Today’s excerpt from GameSpite Quarterly 8 is a part-retrospective, part-confessional by Jake Alley dwelling on the science of the Memory Card. The Memory Card was one of the first true hidden, required expenses of owning a console. Before PlayStation, you could be reasonably sure every console you bought would have everything you’d need to enjoy your games: Two controllers, a power brick, and video cables. The PlayStation had only one controller, and while it included a power cable and video hookups, it featured a decided lack of internal memory for its disc-based games. Suddenly your investment of $300 plus tax became $330 plus tax, unless you didn’t care about saving your progress. And that’s not even taking into consideration the lack of a pack-in game!
Truly, it was the beginning of the modern age of video games. The one where manufacturers and publishers rob you blind, then nickel-and-dime you to death as an afterthought.
(And yes, I know that “somnia memorias” means “memory of sleep,” which is fine as a title for a track from Parasite Eve but makes no danged sense as the title of this article. I don’t care. I took Latin for three years in junior high, and after all those study periods spent translating letters by Cicero and Caesar I feel perfectly entitled to misuse the language however I like. That’s why the next book we publish will be called Fabula GameSpite Dissidia.)
7 thoughts on “GSQ8: Reminiscences, broken into 15 blocks”
First the dickish comment: The Sega CD used EEPROM for its internal save memory, the Saturn used battery-backed RAM.
A person who wrote games for the early Playstation told me the reason the memory cards is so agonizingly slow is due to a hardware bug. The system was designed to allow for fast memory card access, but because of this bug the controllers can cause interference and to work around that the game developers were forced to use a very slow method to read or write the cards. The developer also told me that they identified the issue in pre-release devkits but that Sony essentially ignored them for not being Japanese.
Since you’re bringing it up, I have to point out that technically SegaCD COULD use external RAM carts, so they did have memory cards in their way.
I had a third-party device that let me copy my memory cards to my PC. It’s still tucked away around here somewhere, 9-pin serial cable and all.
It pretty handily mitigated the concerns for running out of space, but I still wound up with 3 memory cards before I ever got it.
We have hard drives now at least.
Ah, yes, the Dex Drive. I was always bummed those didn’t work with Macs.
Memory cards nickeled and dimed you, but PlayStation games cost $10 to $20 less than SNES games and had vastly higher production values, so it evened out.
Compared to a Neo Geo, the PS was still a steal at that price.
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