Amstrad Mega PC

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Amstrad Mega PC
Close up of the front of the unit
Manufacturer Amstrad (licensed by Sega)
Type Video game console / Personal computer
Generation Fourth generation (16-bit era)
Retail availability Europe 1993
Australia 1993
Media Cartridge, Diskette
CPU 32-bit Intel 80386SX
Storage Hard Drive, Floppy Disk

The Mega PC was manufactured and released by Amstrad in 1993 under licence from Sega. It was similar, but unrelated to the Sega TeraDrive. Essentially just a standard Amstrad PC with Sega Mega Drive hardware bundled inside, the system was wired to share the dual-sync monitor and speakers, with the Mega Drive on a separate circuit board.[1]

Initially released in PAL areas such as Europe and Australia in 1993,[2] its success was very short-lived due to its very high retail price of £999.99 (later reduced to £599), with the CPU also being outdated by the time of the system's release. It is slightly easier to acquire an Amstrad Mega PC than the Sega TeraDrive system, due to more units being manufactured. However, in recent years both systems have become increasingly difficult to come by as they are often purchased as collector's items.

Technical specifications[edit]

Specifications
Processor Intel 80386SX @ 25 MHz
Motorola 68000 @ 7.14 MHz
Memory 1MB SIMM RAM (expandable to 16MB)
Storage 3.5" FDD, 40MB HDD
Video SVGA Graphics with 256KB RAM
Operating System MS-DOS 5.0 with Amstrad Desktop
Dimensions 325 mm(w) x 78 mm(h) x 292 mm(d)
Power Usage ~50W
Amstrad promoting the Mega PC

In general, the Mega PC was seen as a nicer build than Sega's TeraDrive, as the unit itself was more robust and managed air circulation more efficiently.[3] The Mega PC was IBM-compatible and had a Mega Drive ISA card, a Mega Drive Controller, Keyboard, Mouse, Monitor, Joystick and Internal Speakers.

Side view of the unit, showing the ISA card, spare slot and RAM positioning

The machine shipped with 1MB of RAM, provided by 4× 256KB 30-pin SIMM sticks. This was expandable to 16MB by using 4× 4MB memory modules.[4]

Although it boasted a higher specification than the Sega TeraDrive (having more RAM and a faster processor), the specification of the Mega PC's CPU was still a generation behind its time, with the newer Intel 80486 on the market and the first Pentium processors being released in the same year as the Mega PC. The system was unable to act as a Software Development Kit due to the inability to simultaneously use the PC and the Mega Drive hardware. A cover on the front of the unit prevented the insertion of a Mega Drive game cartridge while using the PC hardware.[5]

Input/Output[edit]

Close up of the rear of the unit, showing ports and their positions

The machine's rear houses several I/O ports. These include two serial ports, a 25-pin parallel port, a VGA port with combined signals for a standard VGA monitor and sound (Amstrad monitor only), a speaker/headphone jack, and a 15 pin game port for a joystick.

View of the ISA card inside the Mega PC, showing the free ISA slot

The motherboard includes a 16 bit ISA slot connected to a riser card, providing a total of two 16 bit ISA slots. One of these slots is populated with an ISA card which provides connections for sound at the rear of the machine and a connection for the Mega Drive cartridge at the front. The other slot was left free for expansion (such as the addition of a modem or Network Interface Card).[4]

Whereas the Sega TeraDrive includes stereo RCA jacks and composite NTSC video output for connection to a TV, the Mega PC lacks this feature, but it could still be connected to a PAL TV through SCART.[5] Outputs from both the PC and Mega Drive units are available from a shared VGA connector, but since video output from the Mega Drive is still 15 kHz RGB it works fine when connected to a TV using SCART. When using the PC hardware, only a Multisync or VGA monitor can be used as the unit outputs video at 31 kHz.[1]

Compatibility[edit]

The system shipped with an Amstrad branded controller which is internally identical to Sega's, allowing the controllers to be used on either system.

Peripherals[edit]

Amstrad bundled several peripherals with its Mega PC; these included:

  • Dual sync 15 kHz/31 kHz Amstrad branded 14" white monitor with internal speakers
  • Standard Mega Drive white control pad with Amstrad branding
  • Amstrad white joystick
  • Standard Amstrad keyboard and mouse using PS/2 interface

Mega Plus[edit]

Amstrad later released a second system as the successor to the Mega PC, by the name of the Amstrad Mega Plus. This boasted a slightly higher specification with an upgraded processor to an Cyrix Cx486SLC running at 33 MHz, along with a RAM upgrade of 4× 1MB SIMM modules to 4MB.[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Amstrad MegaPC @". Everything2.com. 2000-10-29. Retrieved 2010-05-30. 
  2. ^ "Sega Retro: Amstrad Mega PC". SegaRetro.org. Archived from the original on 2014-08-02. Retrieved 2015-02-19. 
  3. ^ "Assembler: Page 3 (via Archive.org)". Web.archive.org. 2008-05-23. Archived from the original on 2008-05-23. Retrieved 2010-05-30. 
  4. ^ a b "Amstrad Mega PC Service manual" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-05-30. 
  5. ^ a b "Assembler: Page 1 (via Archive.org)". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 2008-06-14. Retrieved 2010-05-30. 
  6. ^ "1000 BiT +- Computer's description". 1000bit.net. Retrieved 2010-05-30. 

External links[edit]