Dreamcast VMU, meet iPod

We’d bet you never had a Dreamcast Visual Memory Unit, but if you can find one now it can be turned into an iPod (translated). The VMU was originally a memory card for the not-so-popular gaming console that put an LCD screen right in your controller. When you weren’t at home you could take it with you and play mini-games. This version lacks its original guts, which have been replaced with a 6th generation iPod nano. The screen is just a bit small for the opening so a frame of white tape was applied as a bezel. The sleep button has been extended through the cover for the VMU connector. It seems there’s a gaping hole in the back of the case, but after seeing the ultrasonic knife used to cut away the plastic we don’t care. We’ve embedded video of that tool after the break.

[via Reddit]

54 thoughts on “Dreamcast VMU, meet iPod

  1. ear0wax. That’s because the blade is vibrating very very quickly which heats up the plastic.

    Another note. That is the best use of one of those new nano thingies I have seen yet. Never could quite work out what they are good for. :D

    Mowcius

  2. Just found my DC in a box when we moved last month. Got 3 of those VMUs. Not that I need to gut one for this, but they are pretty cool little units. You can program their internal microcontroller too, or just load homebrew games on it. The hard part is getting your Dreamcast on the internet; DC broadband adapters are expensive and hard to find.

    http://oreilly.com/pub/h/3836

  3. “We’d bet you never had a Dreamcast Visual Memory Unit”

    Well, you would LOSE that bet. I have probably 10 of them laying around. They are great little units and just one of the reasons why I miss Sega consoles. HAD fail.

  4. @Josh

    You can use the original POTS modem. Simply connect it to a computer with another modem, and a battery to power the line. Then you can easily spoof phone numbers and route the packets over the internet.

    I love the Dreamcast and its little VMUs. It would be a shame to waste one on an ipod. I’d much rather see a mod to replace the con cell batteries with a rechargeable Li+. Those things were awesome, but they drained batteries like crazy.

  5. “We’d bet you never had a Dreamcast Visual Memory Unit”

    My DC and VMU’s work fine, I have like 3 VMU.

    I play Quake 3 arena (free for all and CTF) every Saturday with other three friends since 2004, good game and great game system.

  6. The Dreamcast was plenty popular, it was just timed wrong. It lost all sales momentum when the PS2 came out, instead of the two consoles competing.

    I still have one of the VMUs too, although the DC it went with died years ago, sadly.

  7. “Simply connect it to a computer with another modem, and a battery to power the line.”

    Ive connected dozens of modems to modems and never needed a battery, is the DC different Rachel?

    (its just a pita to run back n fourth banging in at commands but course that could be done in software)

  8. There’s a cd image you can download and burn to load the vmu games from the DC itself. I’ll have to see if I stll have the link at home.

  9. Yup, add me to the list of people with VMUs – and a region-free Dreamcast with two Japanese DDR pads and games somewhere in a box here…

  10. I love my Dreamcast and still play Proejct Justice from time to time. The VMUs were, IMO, an awesome idea that I was pretty baffled never caught on past the DC. This looks like a great hack to try with one of the 8 VMUs I still have lying around. Only negative I can think of is the VMU batteries, which seemed to drain at a ridiculous rate.

  11. Yeah bad assumption, any of us who had DCs of course had the nifty VMUs. Loved my smoked grey one, but I had 3. I just hated how quickly they killed batteries…

  12. Funny that the ultrasonic actually drowns-out the audio in the video. You can hear the ambient noise go down when the knife goes “hot”…

  13. 2 dreamcasts, plenty of VMU’s and other items.

    Still wish i had the keyboard & vga adaptor from my first dreamcast.

    Cool little hack though.

  14. @osgeld

    The battery mimics the voltage on phone line for compatibility. The modems might not actually need this voltage to work, but some might use it to detect if it’s plugged in. I have a couple cordless phones which refuse to operate unless they sense this voltage.

  15. If you had a dreamcast, you most likely had a vmu. No VMU, no saved games. It was more or less a requirement. Unless you got one of the third party memory cards eventually.

  16. HAD, chances are if people are visiting this site they have probably owned a DC and a VMU. My favorite console I’ve owned. R.I.P. DC you died much too young :(

  17. Excuse me, HAD, but just because Dreamcast wasn’t mainstream enough doesn’t mean it was unpopular.

    It’s a crying shame that a VM had to die to make an ipod look good…

  18. ZOMG! you managed to put a new smaller thing inside a larger older thing, you must be so proud.

    If it wasn’t for the “heads up” on the knife and not using an Arduino, this hack would have been pointless.

    I’m off to put a PS3 inside an RM Nimbus.

  19. How strange is it that I have an used VMU sitting on my desk. It just seems wrong to gut it and just use the shell though.
    As for the hole in the back, it’s where the battery cover goes. I’m not sure why they didn’t just glue on the cover.

  20. I never put mine away. Seaman would die and I’d never hear the end of it from him lol.

    The VMUs were awesome, especially for football games where you could actually pick your play in secret and not giving your buddy one of four play options your were gonna run lol. WinCE compatible, I always expected more to be done with the little unit that could, but GDROM-sigh. And yes Josh, I’m saddened that Lik Sang or some other didn’t build a knock off ethernet adapter :(

    I still have some extra parts laying around for the DC so if some hacker on here wants them shoot a message in the comments :)

  21. DIY piezo knife? That sounds like a good project… does this require any special/fancy element? I would think you just have to mount it to an exacto knife blade or something, then damp the vibration so it can be held?

    Time to research beefy piezo’s.

  22. So the element is about 40 bucks (ebay prices). I was looking to see if the element was this “bolt clamped langevin” transducer, and g-images pulled up the knife in the video… D:

    http://www.honda-el.co.jp/en/industry/200903220033.html

    Here is the site with the element from ebay and specs: http://www.steminc.com/piezo/SMBLTD45F28H.asp

    The price jumps up quickly for stacked type units.. these are also annoyingly large.. 45mm :(

    Anyone got a few Kv to throw at one of these?

  23. I remember reading about a guy that developed an interface to connect a standard Realtek RTL8139 PCI card to a Dreamcast using a custom FPGA circuit he designed, allowing a standard card to be plugged into the Dreamcast to allow it to connect to an Ethernet network just like the Broadband Adapter. This was a few years ago, and I can’t seem to find a trace of the web site now, but I remember that he had etched his own PC boards(fully documented with photos) and had two working prototypes…

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