Saturday 26 July 2008

Terebi Oekaki

The Sega Graphic Board.

This article discusses one of the more interesting and obscure early Sega accessories. It is both hardware and software in one. The Sega Graphic board was only released in Japan and came out 1 year before the Master System. As it’s colour suggests the graphic board was designed for use with the Sega Mark III console. It was also backwards compatible with the SC-3000 and SG-1000. The Japanese retail price was 8800 yen.

The board itself is a rather compact 23cm x 14cm and just 1.2cm thick. At 10.8cm x 8cm the transparent drawing area is, to be honest, disappointingly small (almost exactly the same size as a game cartridge). There is just one button on the board itself, located in the top left corner, which acts as a start/ select button. You can also use a control pad for selecting from the tool and colour menu’s.

The cable that links the board to the cartridge is also a bit of a negative point; it is a rather restrictive 55cm in length, meaning you have to be positioned quite close to the console to use it. Which would be more suited to a PC accessory than a console.

The Sega embossed stylus (pen) that comes with the set does the job as expected. Its rather blunt tip is accurate enough to use with this limited standard of software.

When first using the Graphic Board it is easy to assume the system is faulty as you have to press on to the, quite fragile looking, drawing area with a fair amount of force. Otherwise you get rather erratic/ random results.

Once you get used to using the required amount of pressure and remembering to lift of the button when moving the stylus to another area the enjoyment factor takes over!

As this is intended to be for entertainment use only, having fun with it is obviously a key factor. It’s important to remember this isn’t a tool for creating advanced projects like you would on a PC. So whilst the options available are limited you have everything you need to make fun pictures.

There are options for 3 different line widths and an erase tool. There are 15 colours to choose from, these can also be used to fill the whole background. Lastly there is a mirror option that doubles everything you draw into a mirror image. Have a look at my 3 attempts using the Graphic Board below. The first picture was my first proper go, as you can see it looks rather pathetic!

In this next picture I attempted to use the tracing feature of the board by copying a G-Loc game box. The vertical misplaced lines near the top of the image are where I forgot to lift off the button when moving the stylus to another area.

My third picture was much more successful as I had got use to the functionality of the board. I traced a DVD box cover but had some difficulty with Rupert’s face, I’m not sure whether this was my board being a bit faulty or it just got confused with a lot going on in a small area.

I really like this accessory and feel it’s a shame the Graphic board never made it outside Japan. Although this early Ariolasoft brochure from Germany suggests it nearly did.

To strengthen the theory that it had a planned western release the Graphic Board in this picture differs slightly from the Japanese release. It has a ‘key’ showing the meanings of the abbreviated two letter menu commands. Presumably our inferior western intellect required this. Had the picture included the attached cartridge this would have shown how far this prototype (?) had got.

Perhaps one reason it never happened was how the Board connects to the to the cartridge and not the controller port, which effectively kills the units potential for more software releases.

This really is a must for any collector with a Japanese Master System (or earlier compatible system). Expect to pay around £30 - £45 but no more (unless you happen to find the European version!!). Great fun to use and a relatively rare item to own.


gnome said...

I never knew this beauty existed. Probably rarer than them Sega home computers, right?

James Costello said...

I guess it is rarer than an SC3000 but I don't like to use the word 'rare' too much, you just need to look in the right places. I would guess most of the time you could get a Sega Graphic Board on the japanese Yahoo auctions.