The Rarest Dreamcast Hardware On Earth?

Sega Dreamcast SFL-20001P Control Unit
*Updated! We have new info on this. Scroll to the bottom for the update*

Allow me to be presumptuous, but I'm going to guess that if you're here at the Junkyard reading articles about a console that has been out of production for well over a decade, you're either a) a Dreamcast enthusiast; b) a retro-gaming enthusiast; or c) both. For these reasons alone, I'm also going to presume that you dear reader, know a thing or two about so-called 'rare' hardware; and more specifically rare or lesser-spotted Dreamcast hardware. You know the kinds of thing I'm talking about - the Divers 2000 and the various special edition consoles that occasionally pop up on eBay for astronomical sums of money. Think the Resident Evil STARS edition, or the Hello Kitty variants that surface every now and then. Hell - you might even own one or two. There's something that I can guarantee the vast majority of people reading this don't own though. Not only that - I would wager that the vast majority didn't even know of the existence of this Dreamcast variant - I certainly didn't until I stumbled across DreamcastGaga's article a few days ago. Allow us to present the Dreamcast SFL-2000P1 Control Unit.
Sega Dreamcast SFL-20001P Control Unit
As mentioned in DCGaga's original article, the Control Unit originally surfaced on eBay in late 2014 and was snapped up for a mere $123 (that's about £80) by an eagle-eyed bidder. This was probably down to the fact that the item was listed rather ambiguously as 'Vintage Sega Dream Cast Japaneses Metal Console,' [sic] and not (as I would have listed it) 'Rare as Rocking Horse Shit Hitherto Unknown Dreamcast Box Thing.' 


Upon further investigation and after conversing with the new owner of the Control Unit - regular DCJY reader, commenter and Dreamcast expert CD ageS - it has become apparent that the unit was originally used, or at least intended for use in Japanese internet cafes at around the time of the Dreamcast's reign. The thing is, there really is little to no information online about this device. Several forum discussions have brought to light the only information we have on this unit, but there really are more questions than answers at present. Why is the motherboard installed upside down? Why does the unit only read certain types of GD? Why do you have to take the top of the case off in order to plug in a controller? And why have we never seen this thing before?

The Control Unit does actually resemble the prototype Dreamcast DVD player in a lot of ways, and the push-button media drive on the right hand side is interesting in it's placement...but why the lack of accessible controller ports? Maybe this device was intended to be located behind a display unit or something, and customers in internet cafes would only see the keyboard and mouse...but that just begs the question: why not just use a bank of cheap PCs or net-enabled set-top boxes instead?

As stated, this unit has been discussed in the past in a few forum threads, but they have only been seen by a very small number of people - hopefully with this exposure, somebody who knows more about the SFL-2000P1 Control Unit will come forward and enlighten us as to the device's true purpose. Want some more pictures of this mysterious box? Here you go:
Sega Dreamcast SFL-20001P Control Unit
Sega Dreamcast SFL-20001P Control Unit
Sega Dreamcast SFL-20001P Control Unit
Sega Dreamcast SFL-20001P Control Unit
Sega Dreamcast SFL-20001P Control Unit
Here's some further info on the actual unit from CD ageS on the composition of the Control Unit:

"You basically have to unscrew and remove the entire upper panel of the unit to expose the innards. On top of that, you have to unscrew the motherboard from where its placed to gain any suitable access to the 4 control ports to connect a controller in (the motherboard is positioned upside down so the ports are located right underneath and placed backwards to make matters more tedious). So to actually play games on it (and it definitely can play games) requires you to take it apart more or less. It's a rather inconvenient endeavour especially when I have tons of DC consoles that can do that already.

What I want to know is how many of these did SEGA manufacture, where did they end up after their stint, what do the dip switches do, and more importantly, was the unit purposefully designed to be taken apart for proper use?"

Referring to the image above:

"The hardware has a built in control panel. But it appears to be designed strictly for menu navigation. You'll see the back of the unit has 6 small holes. One set with 4 holes positioned in a flat diamond shape and 2 holes side by side. The flat diamond is the D-pad and the other are buttons A and B. You can access these buttons switches by inserting a pin inside these holes."
Sega Dreamcast SFL-20001P Control Unit Motherboard
Sega Dreamcast SFL-20001P Control Unit Motherboard
Sega Dreamcast SFL-20001P Control Unit Motherboard
Sega Dreamcast SFL-20001P Control Unit
All of the images above are taken from either the original eBay listing, the Dreamcast-Talk forum thread or supplied by CD ageS himself. Also, special thanks to Chojin from DreamcastGaga for alerting me to this awesome mystery in the first place.

Got any further information on the SFL-2000P1? Do you know what the dip switches on the main board are for? Do you know how many were made or if there are any more out there in the wilderness? Enlighten us all in the comments section please!
A possible application for the SFL-20001P?


Update
I was reading the Annual Sega Report from 2000 (located online here), and I spotted the following image on page 10:
There is no reference to the image in the report, but I'm sure you'll agree that the unit on display here is the same thing. With this in mind, I contacted the owner of the unit referenced above (CD AgeS) and he told me that he'd since been informed that the SFL-2000P1 Control Unit was actually used in a very limited number of internet cafes in Japan simply for playing Hundred Swords. According to his source, it was utilised in only three different locations, so that gives an idea of how uncommon this unit is. This is a great new development in the hunt for solving this mystery and if you know more still, please let us know!

13 comments:

James Reiner said...

Great article!

Tom Charnock said...

Thanks James - and thanks for reading :)

Karl Huggins said...

Nice, may be worth peeking into here https://www.assemblergames.com/forums/showthread.php?23702-What-is-this-box-(Dreamcast-Dev-Unit-Pace-Proto-) not sure it's going to clarify anything much further mind you.

Tom Charnock said...

Cheers Karl - that's one of the forums I meant in the main article. Apart from those, there's next to no info about this anywhere on the net.

Tom Charnock said...

Oh wait - that's about the Pace set top box - covered that here before mate :)

Karl Huggins said...

My eye sights not what it used to be bud, but that link I posted may well be about this particular rarity, have you read through it?

2009
https://www.assemblergames.com/forums/showthread.php?23702-What-is-this-box-(Dreamcast-Dev-Unit-Pace-Proto-)

2011
http://www.gamesniped.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/segadev.jpg

2014
http://dreamcast-talk.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&p=75344

http://www.bordersdown.net/threads/122234-Rare-Japanese-Dreamcast

http://www.dcgaga.com/2014/10/new-dreamcast-hardware-found.html

From what I can see comparing these 2 images it looks like they could have differing serial numbers, however the image quality is not the best on the 2011 link, so could also be the same?
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-xqmz08P8-dc/VO2FF1eVv4I/AAAAAAAAFq0/DHBHynAUpw0/s1600/dreamcast4.jpg

http://www.gamesniped.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/segadev.jpg



Certainly it would be prominent to seek out someone running one of the said Internet café’s or from Sega Japan’s dev team, as I doubt anyone else will be able to enlighten us all much more.

One thing IS certain, life needs more DIP switches & I hope someone gets to the bottom of this!

doceggfan said...

Just pure speculation here, but the Lindbergh has a similar set of dip switches, and one of their primary purposes is to control video output - resolution and refresh rate etc.

CD ageS said...

I've gone through that thread on assemblergames thougroughly a while back. It def looks to be in regards to this "control unit". All the picture links to the device are no longer available for view and info regarding the device is rather slim unfortunately.

CD ageS said...

I just checked the 2011link you provided. I matched the serials and they are def different. So at least we know now there is more than one of these.
Thank you.

Karl Huggins said...

Thanks, CD ageS.
I'd hazard a guess that these are possibly a bespoke limited run of arcade esq café units? I too was edging towards doceggfan's link with Lindbergh, but with relation to the L in the code SFL-2000P1. I'd hypothetically assume 2000 relates to project era...
Maybe if you have the unit tes out the various DIP setting results from here http://wiki.arcadeotaku.com/w/Sega_Lindbergh ?

Nommy said...

I strongly recommend contacting Sega about this. Send them images and ask them for information about it. Sega has always been really good about answering questions like these so you should be able to get all the info you want from them.

Tom Charnock said...

A pointless endeavour. Japan doesn't reply to emails, America and Europe just send stock customer service replies. Highly doubt anybody working for Sega today knows anything about this or even cares. The number of times I've tried to get info on stuff not even half as obscure as this is incredible and it's usually me with silence or a customer service email. Please feel free to try though, if you have better luck let me know.

Henrick said...

Excellent article and excellent iron.. I'm jelly as hell