In the 90s, like millions of gamers, you were perhaps the proud owner of a Super Nintendo. A 16-bit console that you had then connected to a small cathode-ray TV, installed in your room by a dad who was at least a fan of ” new technologies ” of the time. An incredible playing comfort to spend hours on Mega Man X, Zelda: A Link to the Past, Yoshi’s Island or even Super Castlevania IV. However, there was an even more stylish way to enjoy the Super Nintendo. Indeed, on its native lands, the manufacturer Sharp had marketed a TV directly integrating the Nintendo console: the Sharp SF1. And it was purely incredible (but it’s outrageously expensive today, of course…).
Because we haven’t always had a 4K screen in front of our eyes, an OLED HDR smartphone in our hand and wireless controllers on our knees, PasTech offers you a refreshing little return to the past, à la (re) discovery of certain emblematic products that have made (or not) the history of tech. So we say 5, 4, 3, 0, and then boom, PasTech!
A TV with Super Nintendo integrated at Sharp??
For this new episode of PasTech 🍉, look back a few decades, to the very beginning of the 90s. Video games are booming, and Nintendo is exploding the counters in Japan, thanks to its Super Famicom (launched at the end of 1990 ), which will arrive a little later with us under the name Super Nintendo. Boosted by the success of its Famicom (the Japanese equivalent of our NES), Nintendo is preparing to face unprecedented demand, and this is indeed the case, the 16-bit console being then impossible to buy on the archipelago in the weeks after its release. More than a million Japanese players intend to buy the machine when it is released, but Nintendo has only planned 300,000 copies at launch…
Over the weeks, Nintendo will manage to meet demand, but just as is the case today with the new PS5 and Xbox Series X, you have to be very (very) patient, and sometimes clever, to put the hand on the 16-bit console, and finally discover this new Super Mario World. However, some players will decide to switch to a completely different product, signed Sharp. This is the Sharp SF1, a hybrid cathode-ray TV integrating on board… a Super Famicom!
Sharp, a historic partner for Nintendo
Indeed, it should be known that Sharp is then a historical partner for Nintendo. The firm will thus have been at the origin of various toys in the 70s, without forgetting the Game & Watch range, but Sharp has also developed the Twin Famicom, a machine (quite magnificent) which allows you to enjoy games in Famicom, which also includes a Disk System player. Also, just days after the Super Famicom was released, Sharp launched its amazing CRT 21G-SF1.
A hybrid CRT screen, therefore, with a diagonal of 21 ”, and integrating on its crest a Super Famicom cartridge port, as well as Power, Reset and Eject buttons. Added to this is the presence of two controller ports located in the lower left corner. The whole thing came with two controllers stamped SF1, with a longer cable than that of the classic Super Famicom controllers.
In addition to the buttons inherent to any conventional CRT TV, a small switch allows you to switch between the different modes, including a mode dedicated of course to the Super Famicom. The video settings are also available, but only accessible from the supplied remote control, which also allows you to reset a game or even opt for a mode dedicated to playing video games.
The Super Famicom on board the Sharp SF1 is connected to the system in S-Video, for a display quality above RCA, but below RGB. What a shame, however, that Sharp has equipped its TV with a mono audio output (instead of a true stereo output), with a simple speaker located on the left side of the TV…
— Yamafuda – 山札 (@Yamafuda) September 12, 2022
At the back, there are of course the connectors of a classic TV (from the time), with the added bonus here of an EXT port and a Multi Out. The latter makes it possible to export the sound and image of the integrated Super Famicom to another television. For its part, the EXT port (different from that of the Super Famicom), is supposed to accommodate future extensions of the Super Famicom (such as the Satellaview).
Not one, but two Sharp SF1 TVs!
It should be noted, however, that only certain wealthy (and impatient) players then fell for the Sharp SF1, the latter being displayed at around 1000 dollars, when the Super Famicom was sold for around 200 dollars.
According to the excellent Gaming Historian, Sharp marketed 10,000 units in mid-December, and despite a very high price, the manufacturer “took advantage” of the impatience of certain players, who then found an opportunity here to circumvent the shortage of Super Famicom. A few years earlier, Sharp had also launched a C1 TV, this time integrating a Famicom.
For the record, there is actually not a Sharp SF1 model, but two. Indeed, if at first, the brand offered a 21” screen, a few months later, it was a version with a 14” screen (the Sharp 14G-SF1) which arrived in shops. A slightly more compact version, and therefore a little cheaper.
Hybrid machines also at SEGA
Despite the “unique” side of the TV signed Sharp, this hybrid vision was far from unique to Nintendo and its partner. Indeed, on the side of the great rival of the time, namely SEGA, in 1993, it was also decided to integrate the Mega Drive into another product, namely the Mega PC.
This is not a CRT TV, but rather a standard computer, developed by Amstrad, which had a sliding cover on the front, allowing you to switch between “computer” and Mega Drive modes ( obviously with a cartridge port to accommodate games), not to mention a dedicated controller. There is indeed an ISA SEGA card (50Hz on the EUR version) which includes the necessary Mega Drive, and which plugs directly into the Amstrad 386sx motherboard.
A very rare hybrid computer today, which will only have been marketed for a very short time, the hardware having quickly been exceeded, not to mention an exorbitant selling price, exceeding 10,000 Francs at the time. Among the other SEGA hybrid products, Japan was also entitled to the TeraDrive, a PC manufactured this time by IBM, again integrating hardware from SEGA Mega Drive. But that’s another story…