Re: Japanese C64 ROMs

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Posted by Osamu Hamakawa on June 03, 2003 at 16:37:37:

In Reply to: Japanese C64 ROMs posted by Senbei Norimaki on May 23, 2003 at 23:03:31:

The Japanese Remixes

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Intending to use pictures or text from this page? Please read this notice. Last modify 14 February 2000.
Almost this entire entry is thanks to Hidehiko Ogata (and a little help from Markus Mehring and Peter Karlsson). Domo arigato, Hidehiko-san!

The Japanese VIC-20
Views of the Japanese VIC-20 (VIC-1001) (.jpg, courtesy Peter Karlsson)
Portrait (22K) | Keyboard Closeup (11K)
aka VIC-1001
Introduced 1981?
Hardware, Graphics and Sound Standard VIC-20; Kernal changes obviously made but not certain which. Katakana replaces the Commodore key graphics (see the closeup; mind-altering substances may be needed for the best view ;-).
Eventual Fate Released to modest success in the Japanese market before the micro craze of the mid-1980s; paved the way for the Japanese 64 and the Max Machine.

See the Comments on the Japanese 64 for comments on both machines and the brief and unfortunate history of Commodore Japan.

The Japanese Commodore 64
.jpg Advertisement for the Japanese Commodore 64 (68K, original scan by Markus Mehring, heavily cleaned up by me)
Views of the Japanese Commodore 64 (.jpg, courtesy Hidehiko Ogata; colour-corrected)
Full Portrait (41K) | Keyboard Closeup (47K) | Backplate (15K)

Introduced 1983
Hardware Somewhat different (and incompatible) Kernal and BASIC to accomodate Japanese katakana characters, 46 total (plus punctuation, diacritics, etc.); many graphic characters replaced in the Char ROM with the new Japanese characters. Breadbox case and original brown keycaps; SHIFT-LOCK replaced with C= LOCK for the purpose of getting at the katakana; modified keycaps to show the new characters with the colour keys no longer present and the remaining graphic characters significantly rearranged. Machine started up in English but different colour scheme (Markus seems to think it was black on pink).
Graphics and Sound Identical to the breadbox 64.
Eventual Fate Released approximately 1983 at MSRP 99,800 \ (according to the ad; at prevailing exchange rates, this was approximately US$400); contemporary of the Max Machine. Lasted barely six months.

Hidehiko has a Japanese 64 keyboard but with the U.S. Kernal and BASIC ROMs.

Commodore Japan had an initially bright but ultimately brief and sorrowful history during the early 1980s. The VIC-20 was actually released first in Japan as the VIC-1001 (ostensibly because Tramiel, still smarting over the spanking the sinking PETs were getting at the hands of Apple and Tandy, considered the US market "fickle"). Released in the familiar 5K RAM form, the VIC-1001 was heavily customised for the Japanese market, including Japanese katakana where Commodore key graphics normally appear, but does not appear to have a C= LOCK key like the Japanese 64 does. Some Kernal and Char ROM changes had to have been done in the VIC-1001, but no one knows how this affected compatibility in that particular system or what the extent was.

The VIC-1001 did fairly well in its maiden market, but the later Japanese 64 and its ill-futured contemporary, the Max Machine, were both victims of the cutthroat Japanese home computer market during the middle of that decade. At that time, Hidehiko states, almost all the major domestic electronics firms were selling their own proprietary microcomputers already and usually cheaper than the 64, not to mention the MSX machines which had come out around this time as well. After the dust had cleared, the 64s were really only available at junk shops; Commodore Japan gave up and started selling off their inventory at fire-sale rates to cut their losses.

Despite this fantastic market failure, the 64 managed to stay present in the Japanese market thanks to a few dedicated users who noticed the success of the 64 back in the States and Europe. Imported software started to trickle in, too little too late to be sure, but a small amount of enthusiasts managed to keep the torch burning.

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