Sunday, 1 July 2012

Retrochallenge 2012 - public access Dreamcast?

So, just noticed RetroChallenge 2012, which has various rules including:
  • [...] computer systems must by approximately 10 years old (or older!) [...]
  • Gaming consoles and PDAs qualify if they were made in the previous century
Well, the opportunity to comply with both of the above rules in one task is too good to miss, so onwards with my plan to setup a Sega Dreamcast as a public access *nix server, using a DEC VAXstation 4000/90A as a netboot and file server.

For this plan to success all I needed was:
  1. A VAXstation 4000/90A, suitable for running dhcpd & nfs - that would be wopr
  2. SEGA Dreamcast, with BroadBand Adaptor (ethernet) & keyboard
  3. Cables, spare IP, downloaded NetBSD etc
  4. Time and for everything to work
The plan suffered an early setback when the Dreamcast I acquired turned out to have a Japanese 110V power board which steadfastly refused to work with any 110V power supply I used.

Fortunately the Bay-of-e has a ready supply of UK Dreamcasts with functional 240V power boards, quite cheap - particularly if you are willing to include a cosmetic condition of "Appears to have been used regularly as some form of dinner receptacle, also possibly slightly chewed by dog"

A few moments with a screwdriver and my UK powered Japanese Dreamcast powers up with a NetBSD-5.1 CD in the drive.

The first thing I notice is its loud. I think louder than the VAXstation (as the VS is around 5.5miles away its difficult to tell for sure, but last time I checked it didn't have a 2cm fan making a valiant attempt to bore its way out through the case).

The second thing... the bottom two lines of the console are invisible. This provided a sufficiently convincing representation of "bizarrely hung" for my initial joy at the dmesg to pass through a selection of profanity before I worked out what was happening.

Not having the VAX to hand (that would be some mighty big hand), I decide to use my trusty HP microserver as a dhcp and nfs server and a few minutes later...

Hmm, this could be too easy... maybe once the Dreamcast is up I can try building simh on it and set it up to emulate a VAX?

Incidently, if anyone would like a login to the VAX (now) or the Dreamcast (soon)... let me know :)


  1. Looks like fun! I've oft wondered about using my dreamcasts for something useful... trouble is I have no BBA to allow it to link to anything, and the prices don't seem to be heading anywhere close to down ... good luck with this!

    1. Well a Serial-to-SDcard adaptor is now about $20, which opens up some options :)

  2. There has to be some way to address either the built in serial port on the back or the modem adaptor to talk to the outside world. While it may not be as fast it could at least open up a lot more Dreamcasts to use...