Konix Multisystem

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Konix was a British computer peripheral company primarily known for making joysticks such as the distinctive Speed King during the 1980s. Although this was its primary business for years, its place in videogame folklore was cemented by its ambitious and ultimately ill-fated plans to release its own video game console, the Konix Multisystem.

Contents

Background

The Konix Multisystem began life in 1988 as an advanced Konix peripheral design intended to build on the success of the company's range of joysticks. The design, codenamed Slipstream, resembled a dashboard-style games controller, and could be configured with a steering wheel, a flight yoke, and motorbike handles. It promised advanced features such as force feedback, hitherto unheard of in home gaming.

However, it soon became apparent that the Slipstream project had the potential to be much more than a peripheral. Konix turned to their sister company Creative Devices Ltd, a computer hardware developer, to design a gaming computer to be put inside the controller to make it a stand-alone console in its own right. It was shortly after this development began that Konix founder and chairman Wyn Holloway came across a magazine article that described the work of a British group of computer hardware designers whose latest design was looking for a home.[1]

The article in question, published in issue 10 of ACE Magazine in July 1988, featured Flare Technology, a group of computer hardware designers who, having split from Sinclair, had built on their work on Sinclair's aborted Loki project to create a system known as Flare One.

Flare's prototype system was Z80 based but featured four custom chips to give it the power to compete with peers such as the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST. The 1MB machine (128k of ROM, 128k of video RAM, 768k of system RAM) promised graphics with 256 colours on-screen simultaneously, could handle 3 million pixels per second, output 8 channel stereo and had a blitter chip that allowed vertical and horizontal hardware scrolling.[2]

Flare were specifically aiming their machine at the gaming market, eschewing such features as 80 column text display (considered the requisite for business applications such as word processing) in favour of faster graphics handling. This meant that in spite of its modest 8-bit CPU the system compared well against the 16-bit machines in the market at the time. It could move sprites and block graphics faster than an Atari ST, and in 256 colours under conditions when the ST would only show 16 colours. It could also draw lines 3 times faster than an Amiga and even handle the maths of 3D models faster than the 32-bit Acorn Archimedes.

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