Pi Pico Breathes New Life Into Original PlayStation

Those gamers who were playing in the mid 1990s may retain a soft spot for Sony’s first PlayStation. The grey console was the thing to have a quarter century ago, but we’re guessing few who had one will have a soft spot for their CD mechanisms. These were seemingly manufactured from Sony’s finest chocolate, and would stop working at the slightest hint of getting warm.

With the hardware now long in the tooth, what is to be done with a dead CD drive? Perhaps [Xrider] has the answer, with a CD Drive emulator board which fits in the space left by the original (French language, translation link).

Doing the hard work is a Raspberry Pi Pico, building on the Picostation project. To that it brings a drive-shaped board, as well as a series of daughterboards for the various different revisions of the Sony motherboard. The games meanwhile are loaded from a micro-SD card.

As single board computers have become ever faster, it’s no surprise that one would be able to emulate a ’90s CD mechanism with ease. What this does raise though is the interesting prospect that the Picostation might be adapted for other less-popular CD-based platforms. For those of us for whom games consoles in the CD era were both work and play, we hope that other consoles will receive this benefit.

21 thoughts on “Pi Pico Breathes New Life Into Original PlayStation

  1. Yikes, a crazy world indeed when the dual 300mhz ARM is the drive controller for the 33mhz processor.

    I often wonder why they don’t integrate the rp2040 chip directly and make the PCB smaller? Revision 2 I guess.

    1. It’s moderately crazy that an optical drive emulator for a console is based around a $4 microcontroller and has open source firmware. (Looks like Picostation is open hardware as well, Deltastation only has open firmware?) Most of the other ODEs I’m aware of are entirely closed source and rather expensive.

    2. We’ve been in a world where cheap microcontrollers have far outstripped the processing power of retro processors for decades now. I’m not really sure why people keep being surprised by this.

      1. I guess a I missed when multi ARM 100mhz+ cores became ‘microcontroller’. But there it is in the PDF from Raspberry Pi foundation.

        2x 133mhz nominal Cortex M0, but I guess they will go near 300mhz (other parts of the chip do not, but if you aren’t using them 🤷‍♂️).

        Amazing is the price, $0.75 apiece in QTY 100.

        I see they are trying to fill the blank spot in the CD bay with the PCB. If they move the RP2040 to the smaller PCB and steal a clock signal from the Playstation the price plummets. The interconnects are cheaper because you can use a standard SD interface and the ribbon for the SD has less conductors.

        Leave off the cd bay cover or 3D print it.

        They don’t have to do this, but the Clones will anyway.

  2. I want one of these for Dreamcast. There is one that’s supposed to be the best, it’s the original, but the guy who produces them initially got it to a working state then stuck it on a shelf for a long while before deciding to finish it and sell them. He’s loaded it with protections on the code, has a high price on them, makes them in small batches. Got pissed off when a Chinese clone showed up at a lower price. So he updated the code, obfuscated it more or changed how it’s protected from being read.

    His acting that way prodded other people to come up with other ways of replacing the Dreamcast GD-ROM. All of them cost a lot less and AFAIK are open hardware, open source.

    1. While I wish I’d been able to get a GDEMU I do understand the dilemma the creator is in. He put all the effort and money into the R&D and got to the point where hardware production bites you on the ass. Fair enough he didn’t want cloners to take all the profit from his work. Ideally he’d have partnered with a hardware vendor… but there’s still significant risk in finding a trustworthy partner.

      The only real issue is that nobody has come up with a competing implementation; everyone just puts in the minimum amount of effort to rip off GDEMU instead.

      1. Oof, misread your last sentence – but there’s nothing wrong with keeping a design to yourself. If someone comes up with an improved alternative that’s not an indictment of the original designer (who has no obligation to anyone to do anything), just a benefit for the community as a whole.

    2. I agree.

      The irony is quite funny. Gdemu is needed because otherwise many games and homebrew are inaccessible to gamers.

      Who need gdemu clones, because the gdemu is otherwise inaccessible to many gamers.

      There’s nothing really wrong with what he’s doing, but without competition it falls far short of what consumers want. That the competition are clones is no skin off my nose.

      Then again I’ve got no problem with the Chinese ideas of intellectual protection.

  3. I wouldn’t have put xrider in the spotlight, most of the work is being done by the picostation project author. The french speaking forum guy is “only” rerouting a nice looking PCB.

    It does look cool to fill the space of the orignial drive, but what bothers me is that he is closing his design, putting watermarks everywhere because he’s afraid of being copied… while copying an open hardware and firmware project. In 2 words: not cool…

  4. Hi guys, I don’t own a Dreamcast, but I’ve read about the guy who worked on that solution…In my point of view, his work may have required much effort, but remains an exploit, so it appertains to a category which is not regulated.
    It’s strange that he decided to act like he’s doing now. I mean, if that was its main project, done as full-time job, then probably he would have completed it sooner.
    Of course if you keep a project on the shelf, and finish it after many years, it will seem much more valuable.

    Being cloned should not be seen always as a negative aspect. They prove that it’s valuable, and they advertise indirectly the product. Plus, clones are not usable and stable like the original, people knows this, as long as they are informed on the differences before purchasing.

    1. The PS2 has the benefit of multiple other ways to load games other than an ODE. FreeMCBoot can be used in concert with mc2sio, the internal hard drive bay, the USB port, or a SMB share via the ethernet port.

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