Keeping older technology working becomes exponentially difficult with age. Most of us have experienced capacitor plague, disintegrating wire insulation, planned obsolescence, or even the original company failing and not offering parts or service anymore. To keep an antique running often requires plenty of spare parts, or in the case of [Aaron]’s vintage ’70s Sony television set, plenty of modern technology made to look like it belongs in a machine from half a century ago.
The original flyback transformer on this TV was the original cause for the failure of this machine, and getting a new one would require essentially destroying a working set, so this was a perfect candidate for a resto-mod without upsetting any purists. To start, [Aaron] ordered a LCD with controls (and a remote) that would nearly fit the existing bezel, and then set about integrating the modern controls with the old analog dials on the TV. This meant using plenty of rotary encoders and programming a microcontroller to do the translating.
There are plenty of other fine details in this build, including audio integration, adding modern video and audio inputs like HDMI, and adding LEDs to backlight the original (and now working) UHF and VHF channel indicators. In his ’70s-themed display wall, this TV set looks perfectly natural. If your own display wall spotlights an even older era, take a look at some restorations of old radios instead.
Continue reading “A ’70s TV With ’20s Parts”
Between the era of the CD and the eventual rise and domination of streaming music platforms, there was a limbo period of random MP3 players mixed in with the ubiquitous (and now officially discontinued) iPod. In certain areas, though, the digital music player of choice was the MiniDisc, a miniature re-writable CD player with some extra digital features. Among them was the ability to transfer music to the discs over USB, but they did not feature the ability to transfer the songs back to a computer. At least until now, thanks to this impressive hack from [asivery].
Although it sounds straightforward, this trick has a lot of moving parts that needed to come together just right. The MiniDisc player uses a proprietary encoding format called ATRAC, so a codec is needed for that. The MiniDisc player stores data from the disc in a 40-second buffer when playing, so the code reads the data directly from DRAM in 40-second chunks, moves the read head, repeats the process as needed, then stitches the 40-second parts back together. It can work on any Sony NetMD portable, if you are lucky enough to still have one around.
The project is a tremendous asset to the MiniDisc community, especially since the only way to recover data from a MiniDisc player prior to this was to use a specific version known as the RH-1. As [asivery] reports, used RH-1 players are going for incredibly high prices partially because of this feature. Since this new method demonstrates that it’s possible to do with other devices, perhaps its reign in the MiniDisc world will come to a close. For those still outside the loop on this esoteric piece of technology, take a look at this MiniDisc teardown.
Thanks to [Maarten] for the tip!
It’s amazing when a skilled hacker reverse-engineers a proprietary format and shares the nitty-gritty with everyone. Today is a day when we get one such write-up – about MemoryStick. It is one of those proprietary formats, a staple of Sony equipment, these SD-card-like storage devices were evidently designed to help pad Sony’s pockets, as we can see from the tight lock-in and inflated prices. As such, this format has always remained unapproachable to hackers. No more – [Dmitry Grinberg] is here with an extensive breakdown of MemoryStick protocol and internals.
If you ever want to read about a protocol that is not exactly sanely designed, from physical layer quirks to things like inexplicable large differences between MemoryStick and MemoryStick Pro, this will be an entertaining read for hackers of all calibers. Dmitry doesn’t just describe the bad parts of the design, however, as much as that rant is entertaining to read – most of the page is taken by register summaries, struct descriptions and insights, the substance about MemoryStick that we never got.
One sentence is taken to link to a related side project of [Dmitry] that’s a rabbithole on its own – he has binary patched MemoryStick drivers for PalmOS to add MemoryStick Pro support to some of the Sony Clie handhelds. Given the aforementioned differences between non-Pro and Pro standards, it’s a monumental undertaking for a device older than some of this site’s readers, and we can’t help but be impressed.
To finish the write-up off, [Dmitry] shares with us some MemoryStick bit-banging examples for the STM32. Anyone who ever wanted to approach MemoryStick, be it for making converter adapters to revive old tech, data recovery or preservation purposes, or simply hacker curiosity, now can feel a bit less alone in their efforts.
We are glad to see such great hacking on the MemoryStick front – it’s much needed, to the point where our only article mentioning MemoryStick is about avoiding use of the MemoryStick slot altogether. [Dmitry] is just the right person for reverse-engineering jobs like this, with extensive reverse-engineering history we’ve been keeping track of – his recent reverse-engineering journey of an unknown microcontroller in cheap E-Ink devices is to behold.
As consumer electronics companies chase profits on tighter and tighter margins, it seems like quality is continually harder to find for most average consumer-grade products. Luckily, we don’t have to hunt through product reviews to find well-built merchandise since we have the benefit of survivorship bias to help us identify quality products from the past that have already withstood the test of time. [Tom] has forever been fond of this particular Sony TV/radio combo from the ’70s so he finally found one and set about modernizing it in a few key ways.
Among the modifications to this 1978 Sony FX-300 include the addition of a modern color display, Bluetooth, an upgraded FM radio, and a microphone. At the center of all of this new hardware is a Teensy 4 which [Tom] has found to be quite powerful and has enough capabilities to process the audio that’s being played in order to make visual representations of the sound on the screen. He also implemented a bitcrusher filter and integrated it into the controls on the original hardware. He’s using an optimized version of this library to cram all of that processing ability into such a small chip, and the integration of all this new hardware is so polished that it looks like it could be an original Sony stereo from the modern era.
While some may complain about restomod-type builds like this, we don’t really see any need to be arbitrarily or absolutely faithful to bygone eras even if the original hardware was working properly in the first place. What works is taking the proven technology of the past and augmenting it with modern features to enjoy the best of both worlds. Much like this hi-fi stereo which blends the styles and technology of the 90s with that of the 60s in an equally impressive way.
Last month we brought you word of tonyhax, a clever exploit for the original Sony PlayStation that leveraged a buffer overflow in several of the games from the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series to load arbitrary code from a specially prepared memory card. But now [Bradlin] has taken that idea a step further and developed a software exploit for Sony’s iconic console that doesn’t need to be triggered from a game.
The exploit is considerably more complex this time around, but [Bradlin] does an excellent job of breaking it down for those who want the gritty details. The short version is that missing boundary checks in the PlayStation’s built-in memory card handling routines mean a carefully formatted “block” on the memory card can get the console to execute a small 128 byte payload. That’s not a lot of room to work with, but it ends up being just enough to load up additional code stored elsewhere on the memory card and really kick things off.
Unlike tonyhax, which was designed specifically to allow the user to swap their retail Tony Hawk disc with a game burned to a CD-R, [Bradlin]’s FreePSXBoot is presented as more of a generic loader. As of right now, it doesn’t allow you to actually play burned games, although its inevitable that somebody will connect those last few dots soon.
If you want to check out the progress so far, all you need is wire a PlayStation memory card up to an Arduino, write the provided image to it, and stick it in the slot. [Bradlin] says the exploit doesn’t work 100% of the time (something else that will surely be addressed in future releases), but it shouldn’t take too many attempts before you’re greeted with the flashing screen that proves Sony’s 27 year old console has now truly been bested.
Continue reading “Newest PlayStation Exploit Skips The Disc”
Word of Sony shutting down PlayStation storefront servers for PS3 this summer spread like wildfire on the internet Monday. The discourse in comment sections were filled with anti-DRM rhetoric and renewed pledges of physical-only game collections, because without content servers to connect to, your digital PS3 purchases will eventually become unplayable. Even if legitimate purchases are installed to the console’s hard drive before Sony “flips the switch”, they may only live on as long as the internal clock stays in sync. Which is why this guide to replace a PS3 PRAM battery written by [Andrew] has renewed importance. After a battery replacement the internal clock needs to be reset and this requires validation from the PlayStation network (you know, the one that’s soon to be shut down).
Game preservationist group [Does it play?] drove home the impact of such a business decision by Sony on Twitter. The thread is quick to point out that even if users are quick to re-download all of their purchases to a PS3 system before the purported July 2nd deadline, those games will eventually become unplayable if the system clock becomes desynchronized. Replacing the PRAM battery and reconnecting to the PlayStation Network prior to Sony shuttering their servers should buy the user some more playtime. However, without any further changes to Sony’s licensing policy little else can be done physically to ensure those digital PS3 games will work in perpetuity.
Sony isn’t the only one to have drawn the ire of digital rights advocates in regards to terminating their online services. Nintendo shuttered the DSI-Shop in 2017 and Microsoft turned off access to the original Xbox LIVE servers in 2010. The big three console makers have all let their consumers down by removing the ability to reacquire purchases in some way, but the fact that so many PS3 exclusives were only ever available digitally just further exacerbates issues with digital rights. Dropping in a fresh coin-cell may not be the permanent solution everyone is looking for at the moment, but it couldn’t hurt to re-familiarize yourself with the Cell processor.
Continue reading “Digital PlayStation 3 Purchases May Only Live As Long As Your PRAM Battery Without Sony Servers”
The original Sony PlayStation was a nifty console for its day; that grey box may have only had a 33 MHz MIPS processor and 4 MB of RAM, but for the early to mid 1990s its games were some of the best to be had. From the days when it would have sat under a family TV with a composite video or RF connection, you might expect that the PlayStation would require some form of converter box to drive a higher quality monitor. As [Wesk] found out though, present on the PS1 mainboard are all the required H and V sync as well as RGB video signals to drive a VGA monitor at 15 kHz.
It’s a wallow in the past for anyone who spent the 1990s using their SMD soldering skills to install modchips in PS1s, but it’s pleasing to find that those sync lines aren’t only available from tricky-to-solder IC pins, instead they appear on handy pads. Along with RGB lines from the normal video output they’re brought out via lightweight co-ax to a VGA socket that sits in a 3D printed bracket in the space where a removed system link port would have been. A small trim of the internal shield is requited to clear the new socket, leaving the VGA port on the back of the reassembled console looking for all the world as though it was installed in the Sony factory. Given how simple this mod turned out to be and the sharpness of the resulting image, it’s surprising that this wasn’t tried back in the day. Perhaps we were all too busy playing Wipeout.
While you’re idly rekindling your interest in a PS1, should you buy one then perhaps you’ll need a modchip.
Thanks [John] for the tip.