Console Controller Mod Gets Amputee Back In The Game

No matter how it happens, losing one or more fingers is going to change one’s life in thousands of ways. We’re a manipulative species, very much accustomed to interacting with the world through the amazing appendages at the ends of our arms. Finding ways around the problems that result from amputations is serious business, of course, even when it’s just modifying a game console controller for use with a prosthetic hand.

We’ve gotten to know [Ian Davis] quite well around these parts, at least from his videos and Instagram posts. [Ian]’s hard to miss — he’s in the “Missing Parts Club” as he puts it, consisting of those who’ve lost all or part of a limb, which he has addressed through his completely mechanical partial-hand prosthetic. As amazing as the mechanical linkages of that prosthetic are, he hasn’t regained full function, at least not to the degree required to fully use a modern game console controller, so he put a couple of servos and a Trinket to work to help.

An array of three buttons lies within easy reach of [Ian]’s OEM thumb. Button presses there are translated into servo movements that depress the original bumper buttons, which are especially unfriendly to his after-market anatomy. Everything rides in an SLA-printed case that’s glued atop the Playstation controller. [Ian] went through several design iterations and even played with the idea of supporting rapid fire at one point before settling on the final design shown in the video below.

It may not make him competitive again, but the system does let him get back in the game. And he’s quite open about his goal of getting his designs seen by people in a position to make them widely available to other amputees. Here’s hoping this helps.

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Burning Your Own PS1 Modchip Is Easy

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. Continue reading “Burning Your Own PS1 Modchip Is Easy”

Console Identity In The Age Of PlayStation 5 And Xbox Series

Consoles are obsolete the minute they are released. The onward march of silicon innovation ensures that consoles never are able to keep up with the times, but technical superiority rarely results in being remembered. That kind of legacy is defined by the experiences a device provides. A genre defining game, a revolutionary approach to media, or a beloved controller can be enough to sway popular opinion. But really…it all boils down to a box. All the spurious promises of world-class hardware specs, all the overly ambitious software ship dates, and even the questionable fast-food crossover promotions exist in service to the box. The boxes vying for attention in 2020 A.D. are the PlayStation 5 (PS5) and Xbox Series X/S/Seriessss (XSX or whatever the common nomenclature eventually shakes out to be). These boxes likely represent the minimum spec for the next decade in big-budget video games, however, it is the core identity of those consoles that will define the era.

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Official Teardown Gives Unexpected Look Into PS5

With Sony and Microsoft still a month away from the public release of their next-generation game consoles, you’d expect technical details of their respective systems to still be under a veil of secrecy. But both companies look to be taking things a bit differently this generation, as it becomes increasingly clear that modern consumers are interested in what makes their devices tick. Today, Sony really threw down the gauntlet by beating the tech media to the punch and posting their own in-depth teardown on the new PlayStation 5.

Unsurprisingly, the video after the break is almost entirely in Japanese. But even if you don’t know the language, there’s plenty of interesting details to be had. For one thing, the heatsink and fan that cools the PS5’s AMD CPU and GPU are collectively so massive that they appear to take up most of the console’s internal volume.

In fact, the heatsink itself is so large that the motherboard is actually mounted to it instead of the other way around. So if you want to take out the board, you have to unbolt it from the heatsink and remove it first. In the process you’ll expose the unique liquid metal thermal compound that Sony apparently developed specifically for this application. Good luck to you if any dust gets in that expensive-looking goop.

It’s also interesting to note that, unlike the previous two generations of Sony consoles, the PS5 has no discrete hard drive. Instead, onboard flash with a custom controller is used to provide 825 GB of storage for software. Hopefully Sony has put the requisite amount of R&D into their wear leveling, as a shot flash chip will mean a whole new motherboard. That said, gamers with extensive collections will be happy to see there appears to be an expansion bay where you can install your own M.2 drive.

Between this and the recent PS4 assembly line tour, it’s refreshing to see a company like Sony be a bit more transparent. After years of adversarial treatment from the tech giants, we’d almost forgotten that the customer is supposed to be king. Continue reading “Official Teardown Gives Unexpected Look Into PS5”

Ultra-Rare Nintendo Play Station Prototype Hits Auction Block

If you are interested in such things, you can buy a 1990s Sony Play Station via Heritage Auctions. We’re sure this will have caught your interest, after all it’s not every day you get the chance to catch such a machine. But before you call us out for seemingly reporting the news of an unremarkable sale featuring the runaway success story of 1990s gaming, take a look at the first sentence again. This is not a PlayStation, the ubiquitous grey console of the 1990s, but a Play Station, said as two words rather than one. This ill-fated collaboration between Sony and Nintendo was intended to be an SNES with a CD-ROM drive, but the project faltered and all that remained was the almost mythical tale of a few prototype consoles.

So far there has only been one of these devices that has surfaced, and this is the machine in the auction. So what seemed as though it might be a mundane console turns out to be one of the rarest machines ever created, a true Holy Grail of console collecting.

This machine has a known provenance, and has appeared on these pages before. In 2016 Ben Heck did a teardown to reveal the combination of Sony CD drive and SNES motherboard, and by 2017 he had it working with some homebrew games. There was no official software produced for this console, so it seems the lucky purchaser may have only homebrew games with which to try their console.

At the time of writing the auction is standing at $57,600, and we’d expect this to increase significantly. So you may not have the chance to own the Play Station, but with such a rare machine it’s always worth noting its appearances. It’s also worth remembering that there was more than one of them produced, in fact when your scribe was working in the same industry in the 1990s a senior colleague talked about having been shown one during dealings with Nintendo UK a few years earlier. The machine on sale today may be the only one we know to have survived, but it’s a fair possibility that there are others still gathering dust in long-forgotten archive boxes or collections of gaming hardware junk. Keep an eye out, you might just find your own rarest console ever produced!

Sleeper PlayStation Hides A Raspberry Pi 4

[Andreas Wilcox] wanted to get his brother a birthday gift that reflected their shared love for the early days of 3D gaming, but just handing him a second-hand original PlayStation lacked a certain style. So he decided to gut the classic system and replace its dated internals with a shiny new Raspberry Pi 4. But rather than taking the easy way out, he put in the time and effort to integrate the new hardware so seamlessly that the nearly 25 year old console still looks stock from the outside.

The fact that the front ports are functional and work with the original controllers really helps sell the stock look. [Andreas] found a USB to PlayStation controller adapter, liberated the PCB, and soldered it to the back of the system’s ports. Even the memory card slots got in on the action, thanks to female USB connectors installed where the original connector went. It was a tight fit, but the final result was well worth it.

We also love the GPIO-controlled cooling fan complete with a duct designed to blow across the notoriously toasty Pi, and check out that carefully designed holder for the power and reset buttons. This entire project is really a fantastic example of how 3D printed parts can give your projects a far cleaner and more professional look than the hacker’s old standby of hot glue; though of course it demands a considerable time investment.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a Raspberry Pi shoehorned into a classic video game console, but it’s absolutely one of the cleanest examples we’ve ever seen. Though if we lump Raspberry Pi portables into the running, the competition is considerably fiercer.

PlayStation Classic Hacked Live On Stream

When Sony announced they planned to release their own classic/mini/plug-n-play system this year, many fans were filled with excitement at the chance to relive countless classic games from the 90s. However, once the actual list of titles were made public that excitement faded as reality set in. So many favorites like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon were left off the final PlayStation Classic list, no doubt due to the complexity of licensing agreements. That will all soon change now that [YifanLu] cracked the PlayStation Classic live on a Twitch stream thus laying the ground work for swapping-in a “more curated” list of classic PlayStation games.

Over the course of three days, [YifanLu] documented the process in real-time of cracking the PlayStation Classic’s security armed with little more than a keyboard. The crux of the hack came from fellow hacker [madmonkey]’s revelation that the firmware update files were signed with a key that had been mistakenly left behind on the device by Sony. Or as [YifanLu] stated, “One key is, ‘Hey am I Sony?’…The other key is saying, ‘Hey I am Sony.’ They distributed the key that identifies [themselves] uniquely and this key doesn’t expire for another 50 years or so.”

Once inside [YifanLu] was able to sideload a prototype image of a Crash Bandicoot over USB. He simply overwrote the first title on the list, Battle Arena Toshinden, and could launch the freshly injected game from the PlayStation Classic menu screen. The video below is from Day 3 of the PlayStation Classic hacking series, so skip to timecode (03:44:45) to see the results in action. For a bit more nuance there are another 15 hours or so of video to catch-up on [YifanLu]’s Twitch page. Here’s to everyone getting their favorite onto the PlayStation Classic in the near future.

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