Reverse Engineering The Sony PocketStation

[Robson Couto] never actually owned a PlayStation in his youth, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have a later in life renaissance. In particular a Japan-only accessory called the PocketStation caught his interest.

The item in question resided in the PlayStation’s memory card slot. It’s purpose was to add additional functionality to games and hopefully sell itself. Like the PokeWalker, Kinect, etc. It’s an age old tactic but the PocketStation had some interesting stuff going on (translated).

The biggest was its processor. Despite having a pathetic 32×32 mono screen, it hosted the same processor as the GameBoy Advance. Having acquired a card from an internet auction house [Robson] wanted to load up some of the ROMs for this device and see what it was like.

It took quite a bit of work. Luckily there is a ton of documentation floating around the internet thanks to the emulation scene and it wasn’t long before he convinced a microcontroller to pretend to be the memory card slot. Now anyone with some skill and a small piece of gaming history can play around with the rare ROM dump for the PocketStation.

15 thoughts on “Reverse Engineering The Sony PocketStation

  1. Awesome what he did, but as far as the translation worked… He managed to read and write to the “memorycard” of the pocketstation. Wich is awesome, but its not a ROM dump as I udnerstand dumping roms as firmware that makes hardware tick alott of times.

    Can we emulate it ? can someone build a adapter to make the playstation think its talking to a pocketstation? make a clone? … Still awesome, and I want a pocketstation. need his arduino code aswell to format a memory card for Linux (put linux on the playstation.. yes, ps1, Runix. the sourcecode is somewhere.) srsly for the long comment.

  2. There was a project to interface with the Sega Dreamcast’s VMU. Same thing as this, a memory card system with a little joypad, buttons, beeper and screen. I think the CPU was some 8-bit thing or maybe hybrid 16-bit.

    In the early 2000s there was a bit of development, and people got homebrew working. I tried myself desoldering the connector off one, but didn’t go well, melted plastic a-go-go.

    Now my brother-in-law has a 3D printer, maybe I can print out a connector for it. Looks like a fun system, and so does the Sony one.

  3. Hi, Robson here.
    Surprised to see my post here, as it is in portuguese( I usually translate the hacks).
    I plan to make programs for the pockestation, but in this post I am just writing roms to it like if it was a regular memory card.
    Thanks for ShendoXT for his work on the memory card – arduino interface and Martin Korth (His PSX documentation level is just insane) at
    Also, I did not dump the Pocketsation ROM. But I am sure it can be found somewere internet.

  4. Correct me if I’m wrong, but It seem to only be a playstation memory card reader/writer. It just happen that he used a pocketstation to test. It’s nice but I find the article a bit misleading considering he didn’t really reverse engineer anything as he used the already available extensive documentation on the psx memory card… Still a fun project though! A psx parallel port memory card reader was one of the first electronic project I did back when I was young.

  5. It was probably a memory patching device like gameshark or needed game devs to implement support through some query API.

    All the heavy security was on the CPU and MMU of consoles where you had to glitch to get dumps or code execution. I think to date the x360 and maybe xone were the only consoles that actually tried to keep you from getting code execution..

    1. What are you even talking about? Memory-patching device? It’s connected to the PS1 over its SIO bus, you can’t patch memory that way. It would need to be connected via the EXP bus on the back. Plus the PS1 didn’t even have a functional MMU, COP0 functionality was severely limited.

      Try knowing what you’re talking about before typing any more textual diarrhea.

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