A tale overheard at Stompin' Wombat's Intergalactic Trading Post

The Old Crow Discovers a Product of Hong-Kong

This tale begins in the spring of 1996, when I occasioned to visit a friend in Chicago. At his place there was this gathering of folks, most of whom I knew if not by handshake at least by reputation. In this case, it so happened that one of the people there brought their PlayStation, hereafter indicated by the acronym PSX.

The mere fact of PSX being in the room was not all that significant, save that it was purchased in the US and was directly booting a Japanese game. Now, being the microcontroller hardware/embedded systems engineer that I was, I knew that this was not a feature typical of the off-the-shelf PSX, and asked what gave this machine such a singular ability. "Oh," my friend said, "that because of the boot chip I had installed."

This response prompted my immediate raising of eyebrows several inches, whereupon I then said and asked. "That is interesting. Mind if I have a look at the chip?" Now, understand that PSXen were still USD$300 at the time and that my friend, trustworthy of my hardware hacking talents as he was, expressed mild concern as he did not want his 'baby' trashed that night. At length he relaxed and let me open the machine, thus giving me the first view ever (aside from web photos) of the circuit board of the machine.

With the case removed and the circuit board exposed, it was easy to see the 14-pin chip that had been rather unceremoniously tack-wired into various circuit points. My microcontroller-engineer mind kicked in and I traced out the obvious wiring: power, ground, door switch, reset signal, a wire off one of the onboard clock oscillators. These were all easily ascertained, but six wires remained unaccounted for. 'Overkill', I thought, and I would turn out to be correct, though that was not to be proven until a later date.

Thus satisfied, I reassembled the machine and promptly forgot about this boot chip business for six months, though in the interim I did buy my own machine and had my brain eaten for 5 weeks by an unassuming little sim game called 'Tokimeki Memorial -- Forever With You'. Understanding Japanese is a *curse* at times like this, I promise you.

Next chapter: The Old Crow Invents the Term 'Mod Chip'

The Old Crow