The Dreamcast was my first real experience of the internet. I didn't own a PC until late 2000, and this was years before Broadband took off, so the console's 33k modem didn't seem too bad back then. I bought myself a keyboard with the console, and it was all rather nice at first, with the exception of the per-minute pricing, which meant I could only use it for around an hour a day. I made my first website using Angelfire on it, disconnecting when I got to the edit page, then re-connecting to save. I learnt the basics of HTML this way. You could even download VMU saves and mini-games, and Chu Chu Rocket online was great. Ahh, memories~
Of course, as soon as I got a PC the Dreamcast internet was obsolete so it got pulled from it's socket. I've since kind of missed it for some odd reason. Now my Dreamcast isn't located anywhere near a phone line, but I found a way around it recently. Firstly, from browsing Sega-Europe's website hey still have a Q&A section for the Dreamcast (go see for yourselves), and one of them was about obtaining the last edition of the DC internet disc, Dream Kit Ver.3. It appears they still have piles of them, so they're giving them away to anyway that requests one for free. I requested one for the fun of it recently, and in two days it popped through the mail.
Now I didn't have much use for this until last week while popping into GameStation, like I do once or twice a week thanks to it being a short walk away, and came across a third-party VGA device in their basket of random preps where I also got a Fishing Controller once. It was ironically by the shops rival Electronics’ Boutique (now known as GAME) and only cost £3.
Those of you that don't know what a VGA is, it's what plugs a computer monitor to your PC. In short, with this little box you can run your Dreamcast through a PC monitor. This was pretty ahead of it's time whe it came out, and only the Gamecube has done it since (although good luck finding that consoles VGA). Playing DC games with a monitor simply means you get the sharpest quality footage you could possibly get, and it's said to even work with HD TVs.
Sadly not all games work with, but about 85-90% of them do. The VGA I got also has sockets on it to plug in speakers, a Hi-fi, and a TV. I tried out the VGA feature by nabbing the sound and video sockets from the back of my motherboard, and the picture quality is indeed very, very nice, and because my PC speakers have a sub-woofer the sound was miles better than what I get from the TV.
With this I thought...how about I try out the Dreamcast online using the phone line by the computer, while the Dreamcast is set up to the VGA? Well, I didn't want to pay the per-minute stuff to try it out, so I hunted down a free ISP for it and luckily enough there was one. Right here. (you dont have to sign up to this, just take tose details.)
Using this I slapped the Dreamkey disc in, put in the details I printed out from that site, and there we have it! My DC was online again, if only temporarily. The ISP worked, although I cant tell if it was truly free yet until the next phone bill arrives. Anyway, I taped what I tried out with my camcorder and here it is!
Most of this footage is double speed and a lot of edited out because the modem is really, really slow. It takes about 5-10 minutes to load a page, and even then a lot of the layout is completely lost. My webcomic page worked the best, but these blogs came out rather basic. Also, even though this version of Dreamkey is said to work with Flash, it told me that it wasn't installed and sent me to Macromedia’s website which told me I wasn't on a format it could read. Doh!
Oh well, it was fun back in the day, but it does show how much I take Broadband for granted. I also picked up two games from gamestation, but I'll come back to those in my next post.