This article is a follow-up to my article from 2013 and explains how connect a Philips CD-i player to a modern Windows PC and how to back up and restore NVRAM data with CD-i Link. I will cover the other option CD-interlink in the next article.
Back then, I built a null-modem cable which I still use today. Over the years, I’ve used it to connect all my CD-i players with PCs and portable devices to transfer data and for debugging purposes. The cable was built according to the CD-i Nullmodem Cable Specification with a Mini-DIN-8 and a DE-9F connector and works with most of the CD-i players. Some players require additional adapters and/or different connectors: Top-loading players with only one port (e.g. CDI450) require a port splitter; professional CDI60x players require a cable with DE-9F connectors on both ends while LG/DVS players require a cable with a DE-9F and a DB-25F connector. You can find most of the usage scenarios and additional cable and adapters that I’ve built in the CD-i Archives.
This is an attempt to collect all known and available modifications for Philips CD-i players in a single article. Consider it a work in progress – I will add new information from time to time. Please give feedback if you find an error or want to add something to this article.
Due to the plethora of different models, versions and revisions of CD-i players that have been sold under the Philips / Magnavox or entirely different brands (OEM), it is virtually impossible to create one big list that contains every player. I chose a different approach with several lists to cover most of the hardware combinations: Available modifications, mainboards, video encoders and NVRAM.
50/60 Hz modifications are quite simple hacks that have been figured out for almost all Philips CD-i player types with SCART connector. But what about all the CD-i players that do not have an RGB output, either because of reduced cost or because they have been sold outside of Europe? Technically, they can still be modified, but the foreign mode is pretty useless and results in a black and white picture or no picture at all.
The reason is easily explained: All Philips CD-i players have a main system clock at either 30,0000 MHz (PAL) or 30,2098 MHz (NTSC) and additional clock generators for some components. All newer players (Mono III and up) have a Brooktree video encoder and generate the colour subcarrier frequencies (PAL 4,4336 MHz and NTSC 3,5795 MHz) from the system clock. The older players with a Sony video encoder use one or two additional crystals and some more components for this task.
If your CD-i player’s clock is way off, then you can try to make use of the Timekeeper clock calibration tool of the low-level test. Be aware that it needs an accurate frequency counter and won’t help if your Timekeeper suffers from an empty battery.
Some time ago, I noticed that the service manuals of most Mono II – IV boards have notes about 8 and 32 KB NVRAM types, to be set by jumpers and resistors. I never attempted to do that upgrade because most of my CD-i players feature 32 KB NVRAM or have older mainboards that cannot be upgraded. When I mentioned the possibility in this article, CD-i Fan warned me about the consequences: If device driver and descriptor in the ROM don’t support the extra RAM, then the player might not recognize it and lose the real-time clock – or it won’t work at all.
Why would you want to upgrade the NVRAM anyways? For example, the save files of The 7th Guest, Lost Eden and Burn:Cycle already take up a lot of space. Add some more games and settings, and you will soon reach the critical limit of 97-98% where the player refuses to start.
For upcoming experiments, I was in need of a working CD-i player with a Mono IV mainboard and 8 KB of NVRAM. I checked my basement and found a broken CDI470/20 that had been sitting there for years. Previous repair attempts had failed and I hadn’t bothered to look at it since.
Upon the first start, it greeted me with the memory full error:
This is a follow-up to the Serial Terminal on Atari Portfolio article. The Portfolio with the Serial Interface add-on turned out to be too limited and bulky for being a mobile VT100 terminal, and I actually never used it. For years, I was looking for an even smaller alternative and have finally found it: The Psion Serie 5mx Pro. It is basically a Psion Series 5mx (or Ericsson MC218) for the German market. The operating system (EPOC32 Release 5) of this model is not stored in ROM, but instead it is loaded from the CF card into RAM on the first start. An English version of the operating system file (sys$rom.bin) can be found here.
The CDI660/00 is one of the last professional CD-i players by Philips. The mainboard, Mono IV, is also used in various consumer players. So far, there are no tutorials for 60 Hz modification. When this topic came up in the community on The world of CD-i, I looked it up in the CDI220/80 service manual (also Mono IV, with plenty of remarks for other player models) and attempted the modification myself. It has been on my to-do list for quite some years now. First, we need full access to mainboard. Remove the marked screw of the DVC plastic holder.
My Philips CDI605T/20 needed repairs before I can fully use it. Some of them was mandatory for operation (Timekeeper), some of them to make it easier on the ears (fan, optical disc drive tray). I already had experience with a Mini MMC chassis on the very similar consumer player CDI220/00 and knew what awaited me inside (its service manual helped a bit). It is actually possible to perform these repairs without taking the entire case apart (see shortcuts). I took special precautions and made photos of each and every step to be able to put everything back together in the end.
I began with removing the case and the bezels of the extension cards on the rear. Make sure to slide out the lower card first, otherwise its metal plate will grind on the solder side of the upper card.
The Philips CDI605T/20 is the last professional CD-i player with authoring / development capabilities. As every other CD-i player, it runs on CD-RTOS v1.1, a real-time operating system based on Microware OS-9/68K v2.4. Additionally, it features extended memory, an internal OS-9 shell, a floppy disk drive, SCSI, ethernet, RS-232C and printer ports. When compared to its predecessor CDI605/00, it was upgraded with a tray loading mechanism, a built-in DVC and a newer system ROM v1.3. Even though this player is perfectly fine for playing the whole range of consumer CD-i titles, I got it mainly for experimenting with the titles and the operating system. On the first start, it performed a CRC check and displayed the software version: