Monday, July 4

The guts of the original PlayStation show us how much consoles (and the world) have changed after more than two decades

December 3, 1994 Sony was starting to make history with the PlayStation, a console that became the engine of the Japanese company and that has become an indisputable reference in the history of video games.

But of course, those more than two decades do not pass in vain, and more so in a technological world that in that time has taken a radical turn. Many have been the revolutions that have conquered us since then, and the PlayStation itself has matured to adapt to the times, giving a good account of some ideas that after all this time now seem naive in current times. Gutting that old console proves it.

Gutting more than two decades of history

It is what have done in iFixit, where they have shown that the PlayStation was a conception more typical of another era of computing. One in which companies did not strive to make it difficult for users to open the devices that were purchased. They almost invited you to it, in fact.

With the PlayStation that happened, of course: a screwdriver was enough and some small plastic tool to pry open the case without damaging it and voila: we already had access to the interior.

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An interior, by the way, that also shows how things were in the world of consoles at that time. Manufacturers of the time did not like the most popular components and fled from x86 architecture that dominated everything in the world of PCs and laptops.


As indicated en iFixit, in red is the CPU designed by MIPS, and right next to it, in orange, the GPU designed by Toshiba. The 2 MB of DRAM memory spread over four 512 KB modules are outlined in yellow, while the ROM is outlined in green.

Instead, the PlayStation integrated a 32-bit R3000 MIPS CPU with a clock frequency that did not reach 34 MHz, a figure very from those times that today pales before 2,130 MHz those that the latest PS4 Pro works (with a processor that finally adopted the x86-64 architecture) and will do it even more before the current PS5. Not to mention the GPUs that have been part of the successive models of the PlayStation and have allowed to provide an amazing graphic power compared to the original model.

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Sony, in fact, had a hard time exiting proprietary chips, and continued to rely on the MIPS R5900 in su singular Emotion Engine for the PS2 and then move to the PowerPC architecture on its PS3 Cell microprocessors.

The decision to make the leap to the x86-64 architecture made life easier for developers, but the use of those CPUs in previous versions of the console was not really a problem for sales, which skyrocketed Sony’s business and converted to the PS2 is the best-selling console in history with more than 150 million units sold in all history. The original PlayStation “only” reached 104.3 million units sold compared.

A wonderful console that is indeed from another era

The PlayStation was also born at a time when online gambling as we conceive it today did not existWe were just starting to connect to the internet, and the Sony console was probably one of the last great successes of this industry that did not need that ability to succeed as it did. That, in fact, makes it all the more worthwhile that he got where he got.


At iFixit they surprised us by gutting a well-known console by showing how that simplicity spread to other parts of its hardware: its optical CD drive (capable of reading at 2x speed!), but the port selection itself was the most striking.

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In the Japanese model there was an S-Video port, while in the model that came out of there we had RCA composite video ports and an AV Multi connector that ended up becoming a wildcard to connect the console to different televisions. In case you were wondering, the HDMI standard would still be a long time coming: It did not begin to use until 2003, and it was not until the PS3 of 2006 it was integrated into Sony consoles, something that now seems surprising when the HDMI 2.1 standard is going to bring many joys to the world of consoles.

In iFixit they also highlighted how the internal power supply occupied 20% of the entire chassis, but still the technical achievement was remarkable and despite the “limited” power of the time, having that source, the CD drive and all the components enclosed in a console without active cooling was really surprising.


The slots for célebres Memory Card where the games were stored were also surprising, and a further demonstration of how much Sony liked proprietary storage formats.

Many of those ideas have ended up being abandoned: we were talking about those non-standard architectures for CPU and GPU, but over time consoles they have become much more complex and powerful -Let’s not say already difficult to repair-, which for example in the case of the first Xbox One forced to have a giant and external power supply that Microsoft later managed to integrate into the console itself with the Xbox One S and the Xbox One X.

There have also been a lot of changes in the way we play: now it’s much more difficult to conceive of video games without multiplayer modes in many of them, and internet connectivity is an integral part of some consoles that have taken us to new visual limits and realism.

In that story, however, Sony can be very proud of that original PlayStation prodigy that it ended up paying tribute to not long ago with the PlayStation Classic Mini. After all this time we must continue to congratulate a product that has taken Sony to the top in the field of video games.

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