PC-8800

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An advertisement of the original model PC-8801.

The PC-8800 is a series of 8-bit home computers developed by NEC and first sold in December 1981 in Japan. The line is an upgrade of the earlier PC-8000 series and was sold for over a decade with over a dozen models over the years. The 16-bit PC-9800 series was introduced shortly after the release of the PC-8801, but the much higher price tag ensured that many Japanese families would stick to the 8-bit system for quite some time. It was one of the most a popular Japanese home computers throughout the 1980s, competing with the Sharp-X1, MSX, and Fujitsu FM-7. NEC tried to market the computer in North America for a short while, but it made little impact. Like many 8-bit home computers, it had the ability to be used for serious home computing, but it is remembered most for a games and hobby computer.

Technical

The initial model's 3-bit color palette.

NEC used their own CPU, a clone of the Zilog 80, to run the entire series. It was initially clocked at 4 MHz in the 1981 model, but it reached 8 MHz by the end of the series in 1989. The system began with 64 KB of RAM and reached 512 KB for the most impressive models. All models used 48 KB of video RAM except those which supported 16-bit color, which needed 256 KB of VRAM. For the entire span of the computer's life, it's graphic display was superior to the American IBM line, no doubt necessary to accommodate the more complex Japanese characters. The 1981 model's video modes included a typical 80x25 text mode at 16 colors, or three graphics modes: 640x200 with 8 colors, 640x400 with 2 colors, or a mode backward compatible with the PC-8000 series, 160x100 pixels with 8 colors. The later more impressive models could handle 640x200 at 16-bit color, or 640x400 with 256 colors chosen from a 16-bit palette. Audio began with a PC speaker, but later models included the YM2149F, OPN, and, eventually the OPNA.

The original model didn't include external storage, but supported an external tape drive or 5.25" floppies. Later models would build in the floppy drives. The last models in 1989 supported a CD-ROM drive. Hard drives were made, but I don't know which models had them or how big they were. The system supported printers and scanners. A mouse could be attached via an RS-232 port.

The system could boot to CP/M or MS-DOS and, like most 8-bit computers, it would boot directly into BASIC otherwise. The PC-8801 used N88-BASIC, a derivative of Microsoft's BASIC.

Personal

All through my childhood, I had no idea the PC-8800 series of computers even existed since they made little appearance outside of Japan. In my 20s, I started seeing screenshots of the system on MobyGames in the form of ports of some of my favorite games. This piqued my interest, and I began looking into the interesting history of home computing in Japan. I used emulators to try out a handful of the system's software, but, since it's mostly in Japanese, and the bulk of it's most popular titles were ported to the NES, I haven't dwelled on it too much. I do still find it to be a charming system.

Status

I do not own a PC-8800 computer, and I've never used one in real life.

Review

I don't know enough about this computer series to write a useful review.

Software

I rarely use software on the PC-8800, so I can't speak too much to it's library.

Games

For all games released on the PC-8800 series, see PC-8800 Games.

The system has ports of the majority of the most popular 1980s games, it even has a fair amount of American releases translated into Japanese. However, the PC-8800 wasn't just a platform for ports, a lot of popular game series made their debut on it including Dragon Slayer, RPG Maker, Snatcher, Thexder, and Ys.

Hudson Soft partnered with Nintendo to port several of their early Famicom titles to the PC-8800 including Balloon Fight, Excitebike, Golf, Ice Climber, Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros., and Tennis. Hudson even created two new games, Punch Ball Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong 3: Dai Gyakushu.

Also, because Japanese censors were much less stringent than those in the USA and Europe, there are a lot of pornographic games made for the system, and many of those targeted to children include nudity.

Media

Documentation

Videos

Commercial.
Commercial.

Links

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