Today I Learned – Amstrad Mega PC

As someone in their very early thirties I grew up in the 16-Bit gaming era, put simply the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) and Super Nintendo (Famicom). Our home had the Mega Drive and over it’s time we had a collection of somewhere between 20 and 30 games – I still enjoy playing these and will blog more about this shortly.

So, today I learned that when the Mega Drive was at it’s peak and personal computers were making an increasing appearance into homes in 1993 that Amstrad released the “Amstrad Mega PC” in Europe and Australian markets. Yes, this is what you think – it’s a PC that could play Sega Mega Drive games.

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Game cartridges were inserted into the front of the console.

The retail price at launch didn’t come cheap at one penny away from a thousand pounds, later reducing to around the six hundred mark. Unfortunately due to the high price and also that the processor included was outdated the success of the Mega PC was short lived.

How did it work? Basically it was simply a desktop computer with Mega Drive hardware bundled inside, a slide switch on the front allowed for switching between the Mega Drive and PC modes – the PC side didn’t emulate or interact at all with the Mega Drive side, my assumption here would be that Sega at the time may have had strong piracy concerns.

The Mega PC featured two standard Mega Drive controller ports on the front similar to that of the standalone console, bundled with the package was an Amstrad branded gaming controller with internals replicating the Sega controller allowing the Mega PC controllers to be cross compatible with the native console and it’s controllers.

The display for both the PC and Mega Drive came through a single VGA port on the rear which required a multisync monitor – like the Mega PC these are increasingly rare and hard to come by these days. The PC side of the Mega PC will display fine on a VGA monitor but the Mega Drive side wont, and vice versa using a SCART connection to a TV.

Note, the Amstrad Mega PC was a successor to the Sega TeraDrive, a similar concept offered by Sega in 1991 only to the Japanese market which was very unsuccessful.

Read more about the Amstrad Mega PC on Wikipedia.

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