The Sharp X68000 wiki last edited by Jagged85 on 11/12/14 12:41AM View full history

The Sharp X68000 is a 16/32-bit home computer manufactured by Sharp Corporation and co-developed by Hudson. It was revealed in October 1986 and released in February 1987 in Japan. It was the successor to the 8-bit Sharp MZ and Sharp X1 computers. At launch, the X68000 was initially sold at an expensive price of ¥369,000 (roughly $3000 in 1987 dollars, equivalent to around $6000 in 2012 dollars).

Based on arcade architecture, the X68000 was the first home system to offer arcade quality graphics, which was almost unheard of at the time. Like arcade machines, much of the X68000's advanced graphical capabilities came from the use of custom GPU graphics processors, which were improved with later hardware revisions. As a result, it had a large number of arcade-perfect conversions and even served as the development machine for Capcom's CPS arcade system over the next several years since it released. The X68000 remained the most powerful home gaming system up until the release of the Neo Geo arcade-based console in 1990.

Its main 16-bit rivals in the Japanese computer market were the NEC PC-98, launched in 1982, and the FM Towns, launched in 1989. The PC-98 would remain the computer market leader in Japan up until the mid-1980s, while the X68000 and FM Towns fought for second place, up until the arrival of Windows 95 on the IBM PC slowly began dominating over local Japanese competition around the late 1990s.

Operating System

The X68K runs an operating system called Human68k, which was developed jointly by Sharp and Hudson Soft. Human68k operates similarly to MS-DOS. Executable files end in an extension of ".X".

At least three major versions of the operating system were released, with a number of minor releases between.

The X68000 was one of the first computers to feature soft-on power, where the main power supply was always on and the front-mounted power switch would only signal the machine to shut down, giving software time to save, shutdown and usually fade out the sound and the screen. This was a precursor to most modern operating systems.

Graphical Shell

Early models included a graphical shell called VS ("Visual Shell"). This was later replaced by Sx-window, which had a look and feel similar to NeXT. Sx-window was too slow to be used for games, and very little video game software was developed for it.

Hardware Specifications

The Sharp X68000 had similar hardware specs as the average arcade cabinet hardware of the late 80's, as well as 2D arcade machines into the early 90's. Like arcade machines (as well as the later Neo Geo arcade/console system), much of the X68000's advanced graphical capabilities came from the use of custom GPU graphics processors, which were improved with later hardware revisions. Because of this, it featured a large number of games that were perfectly ported from the arcades to the X68000, making it the most powerful home gaming system of the 1980s.

MAIN PROCESSORS

  • Main CPU (Central Processing Unit) processor:
    • 1987: Hitachi HD68HC000 (based on 16/32-bit Motorola 68000) @ 10 MHz
      • Performance: 1.8 MIPS (Million Instructions Per Second)
    • 1990: Hitachi HD68HC000 @ 10-15 MHz (1.8-2.7 MIPS)
    • 1991: Motorola 68000 (16/32-bit) @ 16 MHz (2.8 MIPS)
    • 1992: Motorola MC68EC030 (32-bit Motorola 68030) @ 25 MHz (9 MIPS)
    • 1993: Motorola 68030 (32-bit) @ 33 MHz (12 MIPS)
    • 1993: Sharp Jupiter-X 040turbo (based on 32-bit Motorola 68040) @ 25-40 MHz
      • Performance: 28-44 MIPS, 4-6 MFLOPS (Million Floating-point Operations Per Sec)
    • 1994: Sharp Jupiter-X 060turbo / Venus-X 060 (32-bit Motorola 68060) @ 50-75 MHz
      • Performance: 76-114 MIPS, 28-42 MFLOPS
    • Cancelled: IBM PowerPC 601 (32-bit) @ 66 MHz (~100 MIPS, ~66 MFLOPS)
  • Upgradable CPU:
    • 1992: Motorola 68030 (32-bit) @ 25-50 MHz (9-18 MIPS)
    • 1993: Jupiter-X 040turbo (Motorola 68040) @ 25-40 MHz (28-44 MIPS, 4-6 MFLOPS)
    • 1994: Jupiter-X 060turbo (Motorola 68060) @ 50-80 MHz (76-122 MIPS, 28-44 MFLOPS)
  • Additional CPU:
    • 1989: Sharp CONCERTO-X68K (16-bit NEC V30 @ 5-66 MHz) (1-35 MIPS)
    • 1992: Sharp VDTK-X68K (32-bit NEC V70 @ 20-50 MHz) (6-15 MIPS)
  • FPU (Floating-Point Unit) math co-processor:
    • 1990: Banchu Bronta 6 / Banchu Cammago 4007 (based on AMD/Intel)
    • 1991: Sharp CZ-6BP1 / CZ-6BP1A (based on 32-bit Motorola MC 68881) @ 16-25 MHz
      • Performance: 160-240 kFLOPS (kiloFLOPS / thousand FLOPS)
    • 1992: Motorola MC 68882 (32-bit) @ 25-50 MHz
      • Performance: 254-528 kFLOPS
  • MCU (Micro-Controller Unit) co-processor:
    • 1987: Oki MSM80C51 (8-bit, CMOS)
    • 1990: Intel 80C51 (8-bit, CMOS)
  • System controller: BUDDHA (1987), MESSIAH (1988), SCOTCH (1989), DOSA (1991)

DISPLAY / GRAPHICS

  • GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) processors:
    • Sprite controller: CYNTHIA Jr (1987), CYNTHIA (1988)
    • CRT controller: VINAS 1 + 2 (1987), VICON (1988)
    • Video controller: VSOP (1987), VIPS (1988)
    • Video data selector: RESERVE (1987), CATHY (1988)
  • Resolution:
    • 1987: 256x240, 256x256, 512x240, 512x256, 512x512, 640x480, 768x512, 1024x1024
    • 1994: 256x240, 256x256, 512x240, 512x256, 512x512, 640x480, 768x512, 1024x768, 1024x1024, 1280x1024
  • Color palette:
    • 1987: 16-bit (65,536 colors)
    • 1994: 24-bit (16.78 million colors) with TS-6BGA graphics accelerator
  • Colors on screen:
    • 1987: 4-bit (16 colors @ 1024x1024) to 8-bit (256 colors @ 512x512)
    • 1988:
      • 4-bit (16 colors @ 1024x1024)
      • 9-bit (512 colors @ 512x512, 2 planes)
      • 16-bit (65,536 colors @ 512x512, 1 plane)
    • 1994: (With TS-6BGA graphics accelerator)
      • 8-bit (256 colors @ 1280x1024) to 24-bit (16.78 million colors @ 1024x768)
  • Sprites: 128 hardware sprites on screen @ 16x16 pixels each
    • Upgradable: Up to 1024 sprites
  • Planes: 4 (@1024x1024) to 16 (@ 512x512)
  • Possible AV outputs: VGA (Monitor Output) Component (RGB)
  • Graphics hardware: Hardware scrolling, priority control, super-impose
  • Graphics accelerator cards:
    • Sharp CZ-6BP1 & CZ-6BP1A FPU accelerators (based on 32-bit Motorola MC 68881)
    • Sharp Jupiter-X 040turbo & 060turbo CPU accelerators (32-bit Motorola 68040 & 68060)
    • NEC V30 & NEC V70 CPU accelerator boards
    • Motorola MC 68882 (32-bit) FPU accelerator
    • 1994: Tsukumo Electric TS-6BGA graphics accelerator (Cirrus Logic GD-5434 GPU)
      • Blitter support, 2 MB VRAM, 16.78 million colors, 1280x1024 resolution
  • Display monitor: 15" to 21" CRT monitor

SOUND

  • FM (Frequency Modulation) synthesis sound ship: Yamaha YM2151 @ 3.5 MHz
    • Features: Stereo, 8 channels, 4 operators, 8 double-octave chords, noise generator
  • DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter) sound chip: Yamaha YM3012
  • PCM (Pulse-Code Modulation) sound chip: Oki MSM6258V @ 15.6 KHz
    • Features: 4-bit mono ADPCM (Adaptive Differential PCM), 1 voice
  • Sampling rate: 22 KHz
  • MML (Music Macro Language) format: MDX
  • PCM sound expansion:
    • PCM-8 Mercury Unit (8 channel PCM)
    • TS-6BGA PCM sound board accelerator (stereo CD-quality PCM, 48 KHz sampling rate)
  • MIDI modules: Roland MT-32, Roland Sound Canvas (SC-55, SC-155, SC-88VL, SC-88 Pro), Yamaha MU series
  • MIDI cards: Sharp CZ-6BM1, System Sacom SX-68M / SX-68M-2, Creative Labs

MEMORY

  • Memory controller chips:
    • Memory controller: ET (1987), OHM (1988), OHM2 (1989), McCOY (1989)
    • DMA (Direct Memory Access) controller: Hitachi HD63450
  • Main RAM (Random Access Memory) memory:
    • Default: 1 MB (1987), 2 MB (1989), 4 MB (1992), 8 MB (1994)
    • Upgradable: 12-16 MB
  • Video RAM (VRAM) memory:
    • 1987: 1072 KB
      • Graphics (bitmapped) memory: 512 KB
      • Text (bitmapped) memory: 512 KB
      • Sprite memory: 32 KB
      • Static RAM (SRAM) memory: 16 KB
    • 1994: 3120 KB (TS-6BGA graphics accelerator)
  • Static RAM (SRAM) memory: 16 KB (1987), 128 KB (1992)
  • ROM (Read-Only Memory) memory: 1 MB (256 KB BIOS, 768 KB character generator)
  • Sound memory: 16 KB
  • Storage: Floppy disk (1.2 MB), hard disk drive
  • Hard disk drive: 10 MB (1987), 20 MB (1988), 40 MB (1989), 81 MB (1990), 324-500 MB (1994), 500 MB (1995), 1-2 GB (1997)

I/O (INPUT/OUTPUT) PORTS

  • I/O controller chip: SICILIAN (1987), IOSC (1988), IOSC-2 (1989), PEDEC (1990)
  • Expansion slots: 2 (1987), 4 (1989)
  • Keyboard input
  • Two joystick inputs (MSX joystick, SNES / Mega Drive gamepads, Capcom CPS arcade stick)
  • TV tuner control
  • NTSC video image decoder
  • AUX stereo inputs/outputs
  • Two floppy disk drives (5.25 drives or 3.5 drives depending on the model)
  • Media disk drive
  • 3D goggles port
  • Other options: Mouse, trackball, online modem, LAN card, SCSI card, hard disk drive

OTHER CHIPS

  • Real-time clock: Ricoh RP5C15
  • FDD (Floppy Disk Drive) controller: NEC 72065
  • HDD (Hard Disk Drive) controller: Fujitsu MB89352A SCSI HDD Controller
  • Serial port controller: Zilog Z85C30 dual-channel serial controller
  • Printer port controller: NEC 8255
  • MFP (Multi-Function Peripheral) controller: Motorola 68901

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