Graphics Box

I was able to get this large piece of hardware for a song. I saw it on Yahoo Japan auctions and didn't know what it did, but I bid on it anyway. What arrived at my doorstep was a huge box the size of an old IBM PC. The graphics box has only a power plug connection in the back; the rest of the connections are on the front of the unit.

After plugging in the power cord, AV cable, and a joypad, I flipped the big switch, a cooling fan started whirring, and it came to life! The familiar BIOS "time setting" screen came up and then I was taken to the regular Saturn bootup screen. However, it just hung there; nothing happening. It should be noted that this development box, huge as it is, contains no CD-ROM drive. It seems that developers would use this by connecting it to their PC or a CD-ROM drive via a SCSI link (or even an RS-232C link.) So, presumably the BIOS hung at the title screen because it was trying to detect a CD-ROM on its bus.

No matter. The box has a slot for the Saturn expansion cartridges, so I shoved in my Action Replay cartridge. The AR has a command to go to the CD player through its menu. I turned the unit back on, the Saturn booted to the AR cartridge rather than hanging, and through the AR, I was able to go to the CD player. The player worked identically to the regular Saturn one, except none of the play/stop/skip controls worked. The button for going to the BIOS/language/memory settings didn't work either, so unfortunately, I couldn't change it to English.

Not much else to do but take a look at the insides. The large main board has another board resting on top of it, which contains the SCSI/RS232C interfaces, some SIMM slots, and other chips used solely for debugging purposes. My guess is the unit was able to halt the Saturn's CPUs, dump the RAM to the PC, and so on. The CPUs are on their own removable, socketed boards, which is also pretty interesting. There are a couple of neat red LEDs that light up on each board when the power is on.

Oops... I have an odd number of pictures. Well, here's a picture of the BIOS to the right. The one really cool thing about this BIOS is that its version number is 1.003, quite a bit earlier than the consumer Saturn's. (^_^)v

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