Thursday, October 7, 2010

Modding my Megadrive

Nothing impresses sexy women more than being able to explain in precise detail how you can physically modify a PAL Megadrive motherboard, via only six wires and a couple of double throw pole switches (and trust me, girls LOVE double throw poles!) to clock that 16-bit beast in at the optimal 60 hertz (which is 17.5% faster than the default 50 hertz) when run through an RGB SCART cable on a compatible television, while also being able to flick between the English and Japanese language options. Because sometimes you just want indulge in the old BARE KNUCKLE technique, am I right?

Oh, wait, I was lying. The nerdy pursuit of altering electronic circuit boards is probably the least attractive thing a guy can do – but who cares when you have such pixel perfect beauty on your CRT TVs. In truth, retro console modding is a dying art, especially since retro consoles look hideous on modern TVs, and this MD represent my last venture.

I’ve been away from both the blog and the Games of the World section on the main website for what seems like weeks if not months, mainly because I’m trying to sell off as much of my collection as possible and get things in order for... a cataclysmic life changing decision next year. Well, I’m moving house at least, and I want my entire life to fit into 3 boxes maximum. HG101 overlord DA recently moved, and anyone with a big collection will confirm, it’s not easy.

The MD came with a Sega CD unit, and to increase sales value I decided to mod it. Although the Sega CD unit can only play PAL games, you can rip NTSC games, patch them, reburn them onto CDR, boot them on a PAL system in 50Hz, then flick a switch to force them to run in 60Hz as they were originally meant to. I did this with my MD2 and SCD2 for a long time. Plus, with an RGB SCART cable, there is absolutely no better way of getting a super crisp image.

Unfortunately the MD unit was in fairly bad condition to begin with. It had a massive crack on the outer shell, and when I opened it I found the RF shielding had been several warped – I’d bought it second hand over a decade ago, along with the SCD unit and games, for about $20, and my belief is that the previous owner fell on it, cracking the case and squishing the shielding.

Unfortunately opening I found that the tabs holding the power switch in place were broken, which is why the switch had a tendency to stick. It promptly fell out, forcing me to create a makeshift replacement out of a wooden clothes peg (I tried gluing the switch back in place, but the superglue leaked out and nearly fused with the electric box itself). Worsening the state of the system was that after I’d cut a hole for a flick switch, I used glue to hold it in place, except it leaked inside fusing it shut. So a useless switch. I had intended to use only one pole switch, but now needed two, and since the unit was so fugly already, I put them in plain view to give the whole thing a kind of Steel Battalion vibe, with switches, nobs and dials all over the place.

The soldering went smoothly enough, but I lacked a SCART cable. So I went to a local French store and traded a copy of Tail Concerto on PS1 for a French SCART cable. Its Sega reference was Model 3085 and it came with a massive black box in the middle, which I found odd. And it didn’t work. I had sound but no picture. So I took it back and got another one. Same problem again. Look at it, I wondered if the Black Box was somehow the problem. So I popped it open, and the 8-pin DIN plug, and checked the cables. I then decided to severe the cables in the box and re-attach them to each manually. This was fun, since the Red, Green and Blue signal carriers on the 8-pin DIN side were coloured Green, Orange and Red, whereas those on the SCART were coloured correctly, so I had to repeatedly tell myself: caps to the legs, legs to the dynamite. Good thing I watch TV, huh?

This worked, miraculously, except the screen was over-exposed, which I then realised was because in most normal MD1 SCART cables, there are resistors to reduce the energy from R, G and B signal wires, which were now missing. Which I feared would blow my TV up. Diagrams for an MD1 SCART cable can be found HERE.

I then did some googling and found this topic on Digital Press.

The Digital press website has of course moved since I found that topic, and using google to search it directly yields nothing, so I hope the above Google cache works, since it documents someone else’s solution to my problem.

This is what Dzerp discovered regarding said 3085 Sega cable.

“So here is what needs to be done if anyone else has the same problem with a Model 3085 Sega RGB cable. Cut the (+) connector one the left side of the board and connect it to the SINC on the other side (also cut). And presto. Have a really nice RGB picture.”


I had spent an entire evening rewiring the thing because I was too lazy to walk to my computer and search the net. And what I ended up with was a broken, semi-functioning cable, when a simple, single wire snip and resolder would have fixed the problem.

Well, I didn’t feel like buying another cable. And the machine was so goddamned ugly I didn’t think I could sell it anyway anymore. So I gave it to the guy at my local French store. For free. I also traded in the SCD unit for 30 Euro store credit, which I intend to put towards Vanquish.

And with that, my entire 16-bit and earlier collection is no more! All I have is my Saturn, N64, 3DO, CD-I, and modded Xboxs. Plus my PS3.

For anyone interested in doing this mod themselves, I recommend the Mmmonkey website.

Direct link to the MD mod.


  1. Heheh, nice job. I recently got a Megadrive 2 (and an Everdrive) and I decided to add a 50/60Hz switch to it because the PAL crap was depressing me. I hadn't done any soldering in more than ten years but it all went perfectly and I had a blast. Modding consoles is satisfying and manly as hell.
    I hope you had fun too ruining your console.

  2. Well, it functioned just fine in the end, it was just ugly and hence had little to no resale value.

  3. Man, there's hardcore, and then there's HARDCORE. Aces.

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  5. If I had to get all of my games to fit into three boxes I think my CD-i would be the first thing I'd get rid of. No wait, third. My Menacer and Super Scope are bigger wastes of space.

    Edit: Maybe I should get rid of everything and just buy three Game Boats!

  6. I used to have the same problem with that 3085 "Adapteur RVB" cable. It had sound, but the picture was all grey.
    I desoldered the (+) and SINC cables inside the black box, and connected them. After i did that and turned on my MD1 the screen was now black and all i could hear from the TV and front audio jack was a buzzing sound.
    I undind the modification(resoldered + and SINC to their places inside the box), and now the screen was all grey but no sound :(
    I tried the system on a friend which had a TV set that worked with the cable before i modified it. It did not worked.
    There's a huge chance of the system being fucked up. I tried all my carts on it and the same thing happens. Also the RESET button does nothing now.
    I forgot to mention that i have basic soldering experience(this was actually the first circuit board i soldered on).

  7. That has to be the best looking MD I've ever seen, love it :-)

  8. Man, those things were built like concrete. Great work. I always wanted to MOD a console but I have always chickened out.