How did the Playstation work?
It’s 1993 and Sony Interactive Entertainment has announced its first forary into the world of video games. The console? The Playstation. The consequences? Lasting. Nearly all 90’s kids, even those who were staunchly Nintendo or Sega, remember the Playstation after it reached British shores in 1995. Using CD-ROM technology rather than cartridges, the 32-bit system was revolutionary. Here’s a look back at how this era defining console worked.
The core of the Playstation was the 32-bit RISC CPU processor. The CPU was a new type of RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) that made the processor more efficient while carrying out simpler tasks. Unlike its contemporaries, the Playstation also had one computer chip rather than three. The 1MB of RAM allowed a rendering of 360,000 polygons per second resulting in a lush 3D gaming experience.
The Playstation CD’s had up to 650MB of data, a vast increase on what any cartridge or floppy disk could hold. This meant longer loading times but significantly increased graphics with full motion videos the norm. Who can forget the amazing video excerpts from Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee? As well as being of a higher standard of technology, CD’s were cheaper to mass produce so the best game developers of the age jumped on the bandwagon and masses of now legendary franchsies were born.
To increase processor speed, the Playstation didn’t hold any personal game data, a design that was rectified by the time of the Playstation 3, which had its own hard drive. Instead there was a drive to insert 1MB memory cards that would hold the valuable game data and make sure you never lost your epic 25 hour Final Fantasy VII save.
With 24 channels and 512K RAM, the console’s best games had superb soundtracks and no gamer can forget the unique sounds when starting up the machine. As well as games, the Playstation could play audio CDs and Video CDs (the precursor to DVDs) making the console the complete entertainment system of its day.
After a disc is inserted and a game has been loaded into the RAM, the controller interacts with the game. The iconic 14 buttons were easy to navigate and made gaming as easy as possible so you could jump ravines in Crash Bandicoot or ace the final corner in Gran Turismo. Inside the controller was a simple circuit and when any button was pressed, it would complete a part of it. A press of the button pushed down a metal disc that made contact with the circuit board and conducted electricty. This would send a message to the game data and complete the action you selected. But what about the analogue sticks? These worked differently to the buttons. Two potentiometers allowed currents to flow through them at all times with the current changing depending on the resistance was put on the analogue buttons. The invention of the DualShock added an extra dimension of force feedback that made the controller shudder when something happened in the game like a heavy crash in Wipeout or a bullet hitting you and ending your streak on Medal of Honor.
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