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The PocketStation

Sony's First PlayStation Handheld

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Sony PocketStation

Sony PocketStation

Qurren, via Wikimedia Commons

Most people assume that the PSP is the first handheld game system made by Sony, or at least the first PlayStation-branded one, and its very name "PlayStation Portable" does make it seem that way. But way back in 1999 a little PlayStation add-on device called the PocketStation came out in Japan. While it was primarily a peripheral to add functions to PlayStation games and serve as a memory card (much like the Dreamcast's VMU or Visual Memory Unit), the PocketStation also had stand-alone gaming capabilities.

Pocket-Sized PlayStation

The PocketStation was released on January 23, 1999 in Japan, with plans to expand the release to other territories if it did well. And it did do well. Initial supplies quickly sold out and more had to be made. In all, 58 PlayStation games supported the peripheral, which added extra content to them. Many games also came with extra standalone content for the PocketStation that could be transferred to the device by plugging it into a memory card slot.

The PocketStation was small--only about 2 and half inches (or 6.5 cm) in its longest dimension--and had a monochrome LCD screen, 5 buttons, and a tiny speaker. It supported bi-directional infrared communication, something Sony included in the original PSP model, but not in the PSP-2000 or later. You could buy it in white or clear, and it included a built-in calendar and clock function.

The demand for the device in Japan was so big that over 5 million PocketStations were sold, and apparently the inability to meet demand prevented Sony from releasing it in other areas as originally planned. Some games, however, (like Final Fantasy VIII) still included PocketStation functionality in North American and other localized versions so the device was imported by avid gamers. The Pocket Station was discontinued in 2002, but can still be found on auction sites.

PocketStation Specifications

Dimensions: 6.4 cm × 4.2 cm × 1.35 cm
Weight: approx. 30g (including battery)
CPU: ARM7T (32-bit RISC chip)
Memory: 2K bytes SRAM, 128K bytes Flash RAM
Screen: 32×32 dot monochrome LCD
Sound: 1 speaker (10-bit PCM)
Battery: 1 CR-2032 lithium battery
Buttons: 4 buttons in d-pad configuration, 1 reset button
Communication: bi-directional infrared, memory card connector

Image credits

PocketStation by By Qurren [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

PocketStation logo copyright Sony Computer Entertainment.

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