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Project Vagabond: Making the CDX Truly Portable Vol. 01

Project Vagabond Vol 01- 1In a time not too long ago, in a place not far away (from me at least), a young boy received a very important present for his 9th birthday: a Sega Genesis (Mark I, the original model). He loved his Sega Genesis. And rightfully so, for his older brother showed him the way with the Sega Master System years before. He was shown the world of Sega video games and consoles. A love for Sega and the video games released for their consoles developed. But, due to humble beginnings and the changing times, our hero could not afford to support his beloved Genesis they way he wished he could. His interest in the Genesis waned over time, but increased when the Sega Dreamcast came to be.

He learned to use the Dreamcast to play emulators to help feed his yearning for days of old where he would play his Genesis for hours, even days, on end. But it was still not the same feeling. The Dreamcast was not made for playing Genesis games, and could not accurately give the same experience of playing the original Genesis games. As well, not all of the games worked with the emulator, yet another downside to using the Dreamcast to emulate his favorite video game system. It just wasn’t the same.

Then, like a phoenix rising from the burning embers of time, our hero’s love and desire for the Sega Genesis re-emerged and grew from deep within his gaming soul. He went on a search for lost artifacts of his youth. He traveled to a large and popular trading post and market, which was full of vendors from all across the land (ok, fine, it was eBay). He browsed through the selection of many of the vendors present during the days of his visit. Then, one evening. he came across the Holy Grail of Sega Genesis collectors: a CDX! It was up for auction from a previous owner. He put in a bid for the item and, fortunately for our hero, won the auction. No shirts lost, no limbs removed. The ending price was a fair price given the rarity and the level of preservation of the CDX.

The CDX, a Sega Genesis and Sega CD combined into one compact, more travel-fiendly console. Our hero had finally acquired a rare and somewhat important artifact from the past. He was also able to acquire a Power Base, an artifact which gives the Genesis the power to view the ancient scrolls used by the previous creation of Sega’s, the Master System. The same console once possessed by our hero’s older brother, the one that showed him the way of Sega. But this was only the beginning of our hero’s journey. The best, as always, is yet to come…

Summary

I love Sega. I’ve loved Sega since my brother first bought a Sega Master System with his paper route money way back in the day. I got a Sega Genesis for my birthday when they first came out. I loved the Genesis, it had awesome, beautiful games for it, give or take a few abominations (did anybody even like that game Mystical Fighter? BLECH! Sorry, but I hated it). As I said before, my interest in the Genesis waned over the years. I loved it when I was younger, but I was too poor to keep buying all the games I really wanted. Mostly I got games as gifts. I also had a Game Gear when I was younger, loved that thing. I got a Dreamcast on the day it came out, a day before my 16th birthday. Later on, at a second hand electronics store that sells old video games and systems, I came across the Nomad. I didn’t even need two seconds to decide whether or not to but it, I had to have it. So, there, I outlined some examples of the things just in case anybody out there questions my love for Sega and their consoles. If I had more money when I was younger, I probably would’ve bought these things brand new. I pretty much have never sold any games, systems, or accessories I’ve ever bought. I know I still have my original Genesis somewhere, but I really don’t feel like digging it out of my mom’s house (I don’t live with her anymore, I’ve moved out, but she lives in the house I grew up in still).

Now, down to business.

What I’ve acquired so far

The awesomely cool, ultimately mega-sweet piece of Sega technology: The Genesis CDX. This thing is frikkin’ awesome. It’s a Sega Genesis and Sega CD in one reasonably sized unit (especially for at the time it was released). The thing was kind of cool because it also played regular music CD’s as well. It had a slot for two AA batteries, so you could use it as a portable CD player (no, those two batteries were not enough to power the actual console in any way). I probably wouldn’t suggest using it as a portable CD player though, as the thing is still kind of bulky. Not only that, but it was expensive. At the time it was released, around ’94-95 or so, the thing came out at an MSRP of $299.95 or something like that. Yeah, I wouldn’t want to risk losing that thing. And I still wouldn’t be using it as a portable CD player either, due to its rarity and the risk of losing it. If I lost my CDX, I would probably want to kill myself. I would probably still end up crying at the least.

I found my Sega CDX on eBay. I got it for a pretty reasonably price, given its rarity. With shipping, the final price came out to be $88.50 (USD). The one problem with it is this: it came with no cords. No power adapter, no AV cables. I did get a good 6-button controller with it (the first set of ones they made for the Genesis when Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat came out, which I preferred, and not the slightly modified ones they released later on).

I believe the next thing I bought was a Power Base ($20 w/shipping). If this wasn’t the second thing I bought, it is at least the next important item of mention. For those of you who might not know, the Power Base was a type of conversion device that allowed Genesis owners to play Master System games on the console. It was kind of nice, since in the beginning there were a lot of people who bought Genesis because they were fans of the Sega Master System (SMS). This allowed them to keep playing from their library of SMS titles. The Power Base is a deceivingly big accessory that was made for the original Genesis consoles. It was molded to fit on top of Mark I Genesis when plugged in. It has a slot on the top where you insert the SMS games, and it also had a card slot for peripherals like the SMS 3-D glasses. It had a pause button built into it, because the original SMS consoles had a pause button on the console. The SMS controllers didn’t have individual start buttons on them, which are now commonly used on modern game controllers to pause games. On the SMS controllers, button 1 was the start button. And in order to pause the game, you had to use the pause button that was built into the console. Kind of crappy, I know. But hell, the SMS still kicked ass as far as I’m concerned.

I also bought a couple of Stereo A/V cables that were built for the 9-pin connectors on the Model 2 and above Genesis systems (Genesis 2, 3, CDX, Nomad, and I think the Saturn and Sega Pico used it as well). There were a lot of Mono A/V and RFU adapter cables for sale on eBay, but I only go for quality. There’s no point for me to use RFU when I have an A/V input selector box. And with my other consoles (Dreamcast, PS2 Xbox) I use stereo A/V connections. I got these 2 cables for $13 with shipping.

Project Vagabond Vol 01- 3Since my CDX didn’t come with the correct power adapter (it was an adapter made for the original Genesis model), my dad is going to help me hack together an AC adapter fit for the CDX. The label on the bottom of the CDX says it requires a 9.5V 1500mA power supply. I’ve seen AC adapters on eBay say that they’re made to work with CDX, but I’m leery of the probability that they’d actually work decently with the CDX. And it was at the advice of my dad, an electronics engineer with over 30 years of experience, to order a separate AC adapter with the right amperage on it. I also have to buy a 5mm plug for it as well, because 5mm plugs aren’t commonly used in modern AC adapters and devices. Typical plug size appears to be 5.5mm, which just plain doesn’t fit in the CDX. So I need to head down to my local Radio Shack and pick up a ‘K’ connector type plug, whoo-whoo!

I also have a couple of classic Genesis carts: Road Rash 2 , Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 , and Chakan . There’s few others I got off eBay that are on their way as well.

What I plan on doing in this project

Well, the true goal of this project, is to make the Sega CDX a purely stand-alone system. What this entails:

  • First and probably foremost: an individual screen for the CDX.
  • A rechargeable power supply.
  • More convenient use of the Power Base adapter.
  • No physical modifications done to the actual CDX.
  • Uh, I’m not sure what else I can outline here. Just keep reading, you’ll get the idea.

Well, one of the most important aspect to this project is the search for a portable screen. As far as I’m concerned (and a lot of females out there probably think this exact same thing), no less than 7 inches is acceptable. I’m probably going to end up getting an 8 inch LCD screen. Thankfully, these are incredibly common now-a-days, due to mobile/car entertainment setups. If you want to do the same thing as me, it would probably be a good idea to look for an LCD TV, one with separate RCA (Stereo A/V), connections. Finding one with those connections will make things a lot simpler in the future.

Next, I plan on finding or building a rechargeable battery unit for my CDX and LCD screen. Why? Mainly because I don’t want something that actually needs to be near a power outlet in order to work. If I end up taking this with me in my car, I will probably use some kind of car power adapter anyway. Or I might not. Who knows. I really want the ability to play it without needing to plug it into outlet, though.

You may wonder why earlier I called the Power Base ‘deceivingly big’. Well, the actual meat of the Power Base (the hardware), is rather small. It’s about the size of two Genesis cartridges set up next to each other in a perpendicular manner. Everything else that makes up the Power Base is just plastic. One huge chunk of plastic. It’s pretty much a waste as far as I’m concerned. And it looks ugly plugged into the CDX (which I will show). You plug the Power Base in and it looks like the it’s trying to have its way with the CDX! It’s just not a pretty sight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

<- Can you believe that little piece of hardware is stuck in that big of a case?

 

 

 

 

<- Look at how much plastic casing it has.

 

 

 

 

 

<- Oh, yeah, baby!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

<- Give it to me! Harder!

 

 

 

 

 

<- Hit it!

 

 

One part of this project is that I’m going to work hard to not fry or have to physically alter my CDX in any manner. I want it to be as pristine as possible. Everything I’m building is merely going to be a series of add-ons for the CDX. Because this is an add-on project, I think this will be good for other CDX owners who have the money and time for this same type of venture.

Really, as you can tell, I’m trying to make this CDX truly stand-alone. No need for an outside power source or use of a TV. Just pack it up, take it anywhere. You could probably take this with you while camping or something.

What else I need or am planning to buy:

One thing that will really make this Sega CDX portable is a Genesis/Mega Drive flash cart. You can find Genesis flash carts at tototek.com. I would suggest the 64M carts w/case. These carts are great. They can hold dozens of games on one cartridge. The 64M carts will also work with 32X games. Though they cost a pretty penny, they’re worth it. I also plan on getting an SMS flash cart for the Power Base. And Tototek sells homemade SMS->Genesis converters as well, which work like the Power Base.

Though it’s not critical for this project, I plan on buying a 32X module. One thing I have never ever had the money to buy. There was very little reason for me to buy this before. I don’t think the 32X was bad at all, but never seemed like it was truly worth it to me. The only game that really looked like it was worth it to me, because I’m a big fan of the game in any incarnation, was Doom, of which I now own a copy. Just no actual 32X yet. Hopefully soon, though…

What I have done so far

Taken apart the Power Base. That’s about it. I’ll be buying some crappy Genesis carts so I can take them apart and use them as casings for it. That’s really one of the first steps I’m taking in this project: make a better casing for Power Base. The Power Base just deserves to have a better looking case, something that will look decent on my CDX.

Well, that’s the gist of the project for now. I will be gradually giving updates on this project along the way. I have a very good idea of how I’m going to go about with this, all I need is the material and the time. So, soon, you shall all get a chance to gander upon the Vagabond add-on for the Sega CDX.

Keep checking in! There’s definitely more to come.

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