The NEC PC-9801 wiki last edited by Jagged85 on 08/09/14 01:07AM View full history

Overview

PC-98 is a series of 16/32-bit Japanese personal computers, designed by NEC, but also licensed to other companies. In contrast to its PC-88 predecessor, the PC-98 was initially created as a business machine, but over time it eventually became popular with game developers. The PC-98 is based around Intel 8086 and compatible processors, but the design is proprietary, and it is not compatible with the IBM PC or clones, although versions of DOS and Windows were ported to it.

The system has a very large library of video games, consisting of more than 4,000 commercial titles and countless more doujin (indie) titles. The games and system are difficult to find outside of Japan, even on eBay. There are a few sites however that sell the games and systems.

History

When the PC-98 was launched in 1982, it was initially priced at ¥298,000 (about $1400 in 1982 dollars, equivalent to about $3400 in 2012 dollars). The PC-98 computer platform eventually went on to sell more than 18 million units in Japan by 1999, surpassing the Commodore 64 (17 million units) as the best-selling home computer system of the 20th century.

Laptop versions of the PC-9801 were also being sold in the late 1980s. The first was the PC-98 LT, one of the first mass-market laptops, released in 1986. It is considered the world's first major laptop PC. The world's first notebook computer was released in 1989, NEC's UltraLite. By 1990, the 32-bit PC-9801 NC model became the world's first laptop/notebook computer with a colour TFT LCD display.

NEC APC and rivalry with IBM PC overseas

In the early 1980's, the PC-9801 was more advanced than Western computer platforms. The PC-98 featured the first dedicated computer GPU chip, the NEC 7220 GDC, along with a 16-bit NEC CPU. It featured higher VGA display resolutions (initially up to 640x475 pixels, then up to 1024x1024 in 1983, and then up to 1120x750 pixels by 1985) in order to more accurately display Japanese text, a wider color palette (16 colors displayed out of a 4096 color palette), Yamaha FM synthesis sound chips for higher-quality audio, and a modem for online internet access.

NEC attempted to introduce the NEC PC-9801 in North America, where it was re-branded as the NEC APC in 1982. NEC, the largest semiconductor company of the 1980s, marketed the APC III as the most powerful computer on the market and more reliable machine than leading competitor IBM's PC platform, with the APC III offering twice as much speed (8 MHz), storage (720 KB floppy disks) and resolution (640x400 pixels) at around the same price. Despite the superior hardware compared to its competitors, the APC III eventually failed to make in impact in North America, largely due to the rise of IBM PC clones, which also negatively impacted IBM's share of the North American PC market.

While the NEC APC was unsuccessful in North America, it became successful in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in Australia.

Rivalry with Sharp X68000 and FM Towns in Japan

The PC-98 was later technically surpassed by fellow Japanese rivals Sharp and Fujitsu when they launched their own more powerful 16/32-bit computers, the Sharp X68000 and FM Towns, in 1987 and 1989, respectively.

In response, the PC-98 began using 32-bit Intel CPU processors from 1987 and supported the CD-ROM format from 1989. While both rival computers were capable of more advanced, arcade quality graphics (especially in the X68000's case) and/or greater multimedia features (in the FM Towns' case), neither computer platform was able to dethrone the PC-98 as the Japanese computer market leader.

3D graphics cards and rivaly with IBM-compatible PC's in Japan

Just as IBM-compatible PC's were on the rise in the mid-1990s, NEC came back by releasing the first 3D graphics accelerator cards on the market, initially for the PC-98. In 1995, NEC released the first 3D graphics card, the PC-FXGA (PC-FX Game Accelerator), exclusively for the PC-98. This allowed the PC-98 to produce the most advanced 3D graphics seen on a home system up until that time, with a polygon rendering performance surpassing the PlayStation console and even rivaling the then upcoming Nintendo 64; in contrast, rival early 1996 3D graphics accelerators for IBM PC clones, such as Creative Labs' 3D Blaster and NVIDIA's NV1, were unable to rival the PlayStation's 3D graphics. The PC-FXGA was originally intended for both the PC-98 computer and the PC-FX console, with as a homebrew development kit for the PC-FX console, allowing the PC-98 to play PC-FX games. However, the PC-FX console lacked the 3D graphical capabilities of the PC-FXGA card, due to the FXGA's HuC6273 graphics chip (originally intended for the PC-FX) never actually being used by the PC-FX console.

The PC-FXGA was the most powerful 3D graphics card on the market up until it was surpassed by NEC's successor, the PowerVR, in early 1996. Unlike the PC-FXGA, the succeeding PowerVR was no longer exclusive to the PC-98, but supported both the PC-98 and IBM-compatible PC's. The PowerVR was able to produce near arcade quality 3D graphics, demonstrated by a near arcade quality port of Namco's Rave Racer, though this PowerVR port was later cancelled. The PowerVR would not be rivaled until the arrival of the 3dfx Voodoo graphics card for IBM-compatible PC's in late 1996. Though both the PowerVR and Voodoo were more or less evenly matched when it came to 3D capabilities, it was the Voodoo that became the most popular graphics card line-up of the late 1990s, due to the PowerVR's lack of third-party software support. Besides the PowerVR, the PC-98 very few other 3D graphics cards supported the PC-98.

Decline

The PC-98 would continue to dominate the Japanese computer market until the late 1990s, when the arrival of Microsoft Windows 95 made it possible for IBM-compatible PC's to accurately output Japanese text, leading to the rise of IBM-compatible PC's in Japan and marking the end of the 'Golden Age' of Japanese computer gaming.

By the end of the 1990s, the PC-98's dwindling market share as well as NEC's greater support for the growing IBM PC market eventually led to the PC-98 slowly losing ground to IBM-compatible PC's. In 1997, the PC-98 NX became one of the first computer platforms produced in line with the PC97 System Design Guide standard, which would later become the worldwide standard for IBM-compatible PC's. As a result, PC-98 standards eventually merged with IBM-compatible PC standards, bringing an end to the traditional PC-98 platform by the early 2000s, succeeded by IBM-compatible PC-98 NX computers which are still manufactured through to the present day.

Technical specifications

Main processors

Main CPU (Central Processing Unit) processor:

  • 1982: 16-bit NEC μPD8086 (i8086 compatible) @ 5 MHz
  • 1983: 16-bit Intel 8086-2 @ 5-8 MHz
  • 1984: 16-bit NEC V30 @ 8-10 MHz / 16-bit Intel 80286 @ 8 MHz
  • 1986: 16-bit NEC V50 @ 8 MHz / NEC V30 @ 8-10 MHz / Intel 80286 @ 8-10 MHz
  • 1987: 32-bit Intel 80386 @ 16 MHz / NEC V30 @ 10 MHz / Intel 80286 @ 8-10 MHz
  • 1988: 32-bit Intel i386DX @ 16-20 MHz / NEC V30 @ 8-10 MHz / Intel 80286 @ 10-12 MHz
  • 1989: 32-bit Intel i386DX @ 20 MHz / Intel i386SX @ 16 MHz / NEC V30 @ 8-10 MHz
  • 1990: 32-bit Intel i486DX @ 25 MHz / Intel i386DX @ 25-33 MHz / Intel i386SX @ 20 MHz
  • 1991: 32-bit Intel i486SX @ 16-25 MHz / Intel i386DX @ 25-33 MHz
  • 1992: 32-bit TI 486SXLC2-40 @ 32-40 MHz / Intel i486DX2 @ 66 MHz / Intel 80486 @ 16-20 MHz / Intel i386SX @ 16-20 MHz
  • 1993: 32-bit Intel i486SX @ 33 MHz
  • 1994: 32-bit Intel DX4 @ 100 MHz / 32-bit Intel Pentium @ 66-90 MHz
  • 1996: 1-2x Pentium Pro @ 200 MHz, 1-2x Pentium @ 120-200 MHz, AMD X5-133ADZ @ 133 MHz
  • 1997: 1-2x Pentium II @ 266 MHz / Pentium MMX @ 200 MHz / Pentium @ 166 MHz
  • 2000: Intel Celeron @ 443 MHz

Additional processors:

  • Additional CPU processor: 16-bit NEC V30 @ 8 MHz (1986 onwards)
  • ODP (OverDrive Processor)
    • 1992: 32-bit NEC PC-9801BX-01 (based on Intel i486DX2 ODP) @ 40 MHz
    • 1993: 32-bit NEC PC-9801BX-01 (based on Intel i486DX2 ODP) @ 40-66 MHz
    • 1996: 32-bit Intel DX4 ODP @ 100 MHz
  • FPU (Floating Point Unit) co-processor
    • 1982: Intel 8087 @ 5 MHz
    • 1983: Intel 8087 @ 8 MHz
    • 1984: Intel 8087 @ 10 MHz
    • 1987: Intel 80387 @ 16 MHz
    • 1988: Intel 80387 @ 16-20 MHz
    • 1989: Intel 80387 @ 20 MHz
    • 1992: 32-bit Cyrix Cx83S87-33 @ 16 MHz / Cyrix Cx83S87-25 @ 20 MHz / Intel 487SX

Graphics

  • Main GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) processors:
    • 1982: 2x NEC µPD7220 GDC (Graphics Display Controllers) (one for graphics, one for text)
    • 1985: NEC GRCG (Graphic Charger) / 2x NEC µPD7220
    • 1986: NEC μPD72120 AGDC (Advanced Graphics Display Controller) / 2x NEC µPD7220
    • 1987: NEC EGC (Enhanced Graphic Charger) / 2x NEC µPD7220
    • 1992: NEC EGC / 2x NEC µPD7220 / S3 86C775 (Trio64V2/DX, 4 MB VRAM)
    • 1997: STMicroelectronics RIVA 128 3D Multimedia Accelerator (AGP)
  • Maximum resolution: 640x475 (1982), 1024x1024 (1983), 1120x750 (1985), 1280x768 (1994), 1600x1200 (1996), 1920x1440 (1997)
  • Maximum colour palette: 4096 (1982), 65,536 (1987), 16.78 million (1993)
  • On-screen colours: 16 (1982), 256 (1986), 4096 (1993), 16.78 million (1995)

2D graphics accelerator cards:

  • 1985: NEC PC-9801-24 (NEC GRCG, 4096 colour palette, 16 simultaneous colours)
  • 1987: NEC EGC (Enhanced Graphic Charger)
  • 1992: NEC EGC / S3 86C775 (Trio64V2/DX, 4 MB VRAM)
  • 1993: Matrox MGA-II (2 MB VRAM) / S3 86C928 (1 MB VRAM) / Cirrus Logic GD5428 (1 MB VRAM)
  • 1994: NEC PC-9821X-B01 (Matrox MGA-II GPU @ 175 MHz, 2-4 MB VRAM) / S3 Vision864 (2 MB)
  • 1995: NEC PC-9821X-B03 (Matrox Millenium MGA 2064W GPU @ 175 MHz, 2-4 MB VRAM)
  • 1996: NEC PC-9821X-B03 (4 MB VRAM) / Trident Providia9685/TGUI9682TMXGi (2 MB VRAM)

3D graphics accelerator cards:

  • 1995: NEC PC-FXGA (PC-FX Game Accelerator)
    • Additional CPU: 32-bit NEC V810 (μPD70732GD-25) RISC CPU @ 21.48 MHz
    • Main GPU: HuC6273 (designed by Hudson and Kubota Comps)
    • Additional GPU: Hudson HuC6272, HuC6271, 2x HuC6270, HuC6261
    • Motion JPEG decoder: Hudson HuC6271
    • Additional sound chip: Hudson HuC6230 (ADPCM, PSG, mixer, DAC)
    • Video RAM (VRAM) memory: 4.25 MB
      • 2 MB main DRAM (Dynamic RAM), 1 MB frame buffer RAM, 1.25 MB fast-page DRAM
    • Performance: 100,000 polygons/sec, 10 million pixels/second
    • Colours: 16.78 million
    • Features: Flat shading, Gouraud shading, texture mapping
  • 1996: NEC PC 3DEngine / NEC PC-9821VC-B03
    • Main GPU processor: 64-bit NEC PowerVR PCX1 (μPD62010) @ 66 MHz
    • Additional GPU processors:
      • NEC ISP (Image Synthesis Processor)
      • NEC TSP (Texture & Shading Processor)
      • NEC MC (Memory Controller)
    • Video RAM (VRAM) memory: 4 MB
    • Bandwidth: 492 MB per secondc (including 264 MB/sec texture memory bandwidth)
    • Performance: 250,000 polygons/sec, 60 million pixels/sec, 60 million texels/sec
    • Resolution: 320x200, 640x480 (@ 30 frames/sec), 800x600, 1024x768, 1024x1024
    • Colours: 16.78 million
    • Features: Lighting, shading (including pixel shader and vertex shader), texture mapping unit, perspective correct texture mapping, texture filtering, bilinear filtering, mipmapping, per-pixel fogging, exponential fogging, shadows, translucency, render output unit, anti-aliasing
  • 1997: NEC PC 3DEngine2
    • GPU: 64-bit NEC PowerVR PCX2 (μPD62011) @ 66 MHz
    • Video RAM (VRAM) memory: 4 MB
    • Texture memory: 1-4 MB
    • Bandwidth: 541 MB/se
    • Performance: 66 million pixels/sec, 66 million texels/sec
      • Polygons/sec: 500,000 (practical performance), 1.5 million (theoretical peak)
    • Resolution: 640x480, 800x600 (@ 30 frames/sec), 1024x768, 1024x1024, 1920x1440
    • Colours: 16.78 million
    • Compatibility: Direct3D, RenderWare, SurRender, GLQuake, PowerSGL Direct
    • Features: Adaptive bilinear filtering, 32-bit Z buffer, real-time shadows, lighting, smooth shading, highlighting, fogging, hidden surface removal, plane modeling, render output unit, texture mapping unit, mipmapping, 32-bit depth precision, 8/16-bit texture, anti-aliasing, translucency
  • 1997: NEC PK-UG-X003
    • GPU: 3DLabs Permedia 2 @ 230 MHz
    • Video RAM (VRAM) memory: 8 MB
    • Performance: 1 million polygons/sec (theoretical peak)
  • 1998: NEC PK-UG-X003E (3DLabs Permedia 2 GPU @ 230 MHz, 8 MB VRAM)
  • 1998: NEC GA-VDB16/PCI (3dfx Voodoo Banshee GPU @ 100 MHz, 16 MB VRAM)

Sound

  • Default:
    • 1982: Internal beeper
    • 1985: NEC PC-9801-26 sound board
      • Sound chip: Yamaha YM2203 (OPN)
      • Channels: 3 FM (Frequency Modulation) synthesis, 3 SSG/PSG
    • 1987: NEC PC-9801-26 sound board, Yamaha YM2608 (OPNA) FM synth sound chip
    • 1991: 16-bit NEC PC-9801-86 sound board
      • Sound chip: Yamaha YM2608B (OPNA)
      • Channels: 6 FM synth, 5 rhythm, 3 SSG/PSG, 1 noise, 1 ADPCM (8-bit @ 2-16 Hz)
      • Other features: Stereo, CD-quality PCM (16-bit @ 44.1 Hz), linear PCM
    • 1992: NEC PC-9801-86 board, Yamaha YM2203C (OPN) FM chip, Crystal CS4231 chip
  • Supported: Sound cards (from 1985), CD audio (from 1989), DVD audio (from 1997)
  • Sound cards: NEC sound boards, Yamaha FM synthesis sound chips, Roland MIDI modules, Creative Sound Blaster cards

Memory

  • Main RAM (Random Access Memory)
    • Default: 128 KB (1982), 128-256 KB (1984), 256-640 KB (1985), 384-1152 KB (1986), 1536-1664 KB (1987), 1-2 MB (1988), 1-3 MB (1989), 1-8 MB (1990), 2-22 MB (1992), 8-34 MB (1994), 16-34 MB (1995), 32-34 MB (1997), 32-256 MB (1998)
    • Upgradable: 640 KB (1982), 768 KB (1985), 9 MB (1986), 14.5 MB (1987), 15 MB (1989), 34 MB (1990), 48 MB (1991), 64 MB (1992), 74 MB (1993), 256 MB (1994), 512 MB (1996)
  • Dynamic RAM (DRAM) memory
    • 1992: Parity, non-parity, NEC PC-9801-61 (parity SIMM)
    • 1996: FPDRAM (Fast-Page DRAM), EDO DRAM (Extended Data-Out DRAM)
  • Main VRAM (Video RAM) memory
    • Default: 48 KB (1982), 204 KB (1983), 256 KB (1987), 1-4 MB (1992), 2-4 MB (1994), 4 MB (1996), 4-6 MB (1997)
    • Upgradable: 4 MB (1992), 8.25 MB (1994), 11.25 MB (1995), 12 MB (1996), 14 MB (1997), 32 MB (1998)
  • Text VRAM memory: 12 KB
  • L1 (1st-level) cache memory: 8 KB write-back cache (1992)
  • L2 (2nd-level) cache memory
    • Default: 64 KB (1990), 128 KB (1992), 256-512 KB (1994)
    • Upgradable: 256 KB (1992), 512 KB (1994)
  • ROM (Read-Only Memory) memory: 96 KB (1993)

Storage

  • Storage: Floppy disk (5" & 3.5"), hard disk drive (1984), CD-ROM (1989), DVD-ROM (1997)
  • Hard disk drive: 10-20 MB (1984), 20 MB (1985), 40 MB (1987), 40-100 MB (1990), 40-730 MB (1992), 120-730 MB (1993), 510-1024 MB (1994), 1-3 GB (1996), 2-3 GB (1997), 8 GB (2000)
  • CD-ROM speed: 1x (1989), 2x-4x (1994), 4x-8x (1996), 6x-13x (1997), 8x-20x (1998), 24x (2000)

Other specifications

  • Display:
    • 1982: 15" colour CRT monitor
    • 1990: TFT LCD display
    • 1994: 15" TFT LCD monitor
    • 1997: 17" display (with built-in PC-9821C166 speakers)
  • Input: Keyboard, NEC PC-9872K mouse, joystick, gamepad
  • Supported operating systems: DOS, OS/2, Windows 1.0 / 3.1 / NT / 95 / 98 / 2000
  • Expansion slots: 5 (1982), 4-6 (1983), 5-6 (1993), 4-8 (1994), 7-9 (1996), AGP (1997)
  • Other options: Online modem, joystick, gamepad, SCSI, VGA, LAN, headphone, microphone, wireless mouse, wireless keyboard, NEC FC-9801-KB7 keyboard, printer, TV tuner, MPEG card

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