It has not been a very productive year for blogging. But I started the year by describing an unfinished project that I developed for the Sega Dreamcast, so I may as well end the year the same way. The previous project was a media player. That initiative actually met with some amount of success and could have developed into something interesting if I had kept at it.
By contrast, this post describes an effort that was ultimately a fool’s errand that I spent way too much time trying to make work.
In my neverending quest to analyze the structure of video games while also hoarding a massive collection of them (though I’m proud to report that I did play at least a few of them this past year), I wanted to be able to extract the data from my many Dreamcast titles, both games and demo discs. I had a tool called the DC Coder’s Cable, a serial cable that enables communication between a Dreamcast and a PC. With the right software, you could dump an entire Dreamcast GD-ROM, which contained a gigabyte worth of sectors.
Problem: The dumping software (named ‘dreamrip’ and written by noted game hacker BERO) operated in a very basic mode, methodically dumping sector after sector and sending it down the serial cable. This meant that it took about 28 hours to extract all the data on a single disc by running at the maximum speed of 115,200 bits/second, or about 11 kilobytes/second. I wanted to create a faster method.
I formed a mental model of dreamrip’s operation that looked like this:
As an improvement, I envisioned this beautiful architecture: