Last modify 25 January 2007. Please contact me FIRST! before using any photographs from this page.
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The Junior is a surprisingly diminutive unit and thus very portable and space-saving. It is also quite attractive-looking, and this must have endeared it to buyers at the time as it appears to have been produced in some numbers (by the standards of this relatively rare computer line, of course). What's particularly weird is that the Junior's system software is entirely in English, which makes it very surprising it did not emerge in the USA or UK. We'll look at this in more detail below.
The most impressive thing about the Jr. is how well designed and thought-out its interface is (especially given the minimalist controls). For 1983, when the Macintosh was a hidden secret in the bowels of Apple, the Jr. offered a primitive but effective point-and-shoot interface with helpful prompts and screen controls allowing for one of the few entry-level home computers of the day that you could really literally just plug in and use (if you can read English, that is). While obviously limited in its functionality, it is disappointing that Tomy seemed to actually take a step backwards with the Tomy Tutor and revert to the command-driven environment (in particular the MONitor and BASIC/GBASIC) of the Pyuuta rather than preserving the friendly and logical interface the Jr. presented. The screenshots will go into a lot more detail on this subject.
Obviously, like the Pyuuta, this unit uses 100V 60Hz Japanese mains current for which step-down transformers are easily available (mine was $30 at Fry's). Once again, my sincerest warning: although it will work on USA mains voltage, doing so is probably a straightforward way of diminishing the mean lifetime of the computer's power supply. Don't risk it.
Portrait of the Pyuuta Jr. Click the thumbnail for a larger view (60K).
Note the very abbreviated, functional front keypad. As Tomy had standardized on the famous PLAYER 1, 2? prompt, there are 1 and 2 keys, as well as "diamond" selector keys and cursor keys, MOD and MON, PALLET [sic] and ENTER (RT) -- the minimum to handle a menu, most cartridges, GRAPHICS mode and a little more besides.
The captions on the keys are a little cryptic. The "PAINT" legend on the ENTER key is obvious after one plays with graphic mode, and the 1 key is indeed the copy key in sprite mode and "prints" characters in graphic mode, but "COUNTER" for the 2 key seems a bad translation of its normal feature (reversing characters and sprites). The screenshots at the bottom show these keys in action.
I'm still trying to figure out why they changed RT to ENTER.
The front of the box, showing the advertised system configuration.
Click the thumbnail for a larger view (76K).
The back of the box. This one seems to have been some sort of package deal with an included game cartridge (gold sticker at upper left) but it doesn't say what game. The box copy is quite amusing. Roughly translated (thanks again to Hidehiko for a little help here):
- Full-colour original graphics (furukaraa no orijinaru gurafikku).
- Handy type-in function (benri na taipu in kinoo ... this must mean the abbreviated keypad (!)).
- Fun moveable sprite function (tanoshisa ugokaseru anime kinoo).
- Ability to save [your] entertainment [via] save/load (tanoshisa nokoseru seebu/roodo).
- Joy controllers that are easy to do things with (soosa shiyasui joikontoroora).
- 16 bits of big power (biggu pawaa no 16 bitto).
- Popular outstanding characters, loads of games (ninki batsugun (na) kyarakutaa, hoofu na geemu).
- Compatibility with Pyuuta game cartridges (pyuuta no geemu kaatorijji to kyootsuu).
- Can use [it] right away via home TV set (kateiyoo TV de sugu tsukaeru).
- This price at this functionality, a complete set out of the box (kono kinoo de, kono kakaku, shikamo isshiki soroi).
So, [at] 10 times the fun, [the] Pyuuta Jr. is a boy genius! (Dakara, tanoshisa 10 bai Pyuuta Jr. wa, tensai boi!)
One of the side panels, advertising the unit for "GAME AND GRAPHIC." I like the kabuki image. Click the thumbnail for a larger view (57K).
Everything in the Pyuuta Jr. box, including its manual and its own set of joy controllers. Click the thumbnail for a larger view (93K).
The Data Recorder Interface, sold separately, plugs into the cartridge port and has a female? (probably) connector for a Data Recorder so you can save the pictures you created in GRAPHIC mode. This picture is off the box, because I've never seen one in the flesh.
Front controller port and power switch. Click the thumbnail for a larger view (22K).
Back view, showing the single RF jack and no other ports (except the wall socket plug). Click the thumbnail for a larger view (15K).
The underside of the Jr. Click the thumbnail for a larger view (52K), or zoom in on the label (15K).
Remove the screws and take the back cover off, giving us access to ...
... the interior of the unit. Do this carefully so as not to avulse the black ribbon cable to the keypad from the mainboard; if you're careful and deliberate, you can separate the two halves easily and separate them out side by side without having to disconnect any cables. Click the thumbnail for a larger view (69K).
A closeup of the mainboard revealing the major items. The red arrow indicates the 9918ANL, which is not heat-sinked in the Jr.; blue indicates the 9995NL, white the power connectors (here is a view of the power supply [31K]), and cyan the SN76489AN chip, which is physically separated from the CLA on the Junior. The single firmware chip is indicated by purple.
Click the thumbnail for a larger view (77K).
Like the later Pyuuta Mk II, there is no composite video or audio -- it's RF, or nothing. Fortunately, it's very easy to tap the modulator for signals: look at how you can composite-mod your Pyuuta Jr.
The front cover of the manual (95K).
In the front of the manual is a colour insert showing off the Junior's graphics and functional capabilities, including this picture of a complete system (not really, it's missing the tape recorder interface for the cartridge port; more on this in a moment -- 78K). This must have been a photograph of a production prototype or mockup because the front panel is different ("Pyuuta Jr" where the TP# is on my unit). Also note the different manual cover.
One of the more startling images in the front insert is this one where the apparently underexplored ecchi-Graphics feature ("[for] a romantic night," says the Japanese; red circle mine) is depicted in more detail. ^_^;; No, it really is in the manual -- I'm not kidding! I guess this computer is good for making more babies as well as amusing the ones you have. (Can Daddy and Mommy borrow the computer tonight?)
Scan of the page showing peripheral options in the manual (15K). Unlike the Pyuuta, the Jr. doesn't seem to have had large aspirations for its functionality; you couldn't even connect up a full keyboard. Also note the tape recorder interface cartridge, which furnishes the port needed for connecting a tape recorder. This doesn't seem to have additional software in it for actually driving the tape interface, however (see below) -- it's probably just the port and some glue logic.
This amusing table was Tomy's way of rectifying the fact that, because the Pyuuta Jr. has no katakana characters in its system ROM (English only), the original Japanese-only Pyuuta cartridges will appear garbled just like on an American Tutor! The table is part of a colour catalogue in the back of the manual showing off the entire line of Pyuuta cartridges.
As mentioned, the Junior is 100% in English. This is great for us in the USA, but can't have made it very approachable to its target audience in Japan even with the simplistic vocabulary it uses. As a result, the manual spends an inordinate amount of time explaining what the English prompts mean (and got many of them wrong, culminating in a copious errata card and even more potential confusion).
The title screen. Note how it's sort of midway between the Tomy Tutor (and Pyuuta Mk II)'s title screen and the original Pyuuta's.
The firmware version (v2.2) indicates that the Pyuuta Jr. preceded the Tomy Tutor, which is v2.3.
The menu. Very similar to the Tomy Tutor's, but it substitutes ENT for RT, for obvious reasons. Naturally, there is no BASIC.
Graphics mode. The Jr.'s interface makes efficient use of the few keys present. The left/right diamond keys change the character that the 1 key will place on the rocket cursor position, allowing access to the entire character set, while ENTER copies the current 8x8 pattern to the screen. The 2 key flips the current cell horizontally.
The PALLET key enables cell edit mode. In this mode, a flashing border indicates the current colour, selected by the left/right diamond keys. The cursor keys move the rocket cursor around, while ENTER drops the current colour at the present cursor position. The "2 COLORS/LINE" restriction is, of course, ubiquitous.
In sprite mode, the ENTER key advances from sprite to sprite, while the 1 key copies entire sprites, and 2 mirrors them. The 1 key acts very logically; whichever sprite is active changes whatever sprite it's touching when pressed.
The PALLET key allows jumping from portion to portion; i.e., once a sprite is selected, PALLET -> edit "A" portion -> PALLET -> PALLET -> edit "B" portion -> PALLET -> PALLET -> edit "C" portion -> etc. The diamond keys operate the actual colour selection as usual, and ENTER and the cursor keys handle the editing.
The Jr.'s MONitor is "point and shoot" (which is a far cry from the cryptic commands of the Tomy Tutor and the Pyuuta); just move with the left/right cursor keys (not the diamonds) to the command you want, and press ENTER.
I know I'm easily wowed, but this was the feature that I was most impressed with about the Jr. Why did Tomy drop this for the Tutor and Mk II?
The MONitor seems to already know how to control the cassette recorder, which is why I submit there is no extra firmware in the tape interface: if you try to SAVE or LOAD, the machine looks like it's doing something although it inevitably winds up halting waiting for the tape drive which, of course, isn't connected. This was the only glaring glitch I found in the Jr.'s software (really, it ought to be able to compensate for that).
Just to show you how well the keypad works, no problem getting Hyperspace running -- all the keys you need are there ...
... well, almost. (Press ENTER instead.)