a stock PC-8801 system, so that'll need investigating.
     
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  20. kitsunebi

    kitsunebi

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    One of the biggest surprises to me when I first came to Japan was how a country which has a stereotype in the West as being at the forefront of technology was in fact lagging far behind when it came to the public's knowledge and acceptance of computers. Reading these posts makes it a little more understandable seeing as how the early days of Japanese computers seem pretty off-putting to all but the most dedicated enthusiasts. As a kid growing up poring over a giant MS-DOS manual on my own, I had a learning curve to overcome to know what I was doing, but it was nothing compared to this mess.

    And if you think things in Japan are better in the year 2022...just last week I had to sit through a staff meeting where someone was tasked with explaining to everyone exactly what a web browser was, and pointing out to them that although Internet Explorer was probably the one they were most familiar with, they would all have to stop using it in the office since it's being discontinued soon. Coincidentally, this meeting occurred shortly after I sent A FAX to my employer, the only way many (most?) businesses communicate even today.
     
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