• Posted on: 5 July 2012
  • By: Corey

When I bought a Play Station Portable in 2005 I knew I was getting a quality console, I didn’t know it would change my life forever. It looks dated today, but back then the PSP was sleek, sexy and best of all: mine! Handheld gadgets have always captured my imagination. When the Game Boy first came out I had to have one. With no money I did what any self respecting teenager would do and badgered my folks to get me one for Christmas. (I was so fanatical about playing it that I went to the local toy store and memorized the dimensions of the box, found it under the Christmas tree; surgically removed the wrapping paper and played it a few times. I had to act surprised when I opened it on Christmas. I really hope I don’t go to Hell for that one.)
I can still remember going head to head with some friends on Tetris on our Game Boy’s. We used to talk smack talk just before slamming down a four line combo brick that netted big points. Like many of you, my adolescence was colored with the hobby of gaming. However as my late teens emerged I found chicks way more interesting and decided to cast away my gizmos. Besides, the medium had become stale and there was little left for me to prove. After some soul searching, I decided to hang up my joysticks and retire from console gaming. I contemplated teaching or joining the lecture circuit. But in the end, I just walked away, retreating to my Villa in France to reflect.
But video games have a funny way of bringing you back into the fold. I used to work for the cable company and one day I went to this guy’s house to turn on the internet and saw his PSP on the table. I asked him for a quick demo, he obliged and I was floored. The graphics blew me away, when he popped the Spider Man UMD (Universal Media Disk) I had to keep my jaw from hitting the ground. It also stored photos, browsed the internet and played MP3’s. It could transition to any of these functions seamlessly. The handheld gaming bug, dormant for years in my psyche began to grumble. This was a no-brainer; I was off to get me a PSP.
I can still remember the feel of opening the box in the parking lot (yes, even in adulthood we males are still giddy about the acquisition of a new toy) and feeling like I had arrived. It was jet black with a screen so pristine you would smack your mother if she left fingerprints on it. While the games looked great, the PSP never did have that console defining hit title that could propel sales of the unit. Third party game developers (essential to the success of a console) were lukewarm about the platform and consumers were furious that Dual Analog Sticks were not implemented. It never made the splash that Sony intended and the wildly popular Nintendo DS was the kiss of death for the PSP. Had everything gone according to plan I would have been just another bland PSP owner using the device as the manufacturer intended. But a funny thing happened to me on the way to the video game section of the store I was in.
One day I bought an import copy of Tenchu for the PSP. It had a level editor in the game but the instructions were in Japanese. I decided to go online to see if anyone had translated the text into English. While I did find a sight with some information on the game, it did not have a translation. For some reason my eyes wandered to the bottom of the web page where someone had written, “play old school NES games on your PSP with an emulator.” Really? My best friend tried to get me into emulators (software programs that mirror the behavior of another) before but I was not interested in them. I used to bag on him mercilessly for playing 20 year old video games on his computer. At that time I just didn’t see the point. For some reason this time I was intrigued. I went to the sight and found instructions on how to alter the PSP’s firmware. Even though I had zero experience with software modification I decided to proceed.
But I couldn’t! Only PSP’s with a firmware version of 1.5 or below could be modified. I panicked because I had recently updated my PSP to version 2.0 so I could play GTA: Liberty City Stories. Ironically, that very game contained an exploit that could return the console back to version 1.5. I would certainly void the warranty in doing so and risked rendering the console useless should the modification go awry. With much trepidation I decided to take the plunge. Unbeknownst to me, but I was about to enter the amorphous and fascinating world of hacking.