We often are asked some very specific questions, which we all think need explicit answer and clarification.
These questions we get by email, Skype or spot them during the discussions in the forums. If you have question
which is not covered in this section, and you can not find answer on our website, please contact us to have it
Q. Is GR8BIT platform MSX compatible - in other words, will it run 100% of MSX
games and applications?
A. GR8BIT is designed to be fully MSX2-compatible. It is partially compatible to MSX2+. All software which
runs on MSX2 - games, demos, compilers etc. - will run on GR8BIT.
Q. Is static electricity harmful for GR8BIT? Do I need special equipment?
A. We built GR8BIT using TTL logic, with some exceptions (for example, some HC integrated circuits, VDP, CPU
and memories). TTL logic is much less prone to damages from static electricity than CMOS logic, however we
recommend to have proper grounding of the ATX chassis and components (it is discussed in GR8BOOK part III),
and use antistatic bracelet during soldering, and avoid using clothes and other matters which may create
Q. Which age GR8BIT is targeted to? Do you think anyone can assemble GR8BIT?
A. We recommend GR8BIT for 17+ age, and 12+ with active assistance of adult. However the success of assembly and
operation is not primarily relates to the age. It relates to the passion for technology and hand-making, and to
the persistence in achieving result. Of course some prerequisite skills are required (which are usually
taught in the school), and that's why you may need advice or active assistance of the adult experienced person.
Q. Are there issues in GR8BIT design? What if it will not work? Will I be
left alone desperate with nothing?
A. This question is several parts question:
There're no major issues with GR8BIT design, but there're things which we all would like to be better.
As one of examples please review KB0005 article, which describes issue reported by Raymond van der Meulen.
At the beginning we were sad about the issue described, but as we developed a solution and implemented it
we started to consider it as a feature, giving one more opportunity to do-it-yourself (yes, let's be
If it will not work, you start the most exciting process of troubleshooting, which is an integral
part of GR8BIT do-it-yourself process. After we built first specimen of our GR8BIT before starting its
offering, it properly started right away, which is good - showing that design is ok, and sad -
because we missed troubleshooting. So if your GR8BIT does not start - prepare to dig into details, and
we ensure you, it will be the fun.
You will not be left alone. First, you have a set of documentation to refer to. Second, we will support
you till you start your system, and advise on its setup. We - AGE Labs and our network of Engineering
Community Members, who speak different languages. There's an example when we found that one of logic ICs
is broken, and we delivered a replacement one with occasion. There was an extension to GR8BIT storage
subsystem to DOS2 which involved some extra components - and we delivered them with occasion (along with
instructions on how to upgrade). But most important are not parts, which you can buy in store nearby
at the end, but our care of you, and our passion for technology.
Q. What are the key properties and values of GR8BIT which differ it from other stuff like
Raspberry Pi, Arduino or original old good MSX computers?
A. The main difference is that you assemble GR8BIT yourself - all its functional
modules. Others include:
Larger size of the boards (main board is ATX 12" x 9.6"), DIP packages for ICs -
for easy assembly;
Bigger number of components with least integration possible - in order for user to be able to
troubleshoot/research system and electrical and logical processes within it at the
detailed level, for example MSX-Engine was built on discrete components
allowing easy understanding of memory and other device management;
Various technologies involved: Z80's Von Neumann architecture for CPU,
Microchip's MCU's Harvard architecture for keyboard controller and storage subsystem controller;
SRAMs for main and video memories;
Modularity - system comprising of a set of blocks communicating with each other,
with possibility to install own developed prototypes into the system bus (called GR8BUS, uses standard
62-pin ISA edge connector);
Proper licensing from technology owners - kit contains license to use its
platform-related Intellectual property, as well as IP of the MSX Licensing Corporation;
Comprehensive documentation - aim is not only educating how to build the system, but also on
how it operates.
Q. Why GR8BIT costs so much?
A. Consider the following list of facts:
GR8BIT was not designed with low cost in mind. It was designed with total user experience in mind.
And it can not be cheap. While Raspberry Pi is a
small board with high integration leading to having just several chips on board, GR8BIT
deliberately contains many components, some of which are rare specimens.
GR8BIT is a complete PC. You can play vast of MSX games on it.
GR8BIT is a proven hardware platform, as well as software. It gives you real experience with hardware,
with its assembly and troubleshooting.
GR8BIT is a full solution package. If we would distribute it board by board, price of individual
board would be comparable to the price of other devices' individual modules.
When considering alternatives, in addition to considering the price, we recommend you to carefully read
specifications for platforms to find the following information:
What device is designed for: most probably ways to achieve results with purposes listed
will be well-developed and well-documented, while using for other, non-listed purposes may be
What it is capable to do rather than which technical characteristics it has: e.g. processor speed
(will you need 10GHz if it can not run custom drivers?), size of memory (do you need 256GB if 99% of
it is unusable) etc.
Which additional purchases, in terms of hardware, software or licenses, you will
have to make in order to achieve what you have in mind?
How long or regular you will be using the platform, and what is a fun component in it?