- May 3, 2019
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Yeah I think this is right on the money. I put together some quick info and speculation about the Pluto but I'll echo my quick speculation here.Bernie Stolar; Yes. More money could have been spent on product. I said this from the beginning. There were three things that I wanted in Dreamcast: an online network (for multi-player and digital downloads), DVD support, and internal storage. I had to argue for everything. At one point, I had to ensure the modem didn’t get dropped from the US version. Online was most important to me, so I chose that over DVD and internal storage because my plan was to add those later.
The Pluto is largely the same as the stock Saturn with some small changes. Besides ASIC revisions, alternate parts, and layout changes what makes the Pluto unique is the extension of the cartridge slot to an external bus for the modem and hard drive. The cartridge-to-external-bus is buffered with some bus transceivers which appear to be controlled by IC50.
IC50 looks like it might also act as a middleman between the cartridge and external bus. IC50 is probably some Altera or Xilinx FPGA, or maybe Lattice based on the part choice for IC52.
Considering that the Modem and HDD PCBs don't appear to be from SOJ or Cross Products, the use of a Seagate HDD instead of a Hitachi one, and that both Pluto's were discovered in the US, my guess is that the Pluto was made by SOA to sell the idea of including a modem and hard drive in the Saturn to SOJ. Or maybe as a concept idea for the Dreamcast? I don't remember all the rumors and stuff from this time period. But going through all the trouble and engineering effort to make it look like a commercial product is a bit much for a simple proof of concept.
Since the Net Link already existed the big selling point of the Pluto would have been the inclusion of a hard drive, so there is likely something on the hard drive. Or at least there was at some point. I think Super Magnetic's "PLUTO 02" also had a hard drive.