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Interview: Dream IDE Reborn – giving dead Dreamcasts new life

It’s crazy to think about, but have you ever thought about the fact that consoles like the SEGA Saturn or the SEGA CD are already more than 20 years old? The Dreamcast is almost there, too.

While many of these consoles have held up really well, many owners are now realizing they have a common problem – the all have CD drives.

While CD-ROM technology was once a source of innovation, has grown into more of a headache today as many CD drives in retro systems are dying. Just imagine what the failure rate will be like 10 or 20 years from now.

With that in mind, hackers and modders have been at work to create alternatives to give a second life to these aging consoles by circumventing the CD drive entirely. The Dreamcast has a great community and many alternatives like the SD card adapter and the GDEmu. Today, we’re going to talk to André (known as Andrews by the Dreamcast community), who has been working on another alternative to the Dreamcast called the Dream IDE Reborn.

SEGA Nerds: Hi Andrews, can you tell our readers a little about yourself?

Andrews: My name is André Pereira, 36 years old, married and I have a beautiful daughter of almost 2 years named Alice. I’m from São Paulo, Brazil. I’m an electronics technician, graduated in 1998 and I’m in the third year in Information Systems. I am currently looking for something in the area of I.T., and parallel to this, repairing video games has gone from being a hobby to my current source of income.

SEGA Nerds: When was your first contact with the Dreamcast?

Andrews: It was soon after its release. One day, I arrived from my work and went straight to my girlfriend’s house (and current wife). When I rang the bell, I heard the song “All I Want” from The Offspring. I asked her, “Wow, your brother has now started to listen to punk rock?” She replied, “No, it’s the new video game he bought.”

Arriving in the room, I saw my brother-in-law playing Crazy Taxi for the first time, with that loud Offspring sound, that rush and madness of the game. As a musician who appreciated punk rock, I was ecstatic when I saw it.

Then, he placed Sonic Adventure in the Dreamcast, which came along with the console. In that introduction, I almost died … (laughs)
In a month, I was came home with my Dreamcast, hidden under my arm because at the time it was extremely expensive! (laughs)

SEGA Nerds: What is the Dreamcast IDE Reborn, and how did you get the idea to start this project?

Andrews: The Dream IDE Reborn is an interface card that makes it easier to install the IDE mod. Its function is to avoid damaging the motherboard, making a safe and much better installation than soldering wires!

I had a lot of consoles to (mod), and I was tired of soldering 40 wires on the board. I took a drawing and went to look for a company that could develop this layout for me. Then, I met a boy who worked with it and lived near home.

We agreed to meet at a mall near here, and in the food court, I started to show him the idea. He took it home, and there came a first layout. Until we arrived at the first version, there were many pizzas and Coca Cola consumed over discussions of the project as a whole. There were the mechanical tests, the electronic tests and the final user tests.

It took me about six months to develop the first version of Reborn. Unfortunately, I lost some Dreamcast motherboards from doing numerous tests. Some friends left their consoles with me as a guinea pig.

SEGA Nerds: How does compatibility with games work?

Andrews: The compatibility of the games isn’t dependent on Reborn because it doesn’t contain any software, just a chip with some written code. All the credit for creating Dreamshell software that bridges the gap between the game image on the hard drive and the console should be given to the DC SWAT Team. The only reason Reborn exists todayis due to these guys who did a lot of hard work to make it all work. I don’t take any credit for that. My part in the story is just to make it easier for people to work so they don’t put a “spaghetti” on their motherboards or even break trails (laughs).

The Dreamshell has few games that don’t work; I don’t have the correct data, but I can say that 95 percent of most games that people want to play, work. There’s a shared table out there, where anyone who has the mod done has tested and updated this spreadsheet. I don’t follow it, because of lack of time and because I repair more than just video games.

SEGA Nerds: Is it possible to make the Dream IDE Reborn work together with the GD-ROM drive?

Andrews: Yes, because I designed it for this: so the user doesn’t have to remove their GD-ROM drive to install it, like other projects that already exist. I have customers who are collectors, have original disks and want to continue using them, in addition to still have the player working.

SEGA Nerds: Do people need to have a working knowledge of electronics to install the Dream IDE Reborn?

Andrews: It’s not necessary to have a knowledge in electronics in general; but a person will need a steady hand, good tools, patience and just stay calm. While most people would have to go to a basic electronics course to learn good soldering practices in the past, today, people can learn a lot from YouTube. Soldering is a simple skill, but it requires some care, and the care, you find in the details.

If you can easily dismantle and assemble things with a simple but clean soldering iron with a thin tip, a little flow and good quality tin, you can do the modification without major problems.

SEGA Nerds: Have you saved many unused units?

Andrews: Yes, my career with video games began around 2002, more or less. I was a member of a very large Xbox forum, and I started repairing consoles of friends with the Error 07, in the classic Xbox, without charging anything, just for wanting to find them and have a good reason to eat a pizza and drink Coke. [laughs]

After that, this community grew as soon as the Xbox 360 came along. From there, the infamous “Red Ring of Death” began to emerge around the world. At the time, I was working in an industrial automation company, a German multinational. There, I had the opportunity to understand a little about RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) and why various equipment of the era stopped working. Parallel to this, a friend from there taught me how to resolder BGA components.

As soon as I fixed my first Xbox 360, I made a post in the Xbox Portal forum. From there, I began to receive many service appointments, to the point of getting an interview on the radio and having to buy a bigger house because I was already driving my wife crazy with the living room and kitchen full of consoles and scattered disc drives. [laughs] Yes, if I tell you from the time I started, I think I must have saved at least 1,000 consoles.

SEGA Nerds: Every day we see that more consoles are becoming unusable because of the CD, GD or DVD drives that are dying. Do you believe projects like yours can help preserve a part of the history and help new generations to get in touch with these old machines?

Andrews: Yes, I believe this, and I also believe this is a trend, as well. Everyone is waiting for that exquisite SEGA Saturn USB device and some friends in particular want this to also happen on the SEGA CD and the Neo Geo CD. Solutions like GDEMU and USBGDROM of Mnemo, for example, are expensive solutions, but they are extremely sensational and worth every cent invested, since the enormous work that is done to build a project of this, does not happen overnight.

Also, playing games on an emulator will never be the same as the experience on original hardware. So, the more solutions like these that exist in the market, the better for us and the history of video games as a whole.

SEGA Nerds: Do you have future plans for other consoles or for Dreamcast itself?

Andrews: Yes, I have plans to do something for other consoles, especially the Master System. It’s my favorite, the console; I cried with joy when I won one, and I need to develop something for it.

For the Dreamcast, I already have another project in progress, in partnership with my partner Jailson from Dreamcast Fix. We developed together the Dream Bios Revolution and the other versions of Reborn because we were able to test together, get feedback from our customers and improve our products. And we are working on two others, but since they are just in the idea stage, this is all I can say at the moment.

SEGA Nerds: For people who are interested in knowing more about your project, where can they find you?

Andrews: On my website www.gametrackssite.wordpress.com or people can follow me on my personal profile (Andrews Audiopraise on Facebook). Or the main Dreamcast groups in the world (Dreamcast Junkyard, Let’s Sega Dreamcast GD Emulator Happens and Dreamcast Brasil).

To purchase Reborn, you must read the terms and conditions on the website and fill out a form.

SEGA Nerds: Would you like to leave a message for people who would like to learn how to modify hardware like you?

Andrews:  Oh, yes I do, haha! Before, can I give you a quick message? Thank you SEGA Nerds and Luiz Nai for the opportunity you gave me today! I always read the news, and today I realized another dream by having my story on this great website! Thank you so much!

The first thing I want to tell people is you’re always welcome! The demand is too great, and there is so much to do! The second is try to study the basics of what you are going to do and gradually improve. Watch videos, quite a lot of them. Purchase old iron boards to train soldering and desoldering. Practice on your own consoles, and when you feel confident enough, work on others.

The third message is don’t let the criticism and rudeness of forum trolls get to you, especially when you know there are more experienced people. Remember, they’re envious of you for what you have been doing or started doing for the community. Learn from more experienced people, and ignore the trolls.

When I developed the first Reborn, I heard criticism from many people, especially technicians, such as “IDE is the past, Sata is the future” or “It’s just a PCB and nothing much.” I understand Sata is the future, but my goal was to develop a product that everyone had access to. There was also the issue of having to produce them. 

I need to think of something that uses quality components, that you have the security to do to not fry your device (and the guilt falls on me) and the main one: WHAT WORKS RIGHT and doesn’t stop working after a few hours, among many Other problems that happen with any appliance that has been around for 20 years, and most professionals do not have the courage to admit it.

It’s not everyone who has the guts to solder a thread, imagine 40! Do you understand what I mean? Initially, I was very scared to sell Reborn outside of Brazil because I did not want to risk the backlash of selling a bad product and not giving any support to people. So I sent some units to five well-known technicians from here to test and certify the quality before uploading my first video to YouTube showing it to the world.

Thank goodness it was something well accepted by the community, and with that, I was able to reduce the price even more because I was able to buy a lot later and get a lower price. The first batch was very expensive, and I got the only money I had because I had just been unemployed, my 1-month-old daughter. I went for all or nothing. And I even had the help of my partner, to crack the value of the first batch.

With that Reborn arrived in Japan, Canada and it is spread all over the US and Europe, and literally has arrived there from Madagascar, Mauritius! I never imagined that I could do something in which all parts of the world would have interest. 

And finally, people should have respect for customers and their money. If a problem occurs, deal with it. It’s better than messing around. (laughs)

Before I say goodbye I must say that I am very grateful to Pedro Oliveira and Filipe Marques, both managers of the Dreamcast Brasil group. When I was unemployed in September 2015, Pedro and Filipe started to introduce me customers. My thanks to them and the entire Dreamcast Brasil community for that. I also thank my wife who has always supported me in everything I do. Thank you Joice, I love you very much!
And finally, I thank SEGA Nerds for the golden opportunity! Thanks for keeping the SEGA story alive!

Luiz Nai

I'm huge fan of Sega, I have been playing Sega games for over 20 years and games like Shenmue, Skies of Arcadia, Panzer Dragoon Saga and also all the Arcades race games are my favorites. Besides of playing Sega games I have a post degree in Game development and I enjoy playing guitar in my free time.

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