PS2 Memory Card ISO Loader Offers Classic Gaming Bliss

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It used to be that to play a console game, you just had to plug in a cartridge or put a CD/DVD in the optical drive. But these days, with modern titles ballooning up to as much as 100 GB, you’ve got no choice but to store them on the system’s internal hard disk drive. While that can lead to some uncomfortable data management decisions, at least it means you don’t have to get up off the couch to switch games anymore.

Which is precisely why the MC2SIO project for the PlayStation 2 is so exciting. As [Tito] explains in his latest
Macho Nacho Productions video, this simple adapter lets you connect an SD card up to the console’s Memory Card slots and use that to hold ISOs of your favorite games. With the appropriate homebrew software loaded up, your PS2 becomes a veritable jukebox of classic games.

Connecting the SD card to the SPI-compatible interface is easy.

Now, loading ISOs on the PS2 is nothing new. Owners of the original PS2 can install an IDE drive in the system’s expansion bay and play titles that way, and even if you have the later “slim” edition of the console that deleted the expansion capability, you could put your trove of games on a USB flash drive.

But pickings are getting pretty slim for IDE drives these days, and the available bandwidth of the PS2’s USB 1.1 ports is only just up to the task of streaming game data, and can falter in some games. In comparison, SD cards are ridiculously cheap and the Memory Card interface is actually considerably faster than the console’s USB ports.

On the hardware side, things are surprisingly straightforward. The PS2 uses a serial interface called SIO2 to communicate with peripherals like controllers and Memory Cards, which just so happens to be compatible with SPI. That means the physical adapter doesn’t need any active components, and just needs to connect up the appropriate pins. All the magic is done in the software, and thanks to existing projects which let you run homebrew code from a specially formatted Memory Card, you can run the whole thing on a completely stock console.

The ready-to-use SD adapter is being sold for $20 USD, but big surprise, they are currently out of stock. That said, the adapter can reportedly be made from a sacrificial Memory Card, and [Tito] does an excellent job of explaining the software side of things. So if you absolutely must play Katamari Damacy off of an SD card right now, you could probably toss your own version together without too much trouble.

As with the software exploit for the original PlayStation that was found last year, we’re always pleased to see hackers still cranking away on these older systems. Even more than 20 years after release, folks are still finding new ways to bend the hardware to their will.

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