Ben Heck completes repair of Nintendo Playstation prototype
18 months after finding a long-rumored prototype of a Nintendo Playstation, electronics wizard Ben Heck has successfully repaired the console.
First, some quick history: with the advent of CD technology the 1980’s, several game console manufacturers began development on their own devices and add-ons that could run CDs. While some of these came to fruition (like the PC Engine/TurboGrafx 16 CD add-on and the Sega CD), one that never saw the light of day was Nintendo’s Super NES CD-ROM. In 1988, Nintendo contracted with Sony to develop a CD-based add-on for their upcoming 16-bit console, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, or SNES. Work progressed, and Sony debuted a working console in June of 1991 at the Consumer Electronics Show. However, a dispute between Sony and Nintendo over who would control rights to the format led Nintendo to secretly meet with electronics manufacturer Philips to cut a better deal for the gaming giant. The day after Sony showed their working prototype, dubbed the “Play Station,” Nintendo announced their new partnership with Philips. The news came as a complete surprise to everyone, including Sony. Sony and Nintendo severed ties, but Sony took the work they had done up to this point and ended up developing the Sony Playstation, one of the most successful game consoles of all time.
Before Sony shifted focus to their independently developed console, some prototypes of the Super NES CD-ROM were manufactured but never unveiled. The physical prototypes were long thought lost until Terry Diebold, a former employee of American banking and finance firm Advanta, showed off a working prototype that had belonged to the then-president of Advanta, Ólafur Jóhann Ólafsson. Ólafsson had formerly been an executive at Sony during the time the company was developing the Playstation, and it is assumed that he took the prototype with him when he left the company and began work at Advanta. Diebold stated he had purchased the prototype in Advanta’s bankruptcy auction in 2009. The prototype was able to play SNES cartridges, but the CD drive did not recognize or playback and CDs. Diebold handed the prototype over to Ben Heck, an electrical engineer/DIY master known for his work on The Ben Heck Show, to see if the electronics guru could repair the device.
After about 18 months of trials and setbacks, it looks like Ben Heck has succeeded in repairing the disc tray. In a video posted to his YouTube channel today, Ben Heck showed that the disc tray can now read and playback audio discs. He also showed gameplay from a homebrew game working on the system. Since no games were officially made for the device, there are only two homebrew games currently available, but Heck has stated that both can be read by the CD-ROM.
This is a pretty interesting device with an even more intriguing history behind, and it’s great to see a fully functional unit. As Ben Heck said, it’s now up to the programmers!