DIY Sega Mega Drive Dev Kit Circa 1990
The Sega Mega Drive (AKA the Genesis in North America) was an amazing console in the late 1980s and early 1990s, giving us classic games like Sonic the Hedgehog, Columns, and many more. As such, many kids and young adults wanted to create their own games for this excellent hardware, including then ~20-year-old Tore Nestenius.
Like most would-be console game programmers of the day, Nestenius had neither the proper hardware to program on such a machine, or the money to purchase what was needed. Unlike others, however, he didn’t let this stop him and created his own Mega Drive hardware dev kit from scratch.
As you can imagine, making such a device was quite a journey, especially since there wasn’t Amazon/eBay/AliExpress et al from which to source parts – much less a functioning Internet for hardware and software questions. Nestenius, though, had a good amount of familiarity with the Mega Drive’s main Motorola MC68000 CPU, along with a lesser amount of experience with its Z90 co-processor.
Additionally, skills gained from low-level assembly programming for the demo scene on the Atari ST provided experience with assembly. These skills combined allowed him to create a working dev kit that could program a simulated game cartridge with an Atari ST computer.
Hardware was prototyped using wire-wrapping, and even without the quick-turn board houses we take for granted today, he was able to make several PCBs for the setup. It’s a truly epic project, which he successfully used to write simple applications and run them on the Mega Drive.
But no games were written with this hardware, as Nestenius started his university studies, and simply didn’t have the time. That being said, he learned a massive amount while pursuing the project, which certainly helped as he moved on to other computer related pursuits.