You Can Still Use Dial-Up To Surf The Internet With A Dreamcast

In recent times much has been written about the Dreamcast's ability to get online with a Raspberry Pi and a few other easily available components. The DreamPi method has single handedly revitalised the online gaming scene on the Dreamcast, and sites like Dreamcast Live have made it their mission to breathe new life into titles such as Chu Chu Rocket and Worms World Party. But what if you don't have a DreamPi or you just don't play online games in general? What other things can you still do in 2017 with a Dreamcast when it comes to exploring its online abilities? Well...um...you can still browse the internet with a dial up connection if you so wish.
Line Di. See?
I already know what many people are going to say or write in the comments sections without actually looking at this article: what's the point? What's the point in using a dial up connection and a 33k or 56k modem to go online with a Dreamcast in 2017? It's slow, most of the sites won't load anymore and it's expensive. The point is that we can. And that's the only excuse I need, to be honest.
Don't act like you've never Googled yourself!
While it is true that all of these hypothetical points are valid, there's just something cool about once again firing up Dreamkey, and throwing information through those long redundant wires and circuits that reside inside the plucky little dial-up modem stuck to the side of the console. And the best bit is that you can do it right now, with very little effort if you so desire...

Your gateway to the information superhighway!
The whole inspiration for this article actually comes from a video made by friend of the Junkyard and YouTuber Sammy Kennedy. He recently uploaded a video about using dial-up with a Dreamcast in the present day, and shared it on the Dreamcast Junkyard's Facebook page. After watching it and seeing how easy it actually is to get online and do some internet surfing with a Dreamcast (providing you have the right browser disc), I thought I'd give it a go. Mainly to show other people who hold a similar fascination with obsolete technology how to do it, ergo appeasing their own sense of childlike wonderment and curiosity...or maybe that's just me. Want in on this? Well, you're in luck - you can watch Sammy's video at the foot of this article, or you can read the steps below!

The first thing I need to address here is that I'm doing all of this with a PAL Dreamcast fitted with a 56k modem I nicked off of a Japanese Dreamcast. Also, everything here (and in the video) is quite specific to UK Dreamcast owners, but there are alternative ways to do this is you are in the United States, Europe...or anywhere, really. The key difference is the dial-up ISP you use but it shouldn't be too difficult to suss it out with a bit of Googling.
Right. To do this you'll need Dreamkey 3.0, as this was the first browser disc (in Europe at least) that allowed you to use your own ISP to get online. In this instance, we used a free ISP called Nippy which gives you the connection username, password and telephone number right there on the home page. From the Nippy website:

Welcome to free-to-subscribe 0844 dial up Internet access from Nippy Internet. There are no monthly fees, no limits on how long you stay online... you only pay the 'local call rate' on your phone bill. Nippy Internet is a premier Internet Service Provider for home or business use. 

You need to start Dreamkey 3.0, go to the setup menu and then enter the following when prompted:

Username: nippy
Password: internet
Telephone number: 0844 535 2000

Please note: 0844 calls cost 3.95p/minute peak, 1p/minute off-peak (6pm-6am) and 1p/minute at weekends from BT lines. Ask the bill payer's permission, kids!
Ignore all the other stuff the Dreamcast asks you for, you can just leave everything blank. Once you go back to the main menu, just hit connect and the Dreamcast will dial the number. Within a couple of minutes it will connect and viola! Super-slow, 1990s style dial-up internet...on your Dreamcast! Just to reiterate, both myself and Sammy used faster 56k modems to try this out and it still took a while to load websites, so if you're using a 33k stock modem from a PAL machine it may be even slower. Also, it's worth noting that a lot of websites won't load using the Dreamkey browser...but you'd be surprised how many still do...
The Dreamcast Junkyard...on a Dreamcast!
BBC News
Kotaku UK
I took a look at BBC News, which rather fittingly had a headline about BT Openreach and their broadband services. I also checked out Kotaku UK to get some gaming news; and I also Googled this very blog! They all loaded the text portions, but images invariably didn't. Interestingly, sites which are built with the Dreamcast browser in mind, such as Dreampipe.net and BOOB! work perfectly, and hosted VMU files from the former are all there to be downloaded and stored. Hackaday Retro also looks pretty damn decent, even if I say so myself!
Hackaday Retro
Hackaday Modern
Dreamcast vs Safari
Sega vs Apple
As you can probably tell from the images above, most sites don't look that great when viewed through the Dreamcast browser, but both BOOB! and Dreampipe.net look almost identical whether you're viewing them on a modern device or Sega's box of tricks (see above for a comparison). Some sites won't load at the first attempt (it'll give you a connection error), but in some cases simply trying to load the URL a second time will make it connect. Anyway, here's Sammy's video:


Once again, I know this is pretty pointless in 2017. I know pretty much anything with a screen (except a Nintendo Switch ;p) can browse the internet these days, and invariably it's likely to be a far better experience. Hell, you can browse with a either a Broadband Adapter or a DreamPi. But the fact that with the minimum amount of effort you can still browse the internet with little more than a Dreamcast, a modem cable and a copy of Dreamkey 3.0 is still quite cool in my humble opinion. Even if it is only a novelty.
The Dreamcast Broadband Adapter. Well, the box it comes in.
Going online isn't the only cool thing you can do with Dreamkey 3.0. Check out a previous article here at The Dreamcast Junkyard that looks at the hidden bonus features tucked away in the recesses of the disc.

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