The original Sony PlayStation came out just in time for CD piracy to really start taking off. Aware of this threat to sales, Sony engineers included a copy protection and region locking mechanism that placated executives and annoyed end-users alike. [MattKC] explores how this copy protection worked, and how you can burn your own modchip at home for just a few dollars.
Sony’s method of copy protection relied on steps taken during the manufacturing process, pressing a special groove into the game media that regular CD burners couldn’t replicate, a topic our own [Drew Littrell] has covered in depth. This groove contained a four letter code that could be read by the console, corresponding to the region in which the game was sold. The console would read this groove on startup, and check that the code in the game matched the code in the console before booting. Modchips circumvent this by injecting a spoof code into the console that matches the local region, regardless of what is read off the disc. This has the effect of both allowing users to run bootleg CD-Rs, homebrew code, as well as games from other regions.
Today, we’re blessed with the Internet and cheap hardware. As [MattKC] demonstrates, it’s no longer necessary to mail-order a chip from a dodgy ad in the back of a games magazine; instead, one can download source code and flash it to a commodity PIC microcontroller for just a few bucks. With the chip soldered in to the relevant points of the PS1’s motherboard, you’re good to go.
As far as console modding goes, the PS1 is a great platform to start with — simple to work on, and also the best selling console of all time, so the stakes are low if you mess up. Video after the break.