Sega Saturn pickups/repairs

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Sega Saturn pickups/repairs

 
   I'm not dead a hobo yet; just have been really busy with life lately, including having moved out of my parents' house and into my first apartment during July 2017, and being busy with a new job (in the video game development industry, at long last!) back in January 2017. I plan on making more regular blog posts and updating the website with updated portfolio items from the new job soon!

   During October 2017, I found an ad on Craigslist about somebody selling an out-of-order Model 1 Sega Saturn in the Pittsburgh area for $25. I never had a Sega Saturn growing up (heck, I didn't even know it was even a part of the 5th video game generation until a few years ago), and usually wasn't interested in looking to pick one up, since they usually sell for anywhere from $25-$70 depending on the condition. The ad said that the console was working at one time, but now wouldn't read disks.

   After doing some research (via this incredibly useful Youtube video), I found that the common repairs for the CD read issues for Model 1 Saturns were quite simple. Knowing that the fixes can be simple, I decided to reply to the ad. The seller said that the unit wouldn't spin discs at all (let that be CD audio, Saturn, or CD+G discs); nevertheless, I went to see the Saturn unit in person.

   At the seller's residency, I saw that the Saturn could indeed power up, but wouldn't spin any type of applicable discs (however, the unit would display when the CD lid was opened in the BIOS multiplayer). Knowing that the fixes can be easy, I took the risk in purchasing it for repairs. We eventually bargained for $22 for the Saturn and a generic 2 prong power cable.

During this same day, I picked up items to get what I would need to look into repairing the Saturn:
  • Eclipse Pad Saturn controller
  • Retrobit Saturn AV cable
  • Cheap copy of NBA Live '98
  After a lot of troubleshooting (and help from the previously linked Youtube video), the Saturn was quite easy to repair, and works perfectly now.


Turns out the issues were the following:
  • CD laser power potentiometer was out of spec
    • Fixed by adjusting the pot to 0.720 kΩ
    • This allowed the laser to power on and start spinning the CD, but still no reading of discs
  • CD Motor spindle height was out of spec
    • Fixed by adjusting the height of the spindle within tolerance (~1-2mm distance from black plastic guard and spindle)
    • This got audio CDs to play, but not Saturn game CDs
  • Saturn game CD potentiometer's resistance was too low
    • Adjusted resistance of pot until Saturn CDs could be recognized and booted
    • CD drive fully repaired afterwards.
    Not too shabby for a broken Saturn, eh? Around late October, I also picked up a few other things for pretty good prices:
  • Sega Saturn Netlink Modem ($20 on Ebay)
    • With Planetweb browser disc
  • PS/2 Netlink keyboard adapter
    • With Saturn controller extension cable
    • $10 on eBay, but the keyboard adapter got lost in the mail
    • Ended up getting another one (a little more expensive being boxed, but cheapest on eBay at the time)
    It's still possible in 2017 to play Netlink-enabled games online on the real Saturn hardware, via either an old-fashioned 56k dial-up connection (if you still have such connection) or over modern-day ethernet via a VOIP adapter. I really look forward to playing these games online in the near future after acquiring an unlocked Cisco / Linksys SPA1001 FXS VoIP Phone Adapter (maybe for Christmas 😉 ). As for the keyboard adapter, that would be used for chat in Netlink games, and also for tinkering around with a copy of Game Basic for Sega Saturn later on. It's an obscure Japanese Saturn game that has a BASIC interpreter, used for creating Saturns games/software, in order to create some homebrew games in the future 😃.

    Lastly, I recently acquired a Sega Saturn Gamer's Cartridge last week. It's an incredibly amazing, custom Saturn cartridge which can allow the user to play backups on CD-Rs, to play import games, to save BRAM data on an SD card, to migrate BRAM data to/from the internal BRAM/external SD BRAM, to emulate Floppy Disk saves (for the few games that support the Saturn FDD), to run small homebrew applications from SD card, and to do much more! It comes pre-installed with Pseudo Saturn Kai firmware in order to achieve all of these features and more. (I plan on making a separate blog post/video review about this amazing cartridge in early December 2017.)


  Below is a quick video I created discussing the repairs and some of those Saturn pickups. I plan on making more videos like this (but better quality), for reviewing old video game console hardware/repairs, and reviewing some video games in either a future Youtube channel called "Nerdology" or a Twitch channel.


 Overall, picking up that cheap $22 Saturn was worth it, considering how easy it was to repair it. The Saturn was a somewhat obscure Sega console (it didn't do very well at all in the US, but was wildly popular in Japan). Although it could do 3D graphics, it's strengths lie in its 2D graphical abilities, which is where its game library shines. Exploring the Saturn library with this repaired Saturn will be fun.

-Tamkis

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