Modular Graphics Card (MGC)

The MGC Board from Paradise Systems was an IBM MGA and CGA-compatible video card. As the name implies, the MGC was designed to be modular, with support for a number of add-on daughterboards to extend your PC with a parallel or serial port, additional system memory (up to 256 KB), or other modules.

Released 1984
Bus ISA 8-bit
Chipset -
Standards MDA, CGA
Memory 32 KB
Ports 9-pin DSUB (digital TTL)
Part #  
Price At launch: $395 (base card)
$95 (optional parallel port module)
$95 (optional serial port module)
$195 (256 KB RAM)
$299 (multi-function module)
See Also  

Up to two daughterboards can be connected at the same time via what Paradise called 'A module' and 'B module'. This allowed for, say, a battery-backed clock and additional system RAM.

In MDA/MGA modes the card does not support the extended text modes of 132 x 25 or 132 x 44, nor is it Hercules-compatible. Its colour modes support IBM CGA (in monochrome gray scales) but not Plantronics.

The card also has a header for connecting a lightpen and another for attaching a composite monitor or an RF modulator (both of which requires an adapter which isn't included with the card but could be acquired from Paradise free of charge).


Board Revisions




In the Media

"These two adapters, the Genoa Spectrum Color/Mono/Graphics board from Genoa Systems Corp, and the Modular Graphics Card (MGC) from Paradise Systems Inc., aim to be the ultimates in alternative display adapters. Each one starts with the exact IBM compatibility for both monochrome and RGB color displays and then further embellishes that foundation with its own special features and abilities. Although neither product aspires to replicate the high-resolution color displays of the IBM enhanced graphics system, both will put graphics on your monochrome screen and eliminate the annoying flicker that accompanies the scolling of the standard IBM color screen.

The Paradise MGC is an evolutionary refinement on the IBM standard that cleverly folds color graphics into monochrome. At the same time, it serves as a foundation for enhancing PCs and XTs with additional memory as well as a battery-backed-up clock.

The Paradise MGC does not claim compatibility with any of the claimed standards of third-party software and video hardware vendors. Instead, it gives you a very special compatibility that will allow you to use virtually any monitor with virtually any software package that will address an IBM Color Graphics Adapter. Any display that you are likely to want to attach to your PC - IBM-style monochrome, RGB color, or composite monitor or even a television set - can be connected to the MGC with an excellent chance of success.

The MGC goes out of its way to be compatible with different monochrome displays. The single bank of DIP switches on the card is dedicated to matching your monitor choice. The MGC manual lists specific settings for seven different models: standard IBM monochrome, Princeton Graphics Systems MAX-12, Roland MB-122 series, Roland MT-142, Leading Edge, Grandwood Monochrome, Amdek 310A, and ITT Monochrome. Paradise also includes a diagnostic program that will help you zero in on the right switch setting for your particular monochrome display.

Before you install the MGC, you must move a jumper to specify what type of monitor you are going to connect to it - either monochrome, RGB, or composite. No matter what setting of this jumper, you must configure your PC to use an 80-column by 25-line color display by throwing the appropriate DIP switches on the system board. Consequently, your system will always believe it has a graphics system attached.

For proper operation, the MGC also requires software installation. The software provided by Paradise is unusual because you first boot your system without DOS using only the Paradise-supplied disk and then boot with DOS (or run diagnostics). Once your system is running, you must then install a software driver in the CONFIG.SYS file of your boot disk. Paradise supplies an installation program that automatically handles that chore.

Don't expect to get a rainbow of colors on your monochrome display. The MGC is versatile but not a miracle worker. However, like the [Genoa] Spectrum, the MGC does a good approximation of color in various shades of gray. The MGC does a slightly better job of translation than the Spectrum. I discovered that by carefully setting both the brightness and contrast on my Amdek 310A, I could obtain a full 16-bar gray scale.

To make ordinary monochrome displays show graphics, the MGC uses a neat trick. It paints 400 lines of 640 dots across the screen and merely duplicates each line that would display on a standard IBM 640 by 200-line RGB color display. The disadvantage to using this system rather than the Hercules monochrome graphics standard is a loss in resolution. Hercules graphics, including those made by the Spectrum, are almost twice as sharp vertically. The advantage of the Paradise system and the similar mode of the Spectrum is overwhelming, however. More compatible than any Hercules-style monochrome graphics board, this display mode will work with nearly any software package that will operate an IBM color display."

PC Magazine, 24 Dec 1985



Setting it Up


Operation Manual

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Original Utility Disk

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More Pictures

All pictures here were provided by Andrew Welburn of Andys Arcade.