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So here’s a spontaneous Japanese magazine article scanlation I’d thought about doing months ago and decided to finally whip up really quickly in light of recent events. This comes from the March 1988 issue of MSX Magazine (thanks to SCROLL for the original scan!) and it’s essentially a postmortem that Iwata wrote on a productivity suite that HAL Laboratory put out in Japan in 1987 for the MSX2 known as HALNOTE.
Now while especially in the wake of Iwata’s death his programming prowess has returned to the forefront of many people’s minds, HALNOTE in particular is noteworthy for what it accomplished relative to the state of the Japanese PC industry at the time. Though computer usage and adoption was certainly on the upswing in 1980s Japan like in many other parts of the world, the OS and hardware standards that were employed there were by and large unique to the region, with some iconic specifications like the MSX line being an exception in its appearance in additional places such as Europe and the Middle East. Put simply, certain innovations that had taken other parts of the world by storm like the GUI in the Apple Macintosh were predominantly sights unseen there. You can catch a little bit of it in action in this promotional video for it below.
HALNOTE was special, then, because it brought those sorts of innovations to MSX2 computers by uniting various productivity programs that HAL developed within one cohesive interface. You don’t have to really futz with command line stuff except to potentially execute the core program itself; otherwise it’s a self-contained experience driven by mouse and keyboard input. Not only that, but so competently designed and implemented were those programs that HALNOTE contained that it was described at times as bringing the then-new 16-bit computing experience to an 8-bit platform. Having tested it a little myself for research purposes while working on this translation, I can attest to it being a solid piece of technology considering the limitations at play.
How much and what parts Iwata contributed specifically to HALNOTE’s development is seemingly uncertain, though given he authored this article, it’s probably plausible to say that his role was at least not insignificant. From what I gathered, though HALNOTE itself didn’t necessarily set sales charts on fire initially, perhaps in part due to the cutthroat nature of an ever innovating market as he mentioned in the piece. That being said, the software itself did eventually go on to be integrated into some later model MSX2 models by manufacturers like Sony, a testament to the quality of work HAL invested into its product.
Considering the MSX’s relatively limited reach outside of Japan, this article might not be appealing to those who mainly care about Iwata’s career when it comes to games specifically. But for those wanting to learn a little bit more about his legacy as a programmer and work ethic overall, hopefully this sheds a little light on a part of his history that’s less discussed even within Japan at this stage.
“The famous crazy-scientist Dr. Bacterio was experimenting with hens to let them grow to the size of a horse, thus trying definitively to end the hunger in the world. But, as was habitual in his experiments, he had failed in his objective and now a gang of uncontrolled hens is circulating around the city putting eggs on the street. But certain special eggs have the capacity to turn one person into a hen (or at least that’s what they believed) if the egg crushes on his head.
Is the sequel of the first game dedicated to the famous Ibañez’s comicbook saga, “Mortadelo y Filemón”, known as “Clever & Smart” or “Flip & Flop” outside Spain.” ~MobyGames
To your left, the first sequel to Enix’s greatly popular ‘Dragon Quest’ series! To your right, ‘Gandhara’: a game about kicking demon ass in the name of Buddha! Followed by another bit to remind you to play more ‘Dragon Quest’.