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MZ-800 course Chapter 1 
1. Things worth knowing

1.1 The beginning

Almost all beginning is hard, that is why this chapter is especially for those who can not handle the manual very well and do not know entirely how to operate their SHARP-computer. Most of you will say that everything you need to know on how to operate the SHARP MZ-800 up to a reasonable extent, is in the manual. In practice however, there are still lots of people who understand close to nothing of the manual.

This chapter will tell you as much as needed about your SHARP to make you able to bring everything in this book into practice. You will probably not understand everything in this book, that is because this book is for everyone; even the best programmer should learn from this book.

So let us get started. Normally one begins at the beginning, we do not. How you must unpack and plug in your SHARP will be clear to everyone, but after this the first problems arise. Which peripherals would you like to use, in which mode would you like to work and for which things would you like to use your computer?

First some things about peripherals. You can connect a lot of peripherals to your SHARP, most important of them is the tape recorder, a QUICKDISK, a TV or monitor, a JOYSTICK, a PRINTER or PLOTTER, one or more disk drives and a hard disk. Below this equipment is discussed in more detail.

The tape recorder
The tape recorder SHARP MZ-1T04  
On purchase most of you will have a built-in tape recorder. Some of you will have a QUICK-DISK and the tape recorder must be connected to the back of the QUICK-DISK. In principle it does not matter whether a tape recorder or a QUICK-DISK is built-in, it is just a matter of preference.

In the manual the procedure to how to swap your tape recorder with a QUICK-DISK is clearly described, if necessary.

The tape recorder is used to save and load programs and / or data.

The tape recorder can be operated by specific instructions which will be discussed later on in this chapter.

A tape recorder uses tapes to store information. It does not really matter which tape you use, except for C-90 and too cheap tapes, their use is not advised. It is not necessary to use very expensive tapes either, that is just a waste of money.

Inside the tape recorder there are heads. When these heads have not been aligned properly, some programs may fail to load. In that case the heads must be realigned. This can be done by turning the screw just above the PLAY-button with a small screwdriver or something similar, and trying to reload the program.

Note that adjusting the tape recorders head yourself is not advised. There appears to be a program that can assist in adjusting the head ( but unfortunately it is abroad ). Adjusting the head the hardware way is also possible, you could call Mr. Gans ( see [1] ) if you need help.


The Quick Disk SHARP MZ-1F11
Besides the tape recorder the QUICK-DISK is a widely used medium for saving and loading programs and/or data. Although the tape recorder can be connected to the computer directly, the QUICK-DISK needs a special interface in order to use it.
The MZ-800 Quick Disk Interface MZ-1E19
An interface makes sure that specific peripherals, which can be used on different computers, get the specific data they need to function completely on a specific computer. In a sense an interface makes sure that peripherals are completed or converted in order to be used on a specific computer. Therefore it is logical that on a different type of computer a different interface must be used to make the peripheral operational.

After explaining the term interface we return to the QUICK-DISK.

The Quick Disk volume SHARP MZ-6F03
In the QUICK-DISK special small disks are used, the so-called 2.8-inch disks. These disks have a capacity of 128K and are reasonably expensive, that is why using lots of these disks will be expensive.

The commands to operate the QD will also be discussed later on in this chapter.

The SHARP Monitor MZ-1D19
At the right of the computer ( seen from the front ) there are four holes. Two of them are for an optional second tape recorder, below them are the words READ and WRITE. These holes will not be discussed any further, the other two will.
Operating elements at the rear of the MZ-800
One of them is labeled RF and the other one is labeled VIDEO. Between the two connectors a small switch resides which can be set to either B/W or COLOR, B/W stands for Black and White.

When you use a ”two-colored” ( monochrome ) monitor or a black and white TV you must set the switch to B/W. When you use a colour TV or a colour monitor, you must set the switch to COLOR.

Operating elements at the rear of the MZ-800
Next to the COLOR connector there is a connector labeled RGB. This connector is used by an RGB-monitor, RGB is a certain standard, analogous there are CENTRONICS- and PARALLEL-ports. This is not of much interest, as most monitors for HOME-computers use the RGB-standard.

Note that there is much confusion about RGB standards. It is sufficient to say that more than one standard exists. If you might have any questions, you could contact Mr. Gans or Mr. Smits[2]. Then there is a little black screw that also resides between the two holes. This is a control which has the same function as the one on your TV to tune into a specific channel. If you do not get a clear image while tuning into your computer, this little screw may be of some use. By the way: every TV with a VIDEO-connector can be connected to your SHARP.

The port labeled RF is for connecting to a TV and the port labeled VIDEO is for connecting to a MONITOR.


The joystick SHARP MZ-1X16   On your SHARP are two joystick-ports. These can handle all ATARI-compatible joysticks. Which of them are ATARI-compatible? you might ask. Usually this is mentioned on the wrapping. If not, then ask the salesperson.
Operating elements at the rear of the MZ-800  
The ports are labeled 1 and 2.

The command to read a joystick will be discussed later in this chapter.


The plotter SHARP MZ-1P16  

In fact these are two entirely different things, but because their similar function we will discuss them at the same time. They are both for printing out text or an ( graphical ) image. The way they do this is again entirely different, we will go into this later. Let us first discuss the connection.

Operating elements at the rear of the MZ-800

The special SHARP-plotter can be plugged into the SHARP just like that. Below the power inlet there is a connector for the plotter. It is labeled: POWER for MZ-1P16.

The connector for the printer is protected by an iron strip ( already removed in the picture ). This connector is labeled PRINTER, so it can not be missed. A cable will make the connection between the printer and the computer.

By the way: not every printer ( and that is an understatement ) can be connected to your SHARP. Do not simply buy a printer, make sure it can be connected to your SHARP and that it can be used. Various existing clubs can help you with this.

Because the printer / plotter is not used very often, the control commands will not be discussed in detail further on. Some additional information will be given though.

Now something about the technique of ”printing”. A printer has a so-called head with needles on it. Because the needles can be controlled independently all sorts of characters can be made. If a needle makes contact with the ink-ribbon a small black dot will appear on the paper. All the dots together form a printout.

A plotter draws everything. A plotter moves a little pen on the paper. This way a better result appears than with a printer. However, there are two drawbacks. The first one is that a plotter is a lot slower than a printer and secondly the SHARP-plotter is only available in small size.

Note by the translator: Note that as well as matrix printers, thermal, ink-jet-, laser-, and daisywheel printers can be used with the SHARP MZ-800.


The SHARP Floppy Drive MZ-1F19   Usually two, not one, disk drives are used. This is because it works a lot faster than with one disk drive.

The disk drive is meant to be used with CPM mainly. What CPM exactly is and what you can do with it, will not be discussed here. With CPM you can use your SHARP in a more professional way.

The use of disk drives is far less expensive than using a QUICK-DISK. This is because the disks are cheaper and because they have a greater capacity. The only disadvantage is that disk drives are more expensive initially.

Some more advantages of the disk drive:

  • It is faster.
  • Larger programs can be used.
  • The disks are for sale everywhere.
  • The programs are easily deleted.
  • The programs are easily changed.
  • Etc.

Although many people own one or more disk drives, little about disk drives will be discussed in this book. This is simply because there are numerous utilities and other stuff for the disk drive, that we can fill an entire book with them. Moreover, people who own one or more disk drives usually know how to operate them.


You will probably think: how strange, I have never heard of that one before. That is right, because there is only one person in the Netherlands who has managed to connect a hard disk to his SHARP. Further on in this book you can read more about this and more about other developments on the hardware terrain of the SHARP.

These were the most important peripherals of the SHARP. There are obviously a lot more things you can connect to your SHARP, like a RAM-card, all sorts of electronic projects ( like a ROBOT, TRAIN ( a standard PC ), etc.) and so on.

It will not always be easy to connect something to your SHARP. For some things the SHARP must be completely rebuilt or a special adapter must be made.

It is a shame that not many people are active on this terrain, but we can promise you a whole bunch of very nice and funny things that you can connect to your SHARP in the future.

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last updated July 8, 2004
Arjan Habing, Mark de Rover, Jeroen F. J. Laros,