Amstrad User Group
The Amstrad Mega PC.
The Mega is a computer from the Amstrad 7000-series, te be precise a variety based on the PC7386SX. The machine looks a lot like the other models, except for one major difference: the Mega is a hybrid. It is a mixture of an ordinary computer with an Intel 80386SX processor and a games console (licensed by Sega, compatible with the Sega Megadrive, in the United States of America also known as the Genesis) based on a Motorola 68000 processor. The latter is not on the main board but residing on an expansion card.
The function of the Mega is controlled by a slideable panel on the front of the system unit. With the panel to the left the machine functions as an 80386 running on 20 megahertz and (standard) 4 megabytes of memory, 3.5" disc drive and a 40 megabytes hard disc. Windows 3.1 and a few Amstrad programs come with the machine: nothing special compared to the other machines from the 7000-series (see, for instance, the PC7486SLC).
However, with the sliding panel to the right, two connections for Sega game-pads and a bay become visible. A few days before the HCC!dagen 2006 I was given one and during the HCC!dagen 2006 I was given two more original Amstrad gamepads. I do not have the original software and I only recently got the documentation for it. With the panel in this position, the Motorola takes over the control of the machine from the Intel processor and the system will only listen to the game-pads (the other controls are disabled). The bay is suitable for 16-bit Megadrive cartridges but, using an adaptor, you can also use 8-bits games in the Mega.
In fact both systems run simultaneously, but separated from each other, and are plug & play. You can remove, in Megadrive-mode, the game and the game pads without problems and then switch to PC-mode. And vice versa. The PS/2 connections also allow you to remove mouse and keyboard without the computer having to reboot to use these. Combined with the miniature system unit (a feature of the 7000-series) the Mega is an interesting solution for those cramped for space. Such a hybrid can, of course, be cause for domestic conflicts, about who is to use the machine in what mode!
In order to be able to function as a Sega games console the computer has been equipped with a special monitor, a dual-frequency one. This is not just an ordinary multi-synch monitor (if you can call a multi-sync ordinary to begin with!) that can handle different frequencies but a display that can handle VGA signals and the video signals produced by the Sega Megadrive. Both the display as well as the sound differ slightly from a normal Megadrive: at least so I have been told because I do not have experience with the game console(s). I think the quality of the display and sound from the Mega is nice.
The Amstrad Mega has hardly been sold in The Netherlands - it was manufactured in 1992 and, compared to other Amstrad's, relatively few were made. It is one of the few collectible computers from Amstrad in standard version, the way it was put on the market. The concept never became successful. There is also a similar Japanese hybrid computer/console that claims to have had more success but this is probably due to the fact that the Japanese competition packaged development software (to program Megadrive games) into their machine.
Besides the regular PS/2 connectors for mouse and keyboard on the bottom (customary with the 7000-series) the Mega also has the common Centronics parallel port, two serial COM ports and a 15-pins PC game-port.
Download the service manual of the Mega (1.876 kilobytes), in low resolution but readable.
Questions about the Mega PC via the contact form
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