The original PlayStation wasn’t the first video game system to use removable memory cards for game saves, but it certainly made the idea mainstream. Lots of people amassed little piles of things as PS2 rolled around, in a variety of styles and colors. And now an enthusiast thinks he has collected them all. Almost.
Just before the E3, noted console fixer top Simon “Aergan” lock tweeted that he thought he had finally managed to amass a near-full set of original PlayStation memory cards. He didn’t mean GameStop imitations or dubious “mega” third-party memory cards that promised additional storage space, but mostly just corrupts your scores… only good old OEM cards from Sony, model number SCPH-1020.
There were, he admitted, some very obscure regional variations that he probably lacked, and then a commenter promptly informed him of two Japanese colors that he might have overlooked. So it works. But just getting so far as to collect almost all of them is quite an accomplishment.
A few years after the first all-gray accessory in 1994, Sony jumped on the colorful hardware bandwagon. Nintendo was busy with the Nintendo 64 and Game Boy and launched a range of multi-colored PlayStation memory cards and DualShock controllers. For some reason, the memory card variants aren’t particularly well documented, which explains why Lock uses some mild disclaimers when publishing its collection.
I reached out to Lock to find out more.
Confusing colors and incomplete documentation
Regarding the relative lack of reliable documentation, Lock notes that people routinely confuse even rare, large-volume items like the black Sony Net Yaroze console and the midnight blue Limited PlayStation Edition that celebrated 10 million sales that may look similar in photos depending on the lighting. So good luck finding a clear overview of tricky accessories like memory cards. He also admits that there are a large number of counterfeit cards that come in a variety of colors, some of which are very convincing.
Then there is the problem of aging. You know how much old electronics like the SNESto turn an ugly yellow? The same applies here.
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“Lots of memory cards [including the translucent ones] nowadays contain bromine, which makes the pigment yellow and falsifies the colors, ”he says. “I’ve seen at least one person claim that beige is an official memory card color!”
Beige wasn’t an official memory card color, but neon yellow was, and Lock names it as his favorite. (Only a real expert can tell you what the neon yellow of the west of the Japanese colors “Sherbert Yellow” and “Lemon Yellow”.) With a small cheat, Lock’s choice for second place goes to his Crystal PocketStation, which has so far managed not to turn yellow.
The memory card that plays Downfall
1999 PocketStation was a newer type of PlayStation memory card, model SCPH-4000, that had a rudimentary screen and tiny button controls and could download simple mini-games from compatible games. Lock Notes is a “surprisingly playable” homebrew Port of Downfall for this.
Tiny, expensive and indispensable
PlayStation memory cards weren’t known for their excessive capacity, each holding only 128 kilobytes. (An ordinary 3.5-inch 1.44 MB floppy disk contains 11.25 times as much data.) Lock currently has 24 SCPH-1020 cards, including duplicates, for a total of less than a whopping 3 megabytes of storage capacity. For comparison: a single PS4 Spirit of Tsushima Save 3.15MB. A standard PlayStation 2 memory card contains 8MB or 2.67 times the capacity of Lock’s entire stack of SCPH-1020 cards.
As any Sony child will remember, PlayStation memory cards were divided into “blocks”. 15 8 KB blocks were available for saved games, with one remaining 8 KB block serving as a hidden table of contents. (One final number: that Spirit of Tsushima Saving would require approximately 403 PlayStation memory card blocks, which are spread over 27 cards.) Since “deleted” saves are really only removed from the table of contents, Lock is often able to Restore deleted games when he buys a used memory card.
“I like to be curious and see what people are playing on their PlayStations,” he says. “I can usually restore deleted saves, which can lead to some interesting finds or [just] a lot [partially] completed crash or Spyro saves. “
When the system was first introduced in the United States in 1995, Sony branded cards cost $ 25, or about $ 44 in today’s dollars. In retrospect, it’s pretty uncool that Sony didn’t include such important accessories with the console itself. You don’t have to search the internet for a long time to find stories of kids playing through the whole game Final Fantasy Games without saving (and worse, if they died) because back then they either couldn’t find a PlayStation memory card or couldn’t afford one.
How it all started
When Lock rediscovered his original PlayStation 10 years ago, he was running out of memory cards so he started buying more. “I found the original labeling system dingy and Dymo [label maker] too fiddly to use so I started buying different colors: black for Inheritance from Cain and Castlevania, Emerald for Final Fantasy, Smoke for Solid metal gear, Gray for Ridge Racer Type 4, etc. “Then he started buying a lot of Japanese games and cards with a Japanese variant. And here we are.
Built to last
At least they don’t break. Even after two and a half decades, it is rare for official Sony memory cards to fail.
“Oxidation builds up on the contacts over time, which can create reliability issues, but this can be easily resolved with an appropriate electrical contact cleaner and deoxidizer,” says Lock. “This problem affects not just PlayStation memory cards, but pretty much anything that involves physical electrical contact. My original childhood was run through the washing machine at least once and is still actively used today. ”
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I asked Lock which official PlayStation memory card colors might be particularly rare, and it predictably varies by region. “[Here in] In the UK, the frosted translucent plastic versions are unusual as we didn’t seem to have had a domestic release or it was very short lived, ”he says. “But also Red, which apparently was only officially released in the US and possibly for promotional purposes in Japan.”
What he’s still looking for, well, there are those two Japanese colors he just found out about. But Lock doesn’t feel like collecting all of the PocketStations or third-party cards – that would be a nightmare – so one man’s quest to get (almost) all of the SCPH-1020 PlayStation memory card variants is actually almost over. Now maybe he can concentrate more on filling it up with memories of all the cool PlayStation games that he has collected along the way.