Jump to content

Trying to recreate the earliest Mac released in Japan (Mac Plus?)

Recommended Posts

I'm a Japanese translator and a Mac fan, so I thought it would be interesting to try and recreate the earliest iteration of Japanese-compatible Mac. However, I don't have a large amount of knowledge about the release of the Mac in Japan. I think the original Macintosh was only available in Japan as imported English versions, and the Mac Plus was the first Mac that Apple officially released in Japan with a Japanese OS. Is that correct? Maybe @JDW has some input about this? Or does anyone know of a site that talks about the early days of the Mac in Japan? I picked up this M01110A J keyboard recently and want to use it in conjunction with a Mac Plus running KanjiTalk.



Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 68kMLA Supporter

Tech Note #138 says “The 12 point font takes up approximately 100K of memory and the optional 18 point font takes up approximately 250K of memory. The KanjiTalk code itself takes up about 180K of memory. Because the fonts take up quite a bit of memory, many applications will not work on a Macintosh 512K with the Kanji fonts installed.” But TN138 certainly implies that the Plus was the first Macintosh designed for Japanese, and if fonts and text took over half of the 512K’s RAM, it doesn’t seem like it would have been very practical for Japanese use. KanjiTalk may not have been released until the Plus came out.


It also claims that there’s a special Plus ROM with the Kanji font, though I haven’t yet checked if either of my Pluses’ ROMs has it.


For comparison, here’s a 512k currently on auction in Japan with a non-Japanese OS and keyboard: https://page.auctions.yahoo.co.jp/jp/auction/g370019387

Link to post
Share on other sites

This has been kind of interesting (if difficult) to research. I do read Japanese, so that helps. From what I understand, the first Macs sold in Japan were actually imported by Canon, who added a special ROM for kanji support, and these were called the Dynamac. I’ve seen pictures of these Dynamac units with English keyboards, and since they weren’t an official Apple product,  I initially thought the English keyboard was all there was. But in looking a bit deeper it seems like at least some Dynamacs did have kana keyboards. This guy speculated that Canon must have had Japanese keyboards made, but I don’t know if that’s true or whether they were somehow made in conjunction with Apple (the whole Apple and Canon relationship back then is pretty interesting). 


The Dynamacs are apparently quite rare, so I guess that would explain why these keyboards are also rare. Since I have no way of getting one of these I am going to focus on the Plus and KanjiTalk as the first Macs officially sold by Apple In Japan. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, I've managed to boot KanjiTalk 1, KanjiTalk 2, and KanjiTalk 6 on my Mac Plus. The first two versions seem very stripped down (they can run from floppies, although they require some disk swapping during boot-up just to load the Japanese fonts). So although I was able to boot them I couldn't actually accomplish much with the system. There weren't even any keyboard preferences that would allow you to use the kana keyboard layout, which makes me think that what is available for download online may have been more like simple boot disks and not what people were actually using to run their systems.


KanjiTalk 6 is also available on the Macintosh Repository and comes on a number of floppy images, so it feels more like a real OS, but of course you need to run it from a hard disk. This took a little doing because I'm still not an expert at using SCSI2SD, but I got it running from one of my SCSI2SD disks, and it seems to be running fine. I was even able to try out typing using the kana layout on the keyboard above, which makes me feel like a child just starting to learn to type. One thing that struck me right away is that the system font is a lot bigger on the Japanese system. I've used Japanese Mac OS before and didn't really find this to be the case, but I'm guessing that because the screen resolution on compact Macs is so low, they had to boost the font size so they could fit in all the details of kanji characters. Even at the bigger size some of them are very squished together and hard to see. I'll post a photo later. I'm still trying to figure out things like software compatibility.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 4 months later...

Interesting. I only knew of Dynamac as the company from the USA that briefly sold portable psuedo-clones along with Outbound.


I knew Canon worked with Apple in some capacity (I have several computers with Canon service stickers) and apparently supplied NeXT for a while, but I didn't know they had their own early systems also called Dynamac. I wonder how licensing worked with that. Apparently Jef Raskin, whose brainchild the Macintosh originally was, left Apple to work at Canon to build the CAT which is supposedly close to his original vision for the Macintosh before Steve Jobs took over. I'd still like to find a CAT but I've never seen one for sale.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 7 months later...
  • 68kMLA Supporter

One of these popped up on Yahoo Auctions again: https://page.auctions.yahoo.co.jp/jp/auction/r465570559


This one seems to be missing the badge in the front, but has some interior photos and a clearer picture of the expanded ROM, which I’ll reproduce here. Apparently the expanded ROM clips over the processor—it wasn’t what I was picturing, but I can see why that might be the easiest way to do it.





Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 5 weeks later...

Very interesting!


There are some old Japanese magazines on Internet Archive. They only have select issues with more being added occasionally as people scan and upload. Copyright is well respected in Japan so they tend not to share scans of magazines.


A couple of 1985 issues have ads for the Dyna Mac. 








This 1986 issue of I/O has an advertisement for the 512K & Dyna Mac:






And there's a brief mention of Outbound and Dyna Mac here, 1992: https://archive.org/details/micomBASIC_1992-09/page/n159/mode/2up?q=Dynamac



Edited by gingerbeardman
Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for posting these! Very interesting to see some of the old advertising. I was shocked at how expensive everything was, but then remembered that the exchange rate would have been drastically different in the mid-1980s. I think it was around 230 yen to the dollar back then, versus 106 or so right now. Not sure what that means in terms of the actual price of these things for Japanese people, but since they were imports I have a feeling they would've been pretty pricey. I liked seeing the IKESHOP ad (the one with the bride & groom) since I remember visiting that store in Akihabara back in 2002. Apparently they're still there today.






Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...