Composite Video Cable
There are two common ways of attaching the Sega Genesis to your TV. The most common way is by using an RF switch. An RF Switch is a little black box with a small cable sticking out of it that connects to your TV. A longer cable connects to your game system. The second way is with a composite video cable - these have yellow, red, and white RCA jacks that you probably see on the front of your VCR. You're probably familiar with composite video cables; all the newest systems (XBox, GameCube, PS2) come with composite video cables.
As most video gamers know, the picture from an RF Switch is painful to look at. The picture is usually very grainy. Frequently, an RF Switch needs to be wiggled to get a decent picture. Composite video is definitely the way to go with the Genesis. Today, we're creating a composite A/V cable that will work with 2 models of Sega Genesis and the Sega Master System. While we're at it, I'll show you the pin outs to apply the SAME technique to create a second cable - for use on the TI-99/4a. The information below applies to the style of Genesis pictured at left. Note the headphone jack - a dead giveaway that you've got the right Genesis for this cable.
There are several Sega Genesis models. Smaller Genesis models are called "Model 2" and "Model 3". They do not look like the picture above. If you own a Sega Genesis, "Model 2" or "Model 3", you'll know, because you'll have a teeny tiny connector in the back of your system (about the same size as an S-Video cable). Although these instructions won't work for you, you still have an option - CLICK HERE for a listing of eBay auctions for Genesis AV connectors. It's unfortunate, but these cables will cost you a bit of money ($10-17). Look for the words "Model 2", "Model 3", or "32X" in the description to be sure you're getting the right connector.
Side Note: "Model 2" and "Model 3" are misnomers - while commonly used, because the shape changed drastically, they are really the 3rd and 4th models of Genesis. But the topic of Genesis models and "lock out chips" is for another day. If you can find an "Altered Beast" Genesis - you grab that thing and run out of the store, screaming and elbowing your way out if you must.
Creating a composite video cable for the Sega Genesis is a relatively basic matter. You need:
- The proper connector - a 5 pin din from Radio Shack (used to be Cat # 274-003a -- BUT, 42-2151 is the header they currently sell) *edit* this is no longer avaliable from radioshack but if you try www.partsexpress.com, you might get one, as of june 2006 it was under this address http://www.partsexpress.com/pe/showdetl.cfm?&DID=7&Partnumber=090-341
- A wire cutter / stripper
- A dollar store variety audio cable (or something of better quality, if you must)
- A soldering iron, and solder
- A basic grasp of the laws of thermodynamics - BE CAREFUL with the soldering iron, it's damn hot.
- Something to grip the connector with, as it will heat up really quickly. I recommend pliers, tiny vice grips, a soldering vice, or those nifty locking plier/tweezer things that they always use on E.R. (hemostats)
The Audio/Video Cable
To buy the parts for the cable, you'll end up spending about $5, maybe less, maybe a bit more. That price assumes you have some basic tools (listed above). Making your cable is cheaper than shipping from eBay, and the results are the same or better. The early Genesis models had a STEREO HEADPHONE jack up front - they weren't able to output a stereo signal from the connector in back. The connector/cable we are creating today will have one video connector, and one audio connector. Using a standard ($3-6) "mini-headphone to RCA" audio cable (also from Radio Shack), you can output good quality stereo from your headphone jack to your VCR or stereo system.
Creating the Cable:
Step 1: We'll start with the ripping and tearing. This is always the fun part. Pick one end of the audio/video cable, and cut the RCA jacks off with your wire cutters. These jacks get tossed in the trash (or used in some other project if you're MacGuyver). If you just cut off 4 connectors, you've gone a little crazy with the wire cutters and need to head back to Dollar General. If you have one connector on each end of the cable, you did something wrong. Back to Dollar Tree. If you still have 4 RCA connectors, grow a pair and start cutting.
Step 2: Look at the wire that you just cut. You'll notice that the wire structure has a central conductor, and a metal braid around it. Going out from center, you'll have copper wire, plastic insulator, metal braid, plastic insulator. There might also be some string stuff with the metal braid, that's not important. The metal braid is your ground wire. The inner wire is your signal wire. Both are important. You should/must keep these wires separate.
Step 3: Strip back the outer most layer of plastic to reveal the braid, about 1/3 inch. Gather the braid together, to form a pseudo-wire. The inner wire will need to be stripped about 1/4 inch.
Step 4: Decide which color you want the video wire to be. Make sure you have the right wire traced from the connector all the way back to the bare wire, and label it if you must. This decision isn't hugely important, but it might save you some confusion later.
Step 5: Next, we'll have a look at that 5-pin DIN connector. Take it out of the package, and take it apart. You'll have 4 pieces. When you take it apart, it has a 5 pin spindle (which has the pins on one side, and solder cups on the other side), a top metal piece, a bottom metal piece, and a black hood/cover. Set the hood and the 5 pin spindle aside - these are what we're working with.
Step 6: PUT THE BIG BLACK HOOD/COVER ONTO THE WIRE, so that you can slide it into place once you're done soldering. After this step there will be no way for you to put the cover back on the wire, so you need to do it now. The skinny end points away from the bare wires, and the fat end faces toward the bare wires.
Step 7: Here's where we solder. You will be placing the wires into the "solder cups" - the indentations that you see in the 5 pin spindle, and pictured below. The inner-most wires, the signal wires, go into the top pins. Solder these wires into the appropriate cups. You chose a video wire above - make sure you solder it into the correct cup.
Step 8: Join the two ground braids by twisting them together. This will make what looks like a slightly thicker wire. Solder the braid into the bottom cup. **Make sure that none of the conductors (ground to signal) are touching each other. In other words, no bare metal OR SOLDER from the signal wires should be touching the bare ground wire (or visa versa).
Here are the wires soldered into the connector.
Step 9: Once the wires are in place, put the connector back into its housing (the two metal pieces from Step 5 that you didn't work with). You'll notice that one of the metal pieces has a small bar that is right next to the wire. This slightly curved bar is meant to be "crimped" to the base of your wire. Give it a quick squeeze with the pliers. That makes sure that you won't yank the wires out when you attach/release the connector from the Genesis.
Step 10: Slide the black plastic cap / hood into place. It will snap shut onto the case when you've slid it far enough. You are done!
The pin-outs for the TI-99/4a are different. You'll want to keep the "ground braids" separate, rather than twisting them together. Looking at the diagram above, reading pins from left to right: Audio, Ground Braid 1, Ground Braid 2, Video. The 5th pin is blank.