If a prototype of a retro console made its way into a member of the public's hands...

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Individualised
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If a prototype of a retro console made its way into a member of the public's hands...

Post by Individualised »

If a prototype of a retro console (think the SNES prototypes with wildly different specifications to the retail system) that had different features/chips/chip revisions etc made its way into a member of the public's hands, what would be the best course of action? Leaving it as untouched as it could be, knowing that it may be one of a kind, or attempting to disassemble and reverse engineer it so that it and its behaviour can be forever preserved digitally?
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Re: If a prototype of a retro console made its way into a member of the public's hands...

Post by TmEE »

I favor the detailed research aspect, get stuff documented as much as possible and perhaps something fun can come out of that. Sometimes it will require altering the state of the machine but I find such things as acceptable cost.
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Re: If a prototype of a retro console made its way into a member of the public's hands...

Post by tepples »

I'd say the closest analogue is what happened with the "PlayStation" (SNES CD) prototype. Figure out what it's supposed to be doing, give it to Ben Heck to repair as necessary, make yet another port of Magic Floor, and then it becomes a museum exhibit.
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Re: If a prototype of a retro console made its way into a member of the public's hands...

Post by creaothceann »

Ben Heck could take a look at it

EDIT: what tepples said
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Re: If a prototype of a retro console made its way into a member of the public's hands...

Post by Individualised »

Is the SNES-CD/Nintendo PlayStation that well documented though? I know it's emulated in some form but otherwise there doesn't seem to be much documentation for it.
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Re: If a prototype of a retro console made its way into a member of the public's hands...

Post by lidnariq »

There isn't much to the SnesCD, either.

For things where the functionality is a function of just connectivity - say where the two WRAMs are mapped in $21xx on the SnesCD's RAM cart - it'd be good if someone would be willing to sit down with a continuity meter and find that out.

But there's no replacement for black-box reverse-engineering. Almost everything we know about the SnesCD is from nocash's notes from disassembling the BIOS - standalone ASICs are largely impenetrable.
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Re: If a prototype of a retro console made its way into a member of the public's hands...

Post by Fiskbit »

With all the stuff we've found with black box testing, it's clear to me that there is substantial value in being able to run code on the real hardware. Destroying a rare or one-of-a-kind device for research may be useful and warranted, but it comes with a significant opportunity cost. Despite all the work that's gone into studying and simulating the NES CPU and PPU at the transistor level, there are things we've found using software that I suspect wouldn't have been found otherwise. My preference is to keep rare hardware functional so there's something to test against.
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Re: If a prototype of a retro console made its way into a member of the public's hands...

Post by Individualised »

Fiskbit wrote: Thu Jan 19, 2023 1:20 am With all the stuff we've found with black box testing, it's clear to me that there is substantial value in being able to run code on the real hardware. Destroying a rare or one-of-a-kind device for research may be useful and warranted, but it comes with a significant opportunity cost. Despite all the work that's gone into studying and simulating the NES CPU and PPU at the transistor level, there are things we've found using software that I suspect wouldn't have been found otherwise. My preference is to keep rare hardware functional so there's something to test against.
This is a good point. Though I believe that such a console should be disassembled at least once just to have a peak inside and document stuff such as the appearance of the chips etc.

My main worry is that it would end up like the Nintendo PlayStation and have very little reverse engineering work (black box or otherwise) done on it before getting donated to a museum or being locked behind closed doors. At least with that, there was a BIOS ROM, but that wouldn't be the case for something like a prototype Famicom or Super Famicom. I feel like only very niche groups of people (such as this community) would recognise that preserving the behaviour of the hardware is just as important as preserving the hardware itself and that if such a console made its way into the hands of a collector, even if a well meaning one, that it would never get emulated.
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Re: If a prototype of a retro console made its way into a member of the public's hands...

Post by Pokun »

I'm not sure "very little work" really applies here as, although Ben Heck didn't decap the custom ASICs, he seemed to do a lot of work on it (even if a lot of it was figuring out what was wrong with it and make it work again). As I understood it, Nocash emulated it based on the info he got out of Ben Heck (which includes the BIOS dump). I'm surprised the WRAM mapping wasn't figured out before he could make an emulator.

But yeah considering it's the only prototype, decapping the chips is hardly an option.
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Re: If a prototype of a retro console made its way into a member of the public's hands...

Post by lidnariq »

Not the primary RAM mapping - we know where it shows up on the CA/primary bus. But it's also accessible on the PA/B bus and we don't know those addresses.
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Re: If a prototype of a retro console made its way into a member of the public's hands...

Post by Pokun »

I see.
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Re: If a prototype of a retro console made its way into a member of the public's hands...

Post by Individualised »

Pokun wrote: Tue Jan 24, 2023 6:30 pm I'm not sure "very little work" really applies here as, although Ben Heck didn't decap the custom ASICs, he seemed to do a lot of work on it (even if a lot of it was figuring out what was wrong with it and make it work again). As I understood it, Nocash emulated it based on the info he got out of Ben Heck (which includes the BIOS dump). I'm surprised the WRAM mapping wasn't figured out before he could make an emulator.

But yeah considering it's the only prototype, decapping the chips is hardly an option.
In that case then I take it back; I was under the impression that much less work was done on it apart from getting it to function again and dumping the BIOS. And decapping is of course an unrealistic expectation for a currently one of a kind prototype, so I think black box reverse engineering is fine in such circumstances.
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