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.

Gaming on an 8x8x8 LED Cube


Building an LED cube is a great way to learn how to solder, while building something that looks awesome. Without any previous experience with soldering or coding, [Anred] set out to create a simple 8x8x8 LED cube gaming platform.

Rather than reinventing the wheel, [Andred] based the LED cube off of three separate Instructables. The resulting cube came out great, and the acrylic casing around it adds a very nice touch. Using an Arduino Mega, the 74HC574, and a few MOSFET’s to drive his LEDs, the hardware is fairly standard. What sets this project apart from many other LED cube builds, is the fact that you can game on it using a PlayStation 1 controller. All the necessary code to get up and running is included in the Instructable (commented in German). Be sure to see the cube in action after the break!

It would be great to see a wireless version of this LED cube game. What kind of LED cube will gaming be brought to next? A tiny LED cube? The biggest LED cube ever? Only time will tell.

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Keyboard input for PlayStation

Anyone who has tried their hand at RPG Maker 1 (or any text input with a controller) knows how difficult it can be typing long paragraphs into the console. [Thutmose] is here to save the day with Kupid 1.0 (2.0 in production). A PICAXE takes ps/2 keyboard input and converts it to a series of d-pad button presses for PS1 and PS2 controllers, providing quick data entry compared to the previously monotonous task.

We’re happy to learn that the source code and hardware is released, meaning it has the potential to be easily adapted to any controller/console.

PSP L2/R2 button mod

This is quickly becoming an unintentional “game controller Saturday”. We haven’t been covering the PSP much lately, so this is a treat. AcidMods forum member [Electro] put together a quick guide for adding two missing shoulder buttons to the PSP. The L2 and R2 buttons are used while playing Playstation 1 games and are usually mapped to directions on the joystick. This mod jumps the joystick’s contacts an relocates the buttons to the shoulders. The switches used in the post seem kind of bulky, but you’re free to use anything that fits.

[via Engadget]