The historic obscurity of the SEGA SC-3000 Personal Computer System

This post becomes part of a series on the retro SEGA SC-3000 computer. In the next part I will provide an introduction to writing BASIC on this device. In the tail end we will make an easy shoot-em-up video game and persist it to audio cassette.It was an otherwise

average hot summer seasons night in Melbourne, Australia when I heard a"knock, knock" at the door.I saw my neighbour standing in front of me with a large plastic bag in his hand. Upon closer inspection, I could see the plastic bag appeared to contain a stack of old video games and various peripherals. My eyes illuminated a bit however I aimed to hold my excitement.He went on to inform me that he was doing some demolition work in a deserted home in the outer suburbs when he 'd come across an"old computer system or something ". He knew I was into that type of thing so he asked if I desired it.Did I desire it ?! Hell yes, I did.

I've always been a huge fan of retro computer gear. Finding something lke that in a deserted house is like treasure to me!"OK, compose yourself Andrew", I thought to myself.I ran inside and got a ~$300 bottle of Dom Pérignon that I 'd been offered when I started my last job. After some convincing, he took the bottle and we called it a reasonable trade.Better than expected When I got in and cleared the contents of the plastic

bag on my loungeroom floor, I saw it was a lot more than I 'd at first understood. In the bag there was a retro minicomputer, some RF cables, an Air Conditioner adapter, 5 software application cartridges, a joystick and a game pad. All boxed and in near mint condition. It resembled a time pill from simpler times.Wait, a SEGA computer?One thing that truly stuck out to me was the logo design on each of the games and the computer system itself: SEGA.

Given that when did SEGA make house computers?When I was a youngster, the first computer game console I 'd owned was a

SEGA Master System(or Mark III in

Japan). It was a great little system with an excellent brochure of games developed for it. What I did not understand, nevertheless, was that before the Genesis, prior to the Saturn as well as before the Master System- SEGA launched a personal computer called the.Amazing ... However there was likewise something else that stood out. The machines full name was the"John Sands SEGA SC-3000H Personal Computer System". For those who are not conscious, John Sands is an Australian provider of

welcoming cards and gift wrap. Just have a look at their site-it doesn't look similar to a computer system supplier, does it? Well, sure enough, in the early 80's John Sands

truly did go into the new home computer system market when they assisted SEGA distribute this machine and a video game equivalent called the.Mind blown ... OK, gim me 'the nitty gritty information The reason you've most likely never become aware of this maker is since the SEGA SC-3000 was released in just a couple of markets: Japan, Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy and Finland.It did not fare especially well in Europe however saw some small success in Japan and Australia/NZ. Infact

, the SC-3000 represents SEGAs initially and last foray into the personal computer market. And although the SC-3000 was marketed as a tool mostly for home based business and instructional usage, it was apparently just ever utilized to play video games. What a surprise ... The machine was launched in two models: The SC-3000(with rubberized secrets)and the SC-3000H which boasts a totally mechanical keyboard (and a pretty great one, I should state!). Each market seems to have actually got it's own colour variant, likewise. All the John Sands Australian models are black. Apparently the white models are the rarest.On the back there is a power switch, a DC-in, composite video port, printer port, audio cassette in/out ports (I'll go over those a bit more later)and an RF connector port for plugging into your television.On one side there is a large area to put software cartridges. On the other there is two standard joystick ports.On the within there is an 8-bit NEC D780C-1 CPU running at 4 MHz. I think it equals

to the more well known Z80 CPU that saw huge use during the 80s in scientific calculators and lots of arcade machines.Embedded in the machine is simply a meager 2Kb of RAM. In addition to 16Kb of VRAM attended to the video display processor(a

Texas Instruments TMS9929A). Possibly a surprise to some individuals, however the software application cartridges in fact offered their own RAM (anywhere from 1Kb up to 32Kb ). While a game was running, it would check out and write through the RAM on it's own cartridge. Unfortunately that implies conserving your game progress and coming back later was simply out of the question!And how about the software?The SEGA SC-3000 has no operating system. In fact, if you turn it on without a cartridge stuffed in the side of it you will get just a blank screen of nothingness.As I mentioned previously, the main method of distributing software was via cartridge. The SC-3000 cartridge slot was likewise suitable with video games for the earlier and the SEGA"my card "format.I discovered out the hard method that these cartridges tend to get filthy( even when left in their box)therefore I spent rather a long time cleaning them with cotton swab before I had the ability to get each to work. It was very classic to sit in my living room blowing into cartridges and wiggling them around.

It certainly brought back memories of my childhood!I believe there was less than 100 formally released video games for the SC-3000/ SG-1000 systems, which I can just assume means they are most likely quite uncommon nowadays. Although, somewhat remarkably, there is a group of fans who have actually offered a lot of the tapes dumps as uncompressed audio files on over at the< a href = > SC-3000 Survivors site. This indicates you can actually play many lost SEGA games on this retro machine via the Web. Wow!How do I hack on this thing?Like lots of personal computer of the

time, the SC-3000 was meant to be configured through the programs language. From my research study, it appears to me that all designs were offered with a BASIC cartridge. There were a couple of different BASIC cartridges readily available, the difference depending on the amount of RAM available. The most"standard"release had simply 1Kb (which 512 bytes were takenby the STANDARD runtime itself). The other releases has 16Kb and 32Kb, respectively. Numerous adverts of the SC-3000 at the time took pride in 48Kb of RAM -however this would just hold true if you also bought the most costly BASIC cartridge!The SC-3000 also allowed for one reasonably fascinating methods of I/O in conjunction with the BASIC cartridge -through requirement audio cassettes. The software application was written to the tape bit-by-bit, each taking simply under 1ms(833.3 μs)to tape-record. This led to roughly 6.8 seconds of audio per kilobyte of information. So reading a 16Kb video game from cassette and onto the memory on the BASIC cartridge would take almost 2 minutes ... As soon as your cassette player had been plugged into the SC-3000 by means of 3.5 mm audio cable television, it could be checked out into memory and performed really merely: What's next?Hacking, of course. However for that we will have to wait till the next post.