Bee Card (1985 – 1986)

The Bee Card was a ROM card of roughly credit card size, developed by Hudson Soft as a lower cost way of distributing games for use with the MSX home computer architecture. The MSX standard was developed by Microsoft and had been around since 1983. MSX machines had one or two ROM cartridge slots, and a Bee Card could be used in one of these by using a BeePack adapter.

The design of the Bee Card was later adapted to become the HuCard for use in the NEC TurboGrafx-16 / PC Engine. In this form, it was slightly thicker and had 38 pins as opposed the 32 pins of the Bee Card. The Bee Card had a maximum capacity of 32 KB.

Only 11 titles were released on Bee Card for MSX systems, some by Hudson Soft themselves along with some from other software developers, and the Bee Card was only produced until 1986.

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Roland Music Style Card (1989 – 1991)

The Roland Music Style Card was a ROM card containing programmed music rhythms to extend those available in the E-series ‘intelligent synthesisers’ made by Roland.

The first of the ‘intelligent synthesisers’ was the E-20, released by Roland in 1988 as the first product of Roland’s new European arm, and was aimed at the high-end home market. A number of variations of the first-generation E-series were released, such as the cut-down E-5, and the enhanced E-30 and Pro-E (an ‘intelligent arranger’).

For the first generation of the E-series, the cards were prefixed with TN-SC1 and there were 14 Music Style Cards in the first series released between 1989 and 1991.

There was a subsequent series of Music Style Cards with a slightly different shape and prefixed TN-SC2 for later E-series synthesisers such as the E-35, E-56 and E-70.

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Nintendo 3DS (2011 – )

The Nintendo 3DS is a handheld game console launched in 2011 as a successor to the Nintendo DS. Its main feature was the ability to display stereoscopic 3D effects on the upper screen without the need for special glasses. Nintendo’s previous attempt at a 3D handheld game console (the Nintendo Virtual Boy) was a commercial failure, and required a special headset to view monochrome 3D effects.

The Nintendo 3DS competes with Sony’s PlayStation Vita handheld console.

Several versions of the 3DS have been introduced since its launch, including the 3DS XL with a much larger screen, an entry level 2DS (without the clamshell form factor or 3D facility), and the ‘new’ 3DS and 3DS XL with a faster processor and other upgrades.

It is backward compatible with the Nintendo DS and DSi, and Game Cards for these consoles will fit into the 3DS. Games for the 3DS are prevented from being inserted into the older DS/DSi by a small lug on the card. 3DS Game Cards can hold between 1 and 4 GB of game data (compared to the DS card which held between 8 and 512 MB).

As well as loading games from ROM cards, the 3DS can connect to the Nintendo eShop to download games. Games, audio and picture files can be stored on a Secure Digital or SDHC card (or microSD on the new 3DS/DS XL)

Despite disappointing early sales, the 3DS family become very successful and as of September 2016 had sold over 61 million units.

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Sega My Card (1985 – 1987)

The Sega My Card was a ROM card for several models of Sega video game console, initially released in Japan in 1985 as a cheaper means of game distribution than cartridges.

The original My Card was for use on the Sega SG-1000 game console (and SC-3000 computer), where it needed an optional accessory called the Card Catcher as they were released before the My Card was released.

A second version was labled as the My Card Mark III and was for use on the Japan-only Sega Mark III console released in 1985. By 1986, Sega began to move to cartridges as the primary format and by 1987 had stopped releasing games on the My Card Mark III format. The Sega Mark III can read the original My Card version.

Outside of Japan, there was a third version released in 1986 and marketed as the Sega Card for use on the Sega Master System, the international version of the Mark III.

The My Card and My Card Mark III had a limited capacity of up to 32 KB.

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Nintendo DS / DS Lite / DSi (2005 – 2014)

The DS was a dual-screen handheld game console introduced by Nintendo in 2004 in the US, with a European launch in 2005.

Originally designed to complement the Game Boy Advance, backward compatibility with Game Boy Advance titles and strong sales ultimately established the new handheld console as the successor to the Game Boy series. The smaller Nintendo DS Game Cards fit into a slot on the top of the system, while Game Boy Advance games fit into a slot on the bottom of the system.

The DS Lite, a slimmer and lighter redesign, was launched in 2006, followed by the DSi, another redesign that no longer included a slot for Game Boy Advance cartridges, in 2008. A small number of game cards were ‘DSi-exclusive’ and will not work on earlier DS versions. Nintendo DS Game Cards can have from 8 MB to 512 MB in ROM capacity, and usually have a small amount of flash memory or an EEPROM to save user data.

The DS is the best selling handheld game console to date, and the second best selling video game console of all time.

The success of the DS paved the way for its successor, the Nintendo 3DS, a handheld gaming console with a similar dual-screen setup, that can display images on the top screen in 3D. The 3DS was introduced in 2011 and the DS family was finally discontinued in 2014.

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Sega Card (1987 – 1989)

The Sega Card was a ROM card for the Sega Master System, a third-generation video game console released in 1987 in Europe. The Master System was a redesigned version of the Japan-only Sega Mark III, which also used ROM cards, marketed as My Card Mark III.

The Master System was designed to play both cartridges and and the credit card-sized Sega Card, which was intended as as a cheaper means of game distribution for smaller games (Sega Cards had a storage capacity limited to 32 KB).

Sega phased out the Sega Card format in 1989 due due to limited popularity with consumers, and with the release of the redesigned Master System II, the Sega Card slot was removed. However, the Sega Mega Drive (known in North America as the Sega Genesis) could use an accessory called the Master System Converter (Power Base Converter in the US) to play Master System games, and this retained a card slot until redesigned in 1993.

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NEC TurboGrafx-16 / PC Engine ‘HuCard’ (1987 – 1993)

The TurboGrafx-16 Entertainment SuperSystem (originally known in Japan as the PC Engine) was a video game console jointly-developed by Hudson Soft and NEC. It was released in Japan in 1987, and the US in 1989. A small number of slightly altered US models were available in the UK around 1990, released by Telegames.

Two major revisions, the PC Engine SuperGrafx and the PC Engine Duo, were released in 1989 and 1991, respectively. The entire series was succeed by the PC-FX in 1994, which was only released in Japan.

Due partly to it’s use of small ROM cards (called HuCards), the TurboGrafx-16 is a relatively compact video game console. Hudson Soft developed the HuCard from the Bee Card technology it piloted on the MSX. HuCards (called TurboChips in the US), are about the size of a credit card, but slightly thicker, and not unlike the Game Cards available for the Sega Master System. The PCB in a HuCard is protected by a rigid, glossy polymer that conducts heat. Since the TurboGrafx-16 leaves one side of the card partially exposed outside the console, heat disperses with less obstruction.

A CD-ROM peripheral became available for the TurboGrafx-16 in 1988, the first time this was used as a storage medium for video consoles.

The TurboGrafx-16 initially performed well in Japan, beating Nintendo’s Famicom in sales soon after its release, with no fewer than twelve console models released between 1987 and 1993. The TurboGrafx-16 family was discontinued in 1995, and the last HuCard titles had been published in 1993.

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Atari Lynx (1989 – mid 1990s)

Introduced in 1989, the Atari Lynx was a colour handheld game console.

In 1991, the Lynx II was introduced, with improved hardware and battery life, and a sleeker look.

It was outsold by competitors such as the Nintendo Game Boy and Sega Game Gear, and discontinued in the mid-1990s as Atari focused efforts on the Atari Jaguar. Fewer than 500,000 were sold in its lifetime.

Game cards were initially flat, but as this caused problems extracting them from the console, later cartridges had two tabs, followed by a curved lip in the final redesign. Most game cards contained either 128KB or 256KB of ROM, but with bank-switching it was possible for them to contain up to 512KB.

Sources / Resources

Wikipedia entry for Atari Lynx

Entry for Atari Lynx at

Atari Lynx review on YouTube