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Someone made his own Sega Mega Drive hardware dev kit from scratch


NeoGAFs Kent Brockman

About 30 years ago (when I was around 20) I wanted to develop games, like most developers dream of doing. However, I had one open question: which platform should I write it for? Of course I could do it on the Atari 1040 STE that I had at the time, but I wanted to aim higher and do something cooler and more challenging.

Eventually I was introduced to the Sega Mega Drive and I was instantly hooked, playing games like Sonic, Truxton, Revenge Of Shinobi and many other great games. The hardware and graphics were amazing, with its built-in hardware parallax scrolling support.

Eventually, I got the crazy idea that I wanted to develop games for this machine. But surely I would need some crazy expensive and hard-to-get hardware to do that? I had no official developer kit, no money to buy one, no documentation, just a Mega Drive.

So I thought, how hard can it be to build my own kit?

First some sanity checks

But wait? Was I crazy or what? Why did I think I would be able to pull this off?

  • The Sega Mega Drive is based around the Motorola MC68000 CPU, a CPU that I was very familiar with on the lowest chip level. It also has a separate Z80 co-processor for audio and other tasks that I was slightly familiar with.
  • I was very familiar with the MC68000 assembly language, after many years of low-level assembly demo-programming on the Atari ST home computer. I am one of the original members of SYNC, an Atari ST demo group in Sweden. You can read more about SYNC here and here, and we sure did some quite crazy things on the Atari ST back in the day.

I had tinkered and played with electronics and built small computers for a long time – here are some of the random projects from back in the day. However, I don’t remember what they do 🙂

How to approach the challenge?

My goal was to design and build a kit that, without modifying the Sega Mega Drive, would allow me to “simulate” a game cartridge using static ram memory. The kit would then be connected to my Atari ST computer where I would be doing the actual programming.

Check the link for all the details.


aka IMurRIVAL69
People permanently working from home/ not really traveling is gonna lead to a lot of weird tinkering shit like this in the next few years.
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