The X68000 is an unheard-of gem from Japan. Released around the same time as the Amiga and Atari ST, it was leagues ahead of them both in terms of design and capability. Originally released in 1987 with a 10MHz 68000 CPU and 1MB RAM, the series finished six years later with a 25MHz 68030, 4MB RAM and a 80MB HD. Earlier models used SASI (Shugart Associates System Interface) which was a forerunner to SCSI, and is almost pin compatible with early SCSI drives. Later models used real SCSI. The series favoured (And this is cool) soft-eject 5.25" floppies though there were a few "Compact" releases with 3.25" drives and smaller cases.

One of the most striking things about the system was the case - a two-halved tower bisected by a click-in/out carrying handle, reminiscent more of a mainframe computer than a PC. It 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. Two expansion slots closely related to the ISA standard, and a host of ports as standard: 2 MSX compatible joystick ports, parallel, serial, external floppy (It could run 4 drives, two were built-in) port, 3D goggles port, as well as TV/monitor control,SASI, headphone, microphone, RGB in and out... Very advanced for the time, and in terms of design it's nearly unmatched (in my mind) to this day.

On this page you'll find all the details and differences between units, a list of some of the better games released for the system, tech specs, screenshots, and maybe more! Also, if you'd like to see what the boxes look like, you can check out the Sales page.

  This article is translated to Serbo-Croatian language
  by Jovana Milutinovich from Webhostinggeeks.com.


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X68000 Gallery 1
X68000 Gallery 2
X68000 Floppy Sleeve Gallery
X68000 Power Supply Repair

The actual specs of the X68000 series changed very little over the life of the system. Aside from upgrading capabilities, such as replacing the antiquated SASI with SCSI, and two different form factors (The Compact and Pro models) the specs remained the same. Clock speeds were boosted on the XVI and the X68030 was faster with a beefier processor, but things like graphic and sound hardware remained the same. This was obviously better for compatability, but without a significant upgrade path the series was doomed to extinction. Sure the new units were faster, but without new capabilities the rest of the computing universe was bound to catch up. Where the first X68000 systems were far ahead of the competition of the time, by the end of the system's lifespan it was merely the equal of other systems. The sexy case could only carry it so far.

X68000 Specs

CPU + Clock

Motorola 68000 (10MHz) - XVI 16MHz – X68030 25MHz

ROM

128KB BIOS
768KB Character Generator (16x16, 8x16, 8x8 - JIS 1 + 2)

RAM

1-4MB stock, expandable
512KB Text VRAM
512KB Graphic VRAM
32KB Sprite VRAM
16KB Static RAM

Screen Resolutions

1024x1024 Max, 256 x 256 Min

Colours

65,536 Palette. 256 Max onscreen

Sprites

16x16 pixels, 16 colours / sprite
128 sprites / screen, 16 sprites / line

Graphics Hardware

Hardware scrolling, priority control, super-impose

Sound

2ch FM Synth, 8 Octave, 8 Voice
ADPCM

HDD + FDD

Varies by model, see below

Ports

See below

Expansion

2 card slots (4 on Pro models)

OS

Human68k (MS DOS-alike developed by Hudson), SX-Windows GUI

Power Input:

AC 100v, 50/60Hz

Weight

~8kg (~10kg Pro)

Source: X68000 System Manual



X68000 Models

Release System Price CPU RAM FDD HDD

1987

X68000 369,000 68000
(10MHz)
1MB 5.25 - SASI

1988

X68000 ACE-HD 399,800 20MB
X68000 ACE 319,800 -

1989

X68000 EXPERT 356,000 2MB -
X68000 EXPERT-HD 466,000 40MB
X68000 PRO 298,000 1MB -
X68000 PRO-HD 408,000 40MB

1990

X68000 EXPERT II 338,000 2MB -
X68000 EXPERT II-HD 448,000 40MB
X68000 PRO II 285,000 1MB -
X68000 PRO II-HD 395,000 40MB
X68000 SUPER-HD 498,000 2MB 81MB SCSI
X68000 SUPER 348,000 -

1991

X68000 XVI 368,000 68000
(16MHz)
-
X68000 XVI-HD 518,000 81MB

1992

X68000 CompactXVI 298,000 3.5 -

1993

X68030 398,000 68030
(25MHz)
4MB 5.25 -
X68030 -HD 488,000 80MB
X68030 Compact 388,000 3.5 -
X68030 Compact-HD 478,000 80MB

Source: Japanese Page, Author Unknown

The X68000 series spanned 20 different models, with three different form factors and one slight case redesign. The original model, Expert, Ace + Super all shared the same dual-tower cray-like design. The XVI used the same design with a slight cosmetic modification. The pro was a horizontal desktop model, with more room internally and four expansion ports. The Compact models were single-tower vertical models approximately two thirds as wide and a little shorter than the normal towers.

All units shared the same connectors, except for the Compact units which used high-density connectors to save space. The connector for the SASI and SCSI ports is the same.

Wherever possible try and get a 2MB unit. Many games require 2MB to run, but only a tiny handful (Super Street Fighter 2 is the only one that comes to mind) require more than 2MB.

A HardDrive is not important, since all games run from floppy. If you expect to play a lot of Street Fighter or Fatal Fury, or some of the RPG games which can have up to thirteen floppies, then a HD would be wise. Keep in mind this will drastically increase the complexity of the system, as well as the amount of Japanese you'll need to know to operate it.


Like most computers of the time custom chips in the X68000 series were given fanciful names. In the below chart you can see how these chips were changed from model to model, sometimes to fix bugs or add new features, other times to combine functions into fewer parts.

X68000 Custom Chips

X68000

Ace

Expert

Expert 2

Super

XVI

Pro

Pro 2

Memory Controller

ET

OHM

OHM2

McCOY

System Controller

BUDDHA

MESSIAH

DOSA

SCOTCH

Sprite Controller

CYNTHIA / Jr

CYNTHIA

CRT Controller

VINAS 1 + 2

VICON

Video Controller

VSOP

VIPS

Video Data Selector

RESERVE

CATHY

I/O Controller

SICILIAN

IOSC

IOSC-2

PEDEC

IOSC-2

Source: Outside X68000, SoftBank 1993



The X68000 series contained a lot of off-the-shelf parts as well, components similar to DOS PCs and other computers at the time. Chips from Zilog, Motorola, Hitachi and NEC all made their way inside. The Okidata ADPCM sound chip was also used in at least one other game console, and Yamaha was essentially the only soundchip manufacturer of any import back in the day. As was the norm back then every chip that had extra pins was put into service for another device. The printer controller also handled joystick input, the serial controller handled the mouse and the MFP had its fingers in nearly every input or output port available.

Here are two images of the mainboard and IO board of an XVI system:
 

X68000 Non-Custom Chips

Function Part # Manufacturer Notes
Real Time Clock
RP5C15 Ricoh
Sound:
FM Synth
YM2151 Yamaha Paired with YM3012 DAC. 8 note, 2 channel, noise
Sound:
ADPCM
MSM6258 Okidata Also used in the PCFX
FDD Control
72065 NEC
HDD Control
MB89352A Fujitsu SCSI HDD Controller (Super, XVI + X68030)
Peripheral: Serial
z85C30 Zilog Dual channel Serial controller. 1 for RS232, 1 for Mouse
Peripheral: Printer
8255 NEC Printer port, joystick ports.
DMA Control
HD63450 Hitachi DMA I/O for FDD, HDD, Expansion Slots, ADPCM Audio
MFP
68901 Motorola Multi Function Peripheral controller. Controls monitor sync, Serial port, real-time clock, soft-power, FM Synth, IRQ, keyboard
Math Co-Pro
MC68881 Motorola Optional. XVI has a socket for it, older units require an add-on board (often combined with RAM expansion)

Source: NFG Games + Inside X68000, SoftBank 1993



So what's the end result? Check out these screenshots from the arcade + X68000 versions of Strider, Ghouls n Ghosts, Street Fighter. Compare them to the Genesis versions for Extra Shame! There are some more Ghouls shots here.


Arcade


X68000


Genesis/MegaDrive