It's hard to pin down exactly how Sega fell apart after the golden age of the Sega Genesis (also known as the Sega Mega Drive if you live outside of North America). Some say the company became greedy, others say it became stupid, and still others say that it lacked direction and moved down a number of different paths without having a single unifying plan. Allow me to present the Sega peripheral that combines all three theories into a single product: the Sega Mega Anser (sic).

In the era before cellular phones and voice mail were common (1989) many people relied on something called an "answering machine" to take messages incoming phone calls. These "answering machines" would answer the phone automagically after several rings, would play an outgoing message recorded by the owner, and then record the caller's incoming message. The "answering machine" would then playback these incoming messages when the owner returned home. For a reason that I will most likely never really understand Sega decided that while video games were nice and all, what the people really wanted was an add-on to the Sega Mega Drive that turned the 16-bit console into a telephone "answering machine". Behold, the Sega Mega Anser.

Here's how it works: the Sega Mega Anser plugs into the Mega Drive just like a cartridge. The required Sega Mega Modem (sold separately) fits into the back of the Mega Drive. Connect the modem to your telephone, connect the special tape recorder to the Mega Drive's second controller port, plug the control device for the modem into the first controller slot, leave the Mega Drive turned on all of the time (without power the device won't work, of course) and then you can leave home in peace knowing that the Mega Drive will take care of incoming calls. It could also dial your bank and do some basic bank-related communication, but the answering machine ability is clearly the main "What the hell?" draw.

Fortunately the company came to it's senses and never actually released the product to the general public. The online banking functionality was made available at retail under the Sega Mega Anser name, but wasn't a top seller in Japan. And all this time you thought that the Sega 32X was most baffling product created by the company.

Originally written for my website,