I have a confession to make. Some time around 1994, when I was young, free and single and had enough money that I didn’t even have to check my bank account more than once a week, I bought a new console. The Panasonic 3DO.
It was the most money I’d ever spent on anything. £400. I think I bought it on a credit card. Anyway, this was the next big thing, or so I thought at the time.
When I saw this in the shops I was blown away by the graphics and sound. And the machine itself looked awesome. It even had wireless controllers!
Back to the future…
Fast forward 25 years and I can still hear the guitars thrashing over the soundtrack of Total Eclipse. I remember how much Station Invasion got on my nerves and how my sisters would insist on playing it every time they visited! And I have really fond memories of Killing Time and PO’ed.
BUT, yes I need capital letters for this one, I had lost the console. Hadn’t seen it for years. I found the original controller in a bag of bits and bobs. I found all the games (wow I had a lot of games) in the loft. But no sign of the Panasonic 3DO itself.
Now this was annoying for several reasons:
- I’d really started to miss it.
- I couldn’t remember throwing it away and I couldn’t think of a good reason why I would have thrown it away.
- These things are going for stupidly big amounts of money on ebay.
I originally started looking for it in February 2019. I looked everywhere. In my bedroom, in the kids’ bedrooms, in the cupboard where all my Atari computers were stored. The airing cupboard, the hall cupboard, the understairs cupboard, the loft. I couldn’t find it. I gave up.
7 months later, I started searching again. In all the places I mentioned above. Still no sign of it. I even tried the shed. The old, falling completely apart, stuffed to the rafters with rubbish, shed. Not there. I dedicated a weekend to going through the loft yet again. I found the old Christmas tree, and I found some Thunderbirds toys (handy as the youngest has just become interested in Thunderbirds), but still no sign of the Panasonic 3DO.
The Panasonic 3DO that didn’t want to be found…
So, one more try of the shed. I cleared it, right to the very very back. I was about to give up, when I spotted a ripped bin bag in the corner. On the floor. Soaking wet. Inside I found the original OnLive controller (no really) in perfect condition. I found one of those all-in-one Atari joysticks that plugs into the TV and has 10 games built-in. That still had batteries in it – oops. I managed to remove them and clean the contacts up, and it only bloody works!
Anyway, also in the bag was the receiver for the wireless controllers. Uh-oh. Then I found the controllers. Uh-oh…
And there it was. On it’s side. Wet. Dirty. OH NO! I was gutted. In fact I was also overjoyed and relieved to find it, but I knew it was probably ruined. Once I sat down and thought about it, I realised the poor thing must have been stuck in the shed for at least 5 years. I have no memory of putting it in there at all.
Anyway, I brought it indoors and cleaned it up. Should I try plugging it in? Might as well. I dug out one of those extension reals with a safety cut-out switch on it and plugged it in. Nothing blew up. So then I pressed the power button…
To my absolute amazement and astonishment, the power light came on and the CD light lit up to show it was searching for a CD. Madness!
I hurriedly hooked it up to a TV and there was the Panasonic 3DO logo! Then the screensaver kicked in, but the sound was very quiet and the picture wasn’t very sharp. Anyway, it was alive. I decided to try a game out. The CD tray wouldn’t eject, so I had to encourage it with a screwdriver. I put a disc in, Need for Speed – which was also in that bin bag – and it started to read it! The intro video came up, then the 3DO reset itself back to the logo again. Balls.
I decided the 3DO was probably still damp. So I sat it next to my dehumidifier overnight. The next day I tried it again, and this time the game loaded to the menu screen. And then the 3DO reset again.
I did a bit of research and finally came to the conclusion that I needed to replace 3 capacitors on the power board, so I ordered them off ebay for a couple of quid and waited.
They arrived later in the week and I set about removing the old capacitors. Which was a lot more difficult than it should have been. I could see a lot of water damage in the area where the capacitors were, so I cleaned the board up and then put the new capacitors in.
At this point I realised something was missing off the board! I eventually found the thing on my table, a tiny tiny tiny little diode. It was beyond repair. No way I could solder that to the board. So I decided to see if the Panasonic 3DO would work without it.
I plugged it back in, and there it was in all its glory! The picture was brighter and crisper, the sound was much louder, and it didn’t reset at all! I was able to go through my entire library of games, reliving old memories along the way. And what a fantastic machine it is. How I ever relegated this to the shed I will never know. I love it! I’m definitely going to play and complete Killing Time again – that’s my all time favourite game on this console.
Which reminds me. There’s a back-up battery inside the console, which keeps the game saves on a little chip. Would you believe there were still game saves on there? And it’s still backing up data now?! A quarter of a century that battery has been in there for! Bonkers.
As for that missing diode? I ordered as close a match as possible, and fought for hours to solder the tiny little bugger to the board. I got there in the end, but I couldn’t be sure I’d got the pins fully soldered to the board. The Panasonic 3DO still works, but now doesn’t switch off! I’ll be removing that component again, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s part of the standby circuit. I don’t need it. The Panasonic 3DO can either be off or on. No standby required.
Sing this corrosion to me…
The only other casualty of the whole episode was one of the wireless controllers. I’d left the batteries inside that one and they’d corroded beyond recognition. Not a bad price to pay for my criminal neglect of this wonderful console. The other wireless controller, and the original wired controller work fine by the way.
Anyway folks, look after your loved ones (your old consoles that is) and don’t dump them in a dilapidated old shed. One day you’ll want to play with them again, or sell them for vastly inflated prices on ebay!
UPDATE – 25/01/2022
So not long after I wrote this, I found that the Panasonic 3DO wouldn’t switch off! The power button was doing nothing. It was just on all the time when plugged in.
This has been bothering me for some time now. That tiny diode had disappeared and I decided that was the problem. I lost my spares – probably because they are so damn tiny! So a couple of weeks ago I ordered some more.
This week, I decided to finally dismantle the console and try again. My soldering skills are far better now than when I first started on this journey and it didn’t take long to get the diode in place, except… one of the pads was missing to solder it to. After perusing the schematics I ran a wire from the diode to where I thought it should go.
Still no change. My humble Panasonic 3DO just wanted to be switched on forever! Some epic Googling followed.
I found something that gave me a hint. I can’t find the page again, despite more epic Googling, but it turns out that the part of the board where that diode goes had corroded so much it was affecting the power circuit.
Very simply, I removed the diode entirely and wired pin 2 of the power switch to the area of circle number 1 on the image below.
If you have a better condition board and your diode is intact, you can wire from pin 2 of the power switch to the area of circle number 2.
That’s it! My Panasonic 3DO is happy again and so am I!