Availability: July 15, 1983
Cost: ¥15,000 ($356.61 USD in today’s dollars)
When most people think about SEGA today they associate it with being a Japanese company, and having been a major player in the home video game console market. SEGA’s roots actually date back to 1940 as an American company founded by Raymond Lemaire and Richard Stewert in Honolulu, Hawaii. The initial name of the company was Service Games, and they developed and distributed coin-operated amusement style games including jukeboxes and slot machines. In 1951 both Raymond and Richard decided to to move Service Games operations to Japan.
Service Games would eventually merge with a competing company called Rosen Enterprises in Japan, founded also by an American. Once both companies merged the name was shorted to SEGA (SErvice GAmes).
SEGA had success leading up to the early 1980’s in the arcades with very popular arcade games including Frogger and Zaxxon. SEGA saw how popular the home console market was in North America with the Atari VCS (Atari 2600), and how successful Nintendo was in Japan with their Nintendo line of TV Color systems (Pong clones). So in 1981 SEGA test marketed their first entry into the home console market with the SG-1000. The SG-1000 was released on July 15, 1983 in Japan and retailed for ¥15,000 (this was the same release day as Nintendo’s Famicom system as well).
The SG-1000 sold moderately well in Japan until 1985, but ultimately couldn’t compete with the Nintendo Famicom. The SG-1000 was eventually replaced by the SEGA Mark III on October 20, 1985. The Mark III was re-branded as the SEGA Master System in most other parts of the world.
The SG-1000 was never released officially in North America, but was re-branded and available in other parts of the world. Most notably in New Zealand as the Grandstand Leisure Limited, in Australia by John Sands, and was also available in Italy, Spain and South Africa. In Taiwan the SG-1000 sold very well and is still considered and remembered as a significant console.
It wasn’t until 1986 that Bit Corp’s Dina 2-in-1 ColecoVision clone was brought to North America by Telegames through mail order. The Dina 2-in-1 was able to play SG-1000 games in addition to ColecoVision games.
There are two models of the SG-1000 that were released. The first model which is also the hardest to find today, is simple in design. It is white in color, has a red pause button on the bottom right corner of the console and has a hardwired joystick style controller.
The second model known as the SG-1000 Mark II is more boxy in design. There is a yellow pause button below the cartridge slot, a on/off switch in the front bottom right corner of the console and like the first model, is connected to the TV through an RF cable. The controllers are now detachable through two nine pin controller ports. This nine pin controller port would be used by SEGA through the release of the Genesis/Mega Drive consoles.
The Mark II also has a connector port for several attachments and add ons. SEGA released the SK-1100 which was a keyboard attachment and compatible with software from SEGA’s SC-3000 computer line. SEGA also sold an accessory called the “Card Catcher”. The Card Catcher would enable the player to play SEGA’s “MY Card” software.
Probably the biggest difference between the SG-1000 and the SG-1000 Mark II are the controllers. The first model SG-1000 has a controller very similar in style to the Atari 5200 (minus the numbered buttons) and the ColecoVision. They have one long joystick and two reddish-orange action buttons on each side. The SG-1000 Mark II controllers are more similar in design to the Nintendo Famicom controller. Instead of a “D-pad”, it has a smaller more nubby joystick, and two action buttons.
In total 43 cartridge games were released for the SG-1000. There were also a number of My Card games that were compatible on the console through the special adapter. Some notable games for the SG-1000 include: Congo Bongo, Space Invaders and Zaxxon.
- 3.579545 MHz for NTSC, 3.546893 MHz for PAL
- Main RAM: 16 kbit (2 kB)
- Video RAM: 128 kbit (16 kB)
- 256×192 resolution
- 32 sprites
- 16 colors
- 4-channel mono sound
- 3 sound generators, 4 octaves each, 1 white noise generator
- 1 ROM cartridge
- 1 DIN composite video/audio (SC-3000 only)
- 1 RF out
- 1-2 joystick (1 port for SG-1000, 2 for SG-1000 II and SC-3000)
- 1 expansion parallel bus (used for SK-1100 keyboard and FM Sound Unit; (SK-1100)SG-1000 and SG-1000 II and Sega MarkIII / (FM Sound Unit)Sega MarkIII only )
- 1 cassette (SC-3000 and SK-1100 keyboard)
- 1 printer (SC-3000 and SK-1100 keyboard)
- The SEGA Mark III and Sega Master System are both backwards compatible to all SG-1000 games. So in other words if you own a Sega Master System in North America or Europe, you are able to play SG-1000 games on it.
- The SG-1000 is similar in specs and graphics to the ColecoVision.
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