Super Nintendo Emulator SE
|This article does not cite any sources. (April 2007)|
The Super Nintendo Emulator SE was a Nintendo-sponsored game development system for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It was designed by Intelligent Systems, and sold only to licensed Nintendo development houses.
The device is in the form of a large, rectangular metal box, approximately 18 inches high, and 12 inches wide, and 13 inches deep. The box is painted grey, and bears the marking "Emulator SE" on the front in grey.
The device has two controller ports at the bottom that are standard Super Nintendo Controller ports. The rear of the device featured two 50-pin SCSI interface designed to connect to a PC running MS-DOS. One of these ports came with a terminator. The rear of the device also has a port labeled "Multi-Out", which is identical to the Multi-out port on a normal Super Nintendo.
Below that, it has an 8 position DIP switch. Because there is no known copy of the documentation of this machine, the function of the switches is unknown, although it is possible the switch is used to set the SCSI ID of the device.
The units bear five-digit serial numbers.
The units came in at least two and possibly more configurations with a song-compositing subsystem and a sprite-design subsystem as an option.
One configuration option adds a port labeled "MIDI" that contains a standard MIDI jack (though it's not known if the port is actually MIDI compliant), and a single RCA-Style connector in red. Investigation of the internal circuitry of the device suggests that this RCA jack is used to record sounds into the device for use in music composition.
Another configuration option adds a port called "Analog RGB", and presents a female DB-9 port. Internal circuitry again suggests that the port is an EGA port, though is probably closer in design to the ports used in Commodore 128 computer.
A look inside
Inside the unit, there is a backplane board mounted to the bottom of the case, that provides six interface slots that have the same number of pins and bus design as NuBus connectors. The most complicated unit known to date has four of these slots occupied. This same board also provides the unit with an expansion connector on the bottom of the case, identical to that of the SNES.
The inside the most complex unit consists of a main logic board, which has all the components of a Super Nintendo on it, including the SNES 65816 CPU, PPUs, and Work Ram. This board also has the SCSI controller and an NEC V20 processor, and additionally a 32k EPROM chip.
Examining the ROM chip at the Reset vector shows a JMP instruction outside the memory mapped location of the chip.
All known Emulator SE's also have a position on this board where a Standard SNES-RF Encoding Unit could be mounted, to provide an external RF port (identical to that of the Super Nintendo) just above the "Multi-Out" port, however no known specimens have this port installed.
This board also includes a connector for a standard Super Nintendo APU Module which is connected by wires to the next board up, which is the board which contains the MIDI and RCA connector. This audio board has many RAM chips, totaling 2 MB in size. The audio board also has many analog-to-digital converters. This board also has a 32k EPROM chip, but it is soldered to the board and could not be safely removed for investigation.
Above that board is the board that presents the RGB port. It connects only to the NuBus-style connector and has another significant amount of RAM on it.
Above that board is the cartridge board, which contains ram totaling 32 Mb worth or ram (4 MB), which was the maximum size cartridge the Super Nintendo could support without the use of special addressing chips. These RAM chips were all socketed. The board has a separate set of 8 chips that seem to be a storage area with a battery backup, perhaps similar to the battery backed up data on a Super Nintendo Cartridge.
This board also had three empty chip slots, and one nearby populated with a Nintendo DSP1 chip.
Another Emulator SE shows this board with only 16 Mb of memory installed, and no DSP1 chip.
All of the boards bear the designation "Intelligent Systems ICE". The acronym probably means "In-Circuit Emulator."
The device was designed to be used with several software applications designed for MSDOS that allowed you to program games for the Super Nintendo, compile them, and then upload them to the Emulator SE and run the game. The PC could then monitor the status of the game, and be used for debugging.
Unfortunately, no copy of the software to drive the Emulator SE is publicly available.
Without the software, powering the unit on illuminates the front light in red, and the unit outputs a black NTSC video signal, and an audio signal.
It is unknown how many of these units were produced. At least five units are in the hands of collectors, and the existence of an additional five is confirmed (the units have shown up on eBay or trading sites). Units have sold on eBay in the past in the range of $300 to $7,000,000.
- discussion on the old SNES9x board
- SNES Emulator SE worshipping thread
- SNES Emulator SE at d4s' homepage
- SNES Emulator SE at Shiggsy's Place