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An evening with the SG-1000

Had long wanted to verify the operation of some cartridges ordered in Japan, a month ago, for my beautiful SEGA SG-1000 Mark II, and finally I was able to arrange.
The precarious situation of my bolognese camp didn't assisted me. In fact, here I haven't a decent TV to connect devices like this, very special and exotic, and I resorted to an old portable LCD TV that I had from my house, in deep southern Italy…
In addition to the small TV I proceeded to pack a AC/AC converter, that allows to plug devices operating at 110V on Italian's mains, within a certain power limit.
The tolerance of this transformer widely covers requests for ballasts designed for computers, consoles and small appliances in general.

The mini TV that I brought with me, can display different TV standards, including PAL, NTSC and SECAM. After entering the first cartridge into the console, I proceeded to switch power on and I started the automatic channel search. After three rounds for the various bands covered by the tuner (actually took only the UHF) and about 5 minutes of spasmodic wait… nothingness! Continue Reading

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Sega SC-3000

After years of unbridled desire and extensive research on markets and online auctions, I finally filled a big gap in my collection (and in retro-collector affections of mines), getting myself a Sega SC-3000, although it shows with a different brand. Yeno was a French company that handled the distribution of the SC-3000 on its territory, a deal with Sega to sell computers under its own brand, reserving the name of the original manufacturer to the upper right corner of the case, labeled white “Manufactured by Sega”.

The Yeno SC-3000 is in all respects identical to the Sega design, with the exception of a very good quality RGB video output , thanks to an additional card installed inside the case, mounted in piggyback mode, and connected to different pins, with obscene flying cables, to the motherboard.
The R/F module originally present in almost all manufacturer's machines, is absent in all specimens distributed by Yeno on French soil, which show a sort of rubber cap in place of the R/F output. Continue Reading

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Misadventures of a collector

Not everything turns out as it should. Lately, this thought often occurs in my head, due to misunderstandings, and vicissitudes that always ruin that little planning I do in my life.
Sometimes it happens that, while spending twice as much as a standard shipping, one of the most reputable carriers in the world delivers a parcel under more than “bad conditions”.
That kind of package, regardless of the carrier, is always opened with some anxiety, Fearing the worst.

So far I've always gone well, but this time it has happened, against a payment of over 40 euro, DHL delivered a package (actually done very badly) a bit’ dented, as already happened in the past.

This time, optimism induced by the many fears always proved unfounded, I opened the package without the usual anxiety.
Just this time, instead, Ironically, I'd have done right to worry. 🙂 Continue Reading

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Sega Dreamcast

In very exceptional way, having regard to the temporal focus of this blog (and my collection), I am going to write about a fairly recent console, contemporary to the Nintendo GameCube and Sony Playstation2, that was the last wonder produced by Sega factories, the swan song of the hardware division of this legendary company: the Dreamcast.

Despite my unbridled passion for video games and machinery such as consoles and computers, at the time of its life cycle, this extraordinary and innovative object has passed virtually unnoticed in my eyes.
When it was launched in Japan, in 1998, there wasn't a large spread of the Internet, the Web, forums and blogs, but I was used to read a lot of videogames press, which didn't dedicate any attention to this console.

There are many schools of thought, with several different theories, which debate for years about why and how a such concentration of refined technological power has failed to spread to the general public.

The main one among these claims that Sega, already hardly hit by the previous console failure – the Saturn – was a step away from bankruptcy, and served with a so small budget that forced to make a drastic choice between technological development of the console, and the massive advertising campaign that has always characterized this brand.
Continue Reading

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Mattel Electronics ECS

Before acquiring the Aquarius project from Eastern Radofin, Mattel Electronics tried to offer a cheap alternative to the original project, named Keyboard Component, proved too ambitious (and expensive) compared to competing products, aimed to the emerging market of home computing. So it was that a very interesting object came to life, named ECS: Entertainment Computer System.

ECS was a form of expansion of the famous Intellivision. It was connected to the console as if it were a (enormous) game cartridge. Once connected, it was perfectly joined to the main console case, looking as a natural extension of the original hardware.

The module, called Computer Adaptor, included 2KB of memory, expandable up to 16KB, a ROM built-in BASIC interpreter, a second chip dedicated to sound, able to add 3 audio channels, a port for connecting a datassette (standard type of recorders) or to connect a thermal printer, also used for home computer Aquarius.
The Computer Adaptor was also equipped with two front connectors, protected by a snap closure flap, able to connect or the computer keyboard or the musical (Music Synthesizer), or two additional game controllers, that, in the original plans, should have allowed 4 people to play simultaneously. Continue Reading

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Mattel Electronics Intellivision

Following the success of Atari, undisputed forerunner of the video games home market, in the late 70s, Mattel (well known for the Barbie) inaugurates the Electronics Division, author of the console that was the first real rival of Atari 2600: The Intellivision.

Mattel Electronics Intellivision

In late 1979 system testing was completed, and Intellivision was released starting from 1980. The configuration was not just stuff. In fact it was the first home entertainment system with a heart at 16 bit!
The microprocessor inside the console, was a General Instrument CP1610 at 895 KHz (less than a MHz!!), which was backed by 1352 bytes in RAM (little more than A Kilobyte!!), a dedicated graphics chip, called STIC (who had 1KB of dedicated RAM), able to operate at 160 x 196 with 16 colors and 8 sprites, while the sound, managed by a General Instrument AY-3-8914, was capable of 3 channels + 1 for white noise, in mono.
The ROM, large about 7KB, contained the graphics routines (GROM) and the heart of the system: a true microkernel called EXEC. Continue Reading