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A Brief Tour Of Sega Hardware History

Sega DreamcastSega may be best known for its home consoles Genesis and Dreamcast, but there's much more to the company's hardware history.  From its earliest creations to its unrealized post-Dreamcast plans, the passionate engineers at Sega in its heyday were driven to create the best.  Over at Shmuplations you'll find a translated interview from 1998 with Hideki Sato in which he outlines Sega hardware from the SG-1000 and its upgrades to the “INTELLIGENT TERMINAL HIGH GRADE MULTIPURPOSE USE” of the Genesis to the unrealized Sega Jupiter console and beyond.  It's interesting stuff and a unique look behind the curtain.  Here's a bit of Sato discussing Sega's 16-bit Mega Modem add-on:

The Mega Modem was our response to the recent developments in networking technology. At the time, PC networking was just starting to gather popularity. The baud rate then was 1200 bps. We used that rate for competitive baseball, mahjong, and similar games, but the level of technology made it rough. Moreover, we made very little money off the Mega Modem, so even at Sega, hardly anyone understood it. But from that experience we learned that networking capabilities had a lot of potential, and we resolved to include them in our next console. Sega was an “arcade game culture” company, you see, so we were always quick to get back on our feet. (laughs) In the arcade industry, just sitting back and waiting for the technology to ripen was never an option.

It's bittersweet to see Sato looking ahead to Sega's plans for beyond the Dreamcast that were never realized such as faster modems and wireless controllers.  Engineering the Dreamcast's dial-up modem as an upgradable component drove up the cost of the console, but the machine didn't last long enough in the market to see the benefit of that design decision.  For better or for worse, the future of the gaming business was tied up in the sleek image that the Sony PlayStation 2 was set to deliver.  While the PS2 would eventually support networking capabilities and modern consoles include built-in Wi-Fi, the Dreamcast's modular modem was ahead of its time in a way that, at the time, just didn't matter to the marketplace.