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Sega Saturn's DRM cracked almost 23 years after launch

July 12, 2016 | By Chris Kerr

Almost 23 years after it first hit shelves in November 1994, the Sega Saturn's DRM has finally been cracked. 

Engineer James Laird-Wah -- known online as Dr. Abrasive -- initially set about breaking through the console's copy protection in an attempt to harness its chiptune capabilities. 

Thanks to his new workaround, Laird-Wah might've just saved the Saturn from extinction.

The Saturn's days looked numbered in recent years thanks to a shortage of replacement parts coupled with an increasingly common fault with the disc drive, which effectively rendered the machine useless as a games console.

Disc drive failure is no longer the end of the road, though, as Laird-Wah has developed a way to run games and other software from a USB stick. 

His method circumvents the disc drive altogether, instead reworking the Video CD Slot so it can take games stored on a USB stick and run them directly though the Saturn's CD Block. 

"This is now at the point where, not only can it boot and run games, I've finished just recently putting in audio support, so it can play audio tracks," explained Laird-Wah, speaking to YouTuber debuglive.

"For the time being, I possess the only Saturn in the world that's capable of writing files to a USB stick. There's actually, for developers of homebrew, the ability to read and write files on the USB stick that's attached to the device.

"I'm personally hoping to go back to the original plan, back to chip music, and in that case you'll be able to load samples and store your songs on your USB."

There's no word on when the solution will be made available to the public, as Laird-Wah is still busy making tweaks, but the engineer hopes it will go some way to preserving the Saturn and its games library.

For a detailed look at the work that went into breaking down the console, you should check out debuglive's excellent interview. 

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