The Dreamcast Dreamphone

Up until today I'd never heard of the Dreamcast Dreamphone, and I'd wager many other people haven't either. What meagre information there is on this little-known device can only be accessed through liberal use of the Way Back Machine; but I'll explain how I came to find this odd and fascinating contraption before explaining what I've pieced together about it.
Sorry. Wrong number.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin. Twas a dark and stormy evening and I was randomly browsing the internet for cheap Dreamcast games, when I happened across the following listing at US website eStarland.com. At first I thought I must be looking at an April Fools' hoax or something because even though I consider myself to be quite well versed in Dreamcast peripherals, the Dreamphone is something I've never, ever heard of.
After finding this item (it's out of stock by the way, and is likely to be so for some time to come forever), I did some Googling but could find barely any information on it. There are thousands of references to a board game of the same name (see above), and a couple of forum threads from 2004 and 2007 where people seemingly stumbled upon the Dreamcast Dreamphone in exactly the same manner as I did...and virtually nothing else, anywhere.

But what is the Dreamphone exactly? Well, according to the eStarland listing it was only available through Sega's Dream Point Bank - a Japan-only loyalty service where points earned through the purchase of software could be exchanged for exclusive Dreamcast-related items. It seems that the Dreamphone was indeed such an item and using the previously mentioned Way Back Machine I found the following images (but no description) on the now-defunct Dreamcast Gallery site:
That headpiece looks...comfortable. Um.
4000 points well spent.
The box does indeed show the Dream Point Bank logo on the lid, and the extra bits of gear that come bundled in the box suggest it was meant to be used with a headset and a mic. The rest of the eStarland description states that the Dreamphone allowed users to still make and receive telephone calls while they were using their Dreamcast systems online - through the Dreamcast. It's a great idea in theory, and would have instantly solved the problems encountered when somebody wanted to use the landline while we were browsing/playing online.
Not bad for 5 minutes work in Apple Preview, eh?
The really odd thing about the Dreamphone is the total lack of any real information or technical documentation. How did it work? How did the calls come through the Dreamcast? Three images (the ones shown here) and two sentences are the only references to it's existence and that Sega didn't think to widely market this thing as a mainstream product is a missed opportunity. That said, I'm not an expert on telecommunications infrastructure in the late 1990s so I don't even know if the Dreamphone (or it's technology) would even have been compatible with US or UK/European phone lines. And that could have something to do with the decision not to widely publicise the thing's existence...but I'm just thinking out loud here.

I'd really like to know if anyone reading this owned one of these super-rare devices, or if anyone still has one in their collection. If you did/do, please get in touch or let us know in the comments.
Update: I also found this page which has a tiny image (above) of the Dreamphone on it, but the original page has now gone and can't be reached with Way Back Machine either.

Update 2: Assembler Games forum user Pinepot supplied this new information: "The following blog entry by a Japanese guy who accidentally found the 'Dreamphone' and wonders for how much he should sell it provides two additional photos..." You can find the blog here - it's in Japanese but can be translated by Google or whatever - and the images are reproduced below.
Thanks to Pinepot for that - it appears that we're forming the internet's largest repository of Dreamphone images and information here without even realising.

Update 3: The Dreamphone is now listed over at Sega Retro thanks to this article. Thanks to fellow DCJY team member Scott (aka Doc Eggfan) for adding it to the wiki.

Update 4: It seems that a member of our Facebook Group, Dennis Herr had one of these things all the while! Here are some more exclusive photos:
Feel free to use them, but please give a credit it you do.

Update 5: Thanks to some more detective work by friend of the Junkyard Pcwzrd, it looks as though the origins of the Dreamphone have been found. This Japanese blog post from 1998 features a description and review of the Fujitsu My Phone YT8100, and looking at the images above from Dennis Herr, the naming on the back of the unit corresponds. Here's a photo of the My Phone next to a Pokemon handheld:
Further to this, it appears that the My Phone YT8100 was also produced by Sharper Image (possibly under license in the US) and marketed as a device for enhancing the volume of telephone calls.
So there we are. The Dreamphone was in fact a third party device rebranded with a Dreamcast logo and stuffed into a Dream Point Bank box. In a matter of days a mystery has sprung up and thanks to the awesome Dreamcast community it has been solved.

Right, that's enough Dreamphone stuff for one lifetime. Thanks all!

8 comments:

Anthony817 said...

Wow thanks for sharing this info Tom, really amazing but enigmatic device. What with such little info out there, it seems like you might never learn more about it than what your research has shown. Nevertheless great obscure piece of Dreamcast history.

Tom Charnock said...

Thanks Anthony. I'm still dumbfounded when I stumble across Dreamcast stuff I'd never heard of - the number of secrets hidden in the console's hardware back catalogue is bewildering. Who knwos what other poorly-documented things we'll discover! Furthermore, it really just highlights how much effort Sega put into this console and with every discovery the financial ruin it left the company in makes more sense.

Brandon Piechota said...

What is the yellow thing with the screen in the last tiny picture?

Tom Charnock said...

It's a Casio Dreamcast-branded pocket TV

pcwzrd13 said...

This is awesome! I need one! :-D

Alessio Biancalana said...

Another dark dreamcast peripherals ,I couldn't find any info about is the Dreamcast red joypad in hands of Bernie Stolar in a Dreamcast prerelease picture. Write on Google Bernie Stolar Dreamcast, you can find him in a picture with a red Dreamcast joypad,look at the start button. It s round

atreyu187 said...

It could be used in conjunction with Dreamcall as of Planetweb 2.62 as well

Helder Henrique said...

Man, I really want one of these...