Counting Transistors In The Playstation

Over in Russia there are a few people doing extremely in-depth technical teardowns, and the latest is one of the most ambitious ever seen. The PSXDEV team is tearing into the heart of the original PlayStation (Google translatrix), looking at 300,000 transistors, and re-implementing the entire console in a logic level simulator.

While the CPU in the PSX is unique to that specific piece of hardware, a lot of this custom silicon can be found in other places. The core – a RISC LSI LR33300 – is documented in a few rare tomes that are somehow available for free on the Internet. Other parts of this chip are a little stranger. There is a bizarre register that isn’t documented anywhere, a Bus Unit that handles the access between various devices and peripherals, and a motion picture decompressor.

The reverse engineering process begins by de-encapsulating the CPU, GPU, sound processing unit, and CD-ROM controller, taking very high magnification photos of the dies, and slowly mapping out the semiconductors and metals to figure out what cells do what function, how they’re connected, and what the big picture is. It’s a painstaking process that requires combing through gigabytes of die shots and apparently highlight gates, wires, and busses with MS Paint.

The end result of all this squinting at a monitor is turning tracings of chips into logic elements with Logisim. From there, the function of the CPU can be understood, studied, and yes, eventually emulated down to the gate level. It’s an astonishing undertaking, really.

If this sort of thing sounds familiar, you’re right: the same team behind PSXDEV is also responsible for a similar effort focused on the Nintendo Entertainment System. There, the CPU inside the NES – the Ricoh 2A03 – was torn down, revealing the 6502 core, APU, DMA, and all the extra bits that made this a custom chip.

Thanks [Rasz] for the tip.

Remote Control Anything With A PS3 Controller

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When looking for a remote control for your next project, you might want to look in your living room. Wii controllers are a hacker’s favorite, but wagging an electronic wand around isn’t the greatest for remote control planes, cars, tanks, and multicopters. What you need for this is dual analog controls, something every playstation since the 90s has included.

[Marcel] created a replacement electronics board for the Sony DualShock 3 controller for just this purpose. With this board, an XBee, and an old controller, it’s easy to add dual analog control and a whole lot of buttons to any project using an XBee receiver.

The replacement board is based on the ATMega328p uC, includes a Lipo charge circuit and power supply, and inputs for the analog sticks and all the button boards inside the DualShock controller.

Yes, we have seen an earlier version of [Marcel]’s project before, but this time he’s added a few new features – the rumble now works and thanks to multiple people unable or unwilling to spin a few boards, [Marcel] has put up an Indiegogo campaign.

Video below.
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Using XBox One And PS4 Controllers With Everything

The controllers from the last generation of consoles served their purpose well. They were there for us when we wanted to experiment with an I2C bus, and they stood by when we wanted to build a quadcopter out of parts just lying around. A new generation of consoles is now upon us, and with them come new controllers. Controllers for which Arduino libraries haven’t been written yet. The horror.

Until those libraries are developed, there’s ChronusMAX, a USB dongle that allows you to use XBox One controllers on a PS4, PS4 controllers on the XBox, mice and keyboards on both systems, and both types of controllers on your PC.

The folks behind ChronusMAX put up a video demoing the XBox One controller working on the 360, PS3, and PC, with another video showing the same for the PS4 controller. As far as what we can see from the PC demos, everything on these controllers can be read, right down to the accelerometer data on the DualShock 4.

Although this is a commercial product, we’re surprised we haven’t seen a more open version by now. From the looks of it, it’s a very small device with two USB ports and a firmware upload utility. Microcontrollers with two native USB ports are usually encased in large packages, so there might be some very clever engineering in this device. Let us know when someone does a teardown of one of these.

Thanks [Josh] for sending this one in.

Portable PS2, Courtesy of Cross Plane

PS2

It’s not exactly a portable, but [Downing]’s PS2 advance puts all the power of a Playstation 2 in the palm of your hands, all while being more popular that the Vita.

For the audio and video, the project uses a Cross Plane, a project from a slightly unsuccessful Kickstarter [Downing] pulled the plug on last month. When the handheld is plugged in to the Cross Plane, all the audio, video, and controller wires are transferred through a pair of cables, with the possible addition of wireless transmission should [Downing] ever want to revisit this project.

In deciding on what to use for a case, [Downing] had bought a few AG cases from Polycase but found the ergonomics severely lacking. Putting two of the case backs together, he found the resulting structure was actually very comfortable, and with a few simple modifications to add some holes for acorn nuts,

It’s a great looking project that really highlights [Downing]’s talents as a console modder. He’s also thrown his hat into the Hackaday Trinket contest by engraving the Jolly Wrencher into the back of his project, which unfortunately isn’t seen in the video below.

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An arcade controller for the original PlayStation

I love it when you hit those switches

[Kevin] just finished a project for someone who lives in his apartment complex. This resident loves the game Pop ‘n Music – a Guitar Hero sort of game for the original Playstation and PS2 that uses nine colored buttons instead of five buttons along a fingerboard. His original idea was to wire up a few arcade buttons to a Playstation controller but this plan fell through, forcing [Kevin] to figure out the PSX bus all by his lonesome.

The initial code began with simply bit-banging the PSX controller interface with an AVR. This had a few problems, namely speed, forcing [Kevin] to move onto assembly programming to squeeze every last bit of performance out of a microcontroller.

The assembly route failed as well, dropping some transactions  Looking at the problem again, [Kevin] realized the PSX controller bus looked a little like an SPI bus. There were a few changes required – reversing the order of the bits, and using the MISO line to drive a transistor – but this method worked almost perfectly on the first try.

Now, [Kevin]’s building mate has a custom Playstation controller for his favorite game. Of course all the code is up on github for all your PSX controller emulation needs, but be sure to check out this completely unrelated Pop ‘N Music video from someone who desperately needs a piano.

Nyan Cat: the PlayStation game

We’d bet you didn’t know there was a Nyan Cat game for the original PlayStation. Well, there wasn’t one until very recently. This isn’t a title that has been licensed by Sony, and we bet you won’t spend hours playing such a thing. But the concept has let [Haunted] hone his development skills.

We’re not certain how he’s getting around the copy protection for PSX games, but we know there are a few different exploits out there. If you happen to have your own method playing homebrew games you can even download the bin/cue files to try this out for yourself.

After the break you can watch a demo clip of the game. It boots like normal until you hit a black screen with white text which displays a loading percentage. This is followed closely by the rainbow spewing feline pastry. The sound takes a minute to play but you can be sure it’s there. Currently there’s no scoring system but that’s in the works for a future revision.

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Short and squat balancing bot is extremely stable

[Lauszus] really put together an impressive self balancing robot platform. It is virtually motionless when balancing in place, and that stability is never lost even when motoring across the room.

Part of the success behind this build is the use of quality components. He’s got a really nice set of motors with built-in encoders which give feedback to the balancing system. They work in conjunction with a gyroscopic sensor and PID code to keep the two-wheeled platform upright. An mbed board running 96 MHz provides plenty of computing power for the balancing system. But an Arduino can also be found on board. This was included to facilitate Bluetooth connectivity with the remote control as [Lauszus] didn’t want to port the code he had already written.

The fourteen minute video after the break shares the details behind how the PID controller is tuned and how [Lauszus] implements target angle and a few other factors. Of course he talks about the hardware choices, and demonstrates functionality by driving the bot around using a wireless PS3 controller.

The construction method which uses masonite strips and threaded rod does a good job of protecting the hardware mounted on it. We’re always a bit worried about these bots falling over and some of the projects we see offer little or no protection. Once thing that helps protect against a spill is a piezo buzzer which sounds when the battery is getting low.

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