The software made for use with the Tsushin Booster is called "Tsushin Tool." It was distributed in evaluation form on EPROM sample carts like the one above. When I first powered on my copy of the Tool, the graphics were completely messed up on all the menus. I suspected that the EPROM(s) had suffered bit-rot due to their age, but a dump of the EPROMs showed that they were fine. So I checked the circuit traces on the EPROM board and found that pin A16 of the second socket seemed not to make proper contact with the board below. I did a quickie fix, connecting the pin of one socket to the other, and the Tool booted just fine this time.
|Here's the simple but cute title screen of the Tsushin Tool. Of course, you won't see this in an emulator if you run the Tsushin Tool ROM as originally dumped. The Tool checks for the presence of the modem and 32K of RAM at bank $88 and up. If it doesn't find these, it simply reports an error message on-screen, and refuses to do anything else.||Going to the main menu, we see the 3 main pieces of software included in the Tool: The Graphics Editor, the Tsushin (comms) Tool, and the Program Editor. Also accessible is the file manager, for simple viewing and deletion of files.|
|In the Tsushin menu, there are choices to start communications, set modem options, enter data into a phone directory, and have the modem wait for an incoming phone call.||The choices are the usual: choose between a sluggish 300bps or a speedy 1200bps, turn on echo, pulse/tone, or have the modem's output come through the TV speaker.|
|All you have to do is enter the number with the keypad and it'll try to dial the number. Since emulators don't emulate telephone lines, you can't see what happens next.||Here's the file manager showing what happens when it assumes that its memory is non-zero and subtracts a few bytes from it for storage.|
|Here we enter the Program menu. The two choices are "execute program" or "build program". When starting from scratch, you want to build the program, of course.||
Here you are presented with the familiar blue BASIC screen, like on the Commodore-64. I'm surprised there aren't more names or copyrights, like Hudson BASIC or Tsushin BASIC or something. What am I supposed to call this version of BASIC, then?
Here we can see text and kanji entry in action. It works like most Japanese text entry systems.
On the real system you have about 31.7K of memory to work with in BASIC. This interpreter is actually quite good, with all the goodies like AUTO, line renumbering, and even paint, circle, line, and box graphics commands.
|Entering text without a keyboard is not as painful as you'd imagine. But I bet it would be for large programs.|
|And as they always say with this type of program, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination!||The final set of tools are for graphics. You can edit background tiles and sprites here. Both operate similarly when you are drawing them, but they are used differently later on.|
|First of all you can load some reference graphics that the guys at Hudson have made for the BG and sprite tiles.||If you've used a tile editor before, you'd be familiar with this. It is a bit more restrictive and primitive compared to modern tile and graphics editors on home PCs, though.|
|Here's the MAP editor function in use. After drawing some tiles and making 16x16 cells out of them, the cells can be placed onto a 512x512-pixel map for use as a level in a game.||Here's the sprite animation editor. Sprite tiles can be joined into one large object that can be animated and moved as one unit on-screen.|
So that's it for the Tsushin Tool! It is a really fun program to play around with, and it would have been really interesting to see what amateur programmers could have come up with with this tool if only it had been released. As superior as game systems like the NES/Famicom and PC-Engine were to stodgy old computers like the Sinclair Spectrum, VIC-20 or C=64, it is an undeniable fact about these latter computers that they taught a whole generation of kids how to program. That's something much more rewarding than getting a high score in any game, I think. It's a shame PC-Engine owners didn't get that chance.
Don't think for a minute that I'd post the Tsushin Tool ROM here, even though I'd love to see the ROM get out to the public in some way or another.
Here is, however, a translation/summary
I made of the entire Tsushin Tool Instruction Manual: Part
1 | Part 2.
Here is a small collection of BASIC programs that you can type out. They're just little test programs I made while testing the Tool.
Finally, here are IPS Patches for those who have the original Tsushin Tool ROM. This one allows the Tool at least to run in an emulator, while This one allows the Tool to boot and use the RAM inside of a PC-Engine equipped with CD-ROM attachment. Note that with the latter patch, all programs and data are still lost when the PCE's power is shut off.