NEC PC Engine
The PC Engine is the first games console from NEC, and was a collaboration with the software company Hudsonsoft. They provided the medium called Hu Cards, and were responsible for much of the systems software output, well known characters such as PC Kid and Bomberman made their first appearance on the machine.
NEC provided the hardware and it is known for it's tiny size, but powerful performance, it was an 8 bit machine, but with a 16 bit bus and graphics chips, this meant it was a very good platform for shoot em up games, as it was able to move around many sprites at once.
It was named PC Engine, as this first unit was supposed to be the core of a much expandable system, the only part of this to see the light of day was the CD-Rom, released in 1989, this was to lead to the system producing cinematic games long before the likes of the Mega CD.
The CD-Rom unit ran off special Hu cards, called system cards, and several were produced, version 1.0 and 2 added more memory, 2.1 removed several software glitches, but the real revelation was version 3.0, or the Super CD card, this not only added more memory, it also allowed more colours, and effects such as scaling and rotation.
The arcade card was the last produced in 1994, it increased the memory much further, but also allowed the use of basic polygons, as can be seen in the game Sapphire.
Initially the machine suffered from the crushing competition of Nintendo's Famicom, but it's fortunes changed when Irem converted it's arcade game R-Type to the tiny console with stunning results, it looked and played very closely to it's arcade counterpart, and with some excellent software from Hudsonsoft, and impressive third party support from the likes of Sega, Capcom, and others who were not developing for Nintendo, the console would eventually find itself with a very commanding share of the Japanese games market, and giving Nintendo a real run for their money, especially when the CD add on was released.
The console was brought to America as the Turbografx, the machine could not compete against the might of Nintendo and Sega, the machine also suffered an ugly transformation into a much larger unit, with an even bigger, more unwieldy looking CD unit, this came in a gigantic box, that also contained a case to cover both systems, the US standalone CD unit is extremely rare today.
A planned European launch was largely abandoned, there was a limited launch in France, and the British company Telegames bought up the remaining stock, and they were available for many years via mail order.
For the uninitiated, the wealth of machines can be a bit daunting, but they break down something like this.
PC Engine - The original white unit, RF output - 1987
Briefcase System - Coming in a smart case with a handle, the regular PC Engine plugged in next to a single speed CD ROM.
PC Engine Core Grafx - Dark blue in Colour, and with AV output - 1989
PC Engine Core Grafx II - Light Grey, with RGB video output - 1990
PC Engine Duo - An all in one unit, with Super CD capability built in, it was jet black in colour. - 1990, now suffers capacitor problems.
PC Engine Duo-r Re-designed unit, cream in colour, and with the headphone socket of the original removed. 1991
PC Engine Supergrafx - A knee jerk reaction to the Super Nintendo, it has the same architecture as the regular machine, but with new graphics chips, it is also much larger, and was supposed to have a driving controller, which went over the top, this peripheral never made it past the prototype stage. 1991
The Supergrafx was found to conflict with the CD-Rom drive, and a switch had to be fitted to the back hurriedly, it was soon abandoned in favour of expanding the CD System card technology. Only five games were ever released for it.
PC Engine Duo RX - Pale blue in colour, identical to the Duo-r, but with it's own six button controller for use with Streetfighter II. 1992
The American Machines
Turbografx - Twice the size of the original Japanese machines, the games were region locked on HU Card, or Turbo Chips as they were called in the US. 1990.
Turbo Duo - Identical in looks to the PC Engine Duo, it could play CD's from any region, but the cards were locked to the US. 1991
Turbo Grafx - Identical to the US machine, but light grey in colour 1991
Super CD-Rom - A plug in CD Drive for any of the standalone PC Engine machines, but colour co-ordinated with the PC Engine Core Grafx II.
The Super Grafx could also be plugged into the Super CD Rom or briefcase unit, as long as the correct adapter was used.
PC Engine GT / Express - Handheld machine. like a huge Gameboy, it took the same cards as the regular machine.
PC Engine LT - One of the most expensive and sought after machines, the LT stands for lap top, and the machine has a large 4 inch display that closes over the machine, hence the name, and it can plug into a briefcase system, or use an adapter for the Super CD Rom drive.
Pioneer Laservision - Now extremely rare and expensive, this was a laserdisc player, that took in plug in modules, three were made, PC Engine, Megadrive and a karaoke one.
Games were made for the PC Engine up until the mid 1990s.
Our model is the original white one, and has been modified to out put AV.
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This exhibit has a reference ID of CH37158. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.
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