|Installing SymbOS on an emulated MSX2+|
|By Thom Holwerda on 2017-03-07 21:14:02|
No fancy introduction or longwinded story about childhood memories, just a quick and relatively easy how-to regarding installing and running SymbOS on an emulated MSX2+. Since it's quite likely you're not aware of what SymbOS and the MSX are, I'll give you a short description of both.
First, the MSX is a standardised home computing platform conceived by Microsoft Japan in the early 80s. It was quite succesful in Japan, and saw decent success in (weirdly) The Netherlands and Spain, but saw little to no adoption in the United States. I didn't have an MSX myself growing up, but a friend of mine had one, and I remember playing games on it with him when I was round 7-8 years old.
SymbOS is - other than a marvellous showcase of programming expertise - a microkernel operating system with preemptive multitasking with a mouse-driven, windows-based graphical user interface. It's available for a number of Z80-based machines of the 80s - the MSX2, MSX2+, MSX TurboR, the complete Amstrad CPC 464/664/6128 range (old and new generation), and all Amstrad PCW models of the 8xxx, 9xxx, and 10 series.
Installing SymbOS on an emulated MSX2+ is actually quite easy.
First, go ahead and download blueMSX, a quite decent MSX emulator. I'm not entirely sure if this is the best one, but I've had success with it, it's well-documented, and very easy to use, so I've been sticking to it. Be sure to also download the ROM database from the Resources page, and unzip its contents into the Databases directory of the blueMSX directory. Last but not least, download SymBOS for MSX and the ideutils.dsk image.
First, let's set up the emulator.
This is where things got quite confusing for me, and I wasted 30 minutes trying to figure out what was going on. Your next step should be to format the disk you just created, install MSX-DOS on it, and boot from it. The problem is that after installing MSX-DOS, the hard disk in question is assigned drive letter A:, and inside MSX BASIC and MSX-DOS, both floppy drives get moved up the alphabet by one letter, so what was drive A: is now drive B:, and drive B: is now drive C:. The problem lies with the emulator's UI; it doesn't change its File menu to reflect the change in drive structure.
This took me way too long to figure out.
Now, let's proceed with formatting the hard drive image, making it bootable, and installing MSX-DOS.
The hard drive you just formatted and prepared has now been assigned the A: drive letter, and the ideutils.dsk has been assigned the B: drive letter. It's time to further prepare the hard drive to boot into MSX-DOS. To do this, we need to copy two files from the ideutils.dsk image onto the hard drive, which can be done with a few simple BASIC commands (in lowercase because I'm a rebel):
We're almost done. Time to install what we came here for - SymbOS. This installation is incredibly straightforward.
You'll be dumped at
This is the point where I'm at right now. The basic installation is relatively barebones, but there's a few additional SymbOS applications you can download from the website, such as a web browser (for which you'll need to set up an internet connection, something I haven't done yet), games, an IRC client, and more.
I had a ton of fun setting this up, and it's quite amazing to see what awesome programmers can squeeze out of such limited hardware. It doesn't have a ton of uses, obviously, but that doesn't - or shouldn't - matter. This is just plain fun, end of story, and there's no need to justify it.