And then Microsoft came to the game. With a very successful PC gaming history and consoles trying to become all-in-one entertainment units that might one day replace PCs, Microsoft decided to get into the game console fight. They tried making various deals and partnerships with SONY and SEGA (having worked with them on the SEGA Dreamcast), but Microsoft ultimately jumped into the home console fight on their own. On November the 15th, 2001 Microsoft released the XBOX. With the amazing launch title HALO, the XBOX eventually out sold the Nintendo GameCube and the SEGA Dreamcast but couldn’t catch up to the SONY PS2. Still, it was the beginning of a new era.
Myself being a SEGA man and still struggling with the fact that SEGA was leaving the console market, I had a choice to make, SONY or MICROSOFT? HALO helped make the decision for me and I transitioned from SEGA to Microsoft which continues to this day (2023 at writing!)
The Microsoft XBOX
The original Xbox is a monster of a console. It’s the largest and heaviest system when compared to any of the other main players of the time. The main reason for this is that, to save cost and manufacturing time, Microsoft used standard PC parts inside like the DVD-ROM Drive and internal Hard Drive (a first for consoles).
As for versions, there where no different external designs offered for the original XBOX. There were several revisions to the internal parts for reliability and production cost concerns, but from the outside those changes can only be recognized by checking the manufacturing date (printed on the bottom). They did however manage to wrap this bad boy in a cool looking case if you ask me. Let’s take a look at it.
The top of the unit let you know right away what you’re dealing with, the Xbox. The whole case is basically a large “X” with and green circle emblem in the middle that has the “XBOX” logo on it. On the left and right sides of the large case “X” are grill/vents (which appear all over the system) the ones on top are just for looks. The system is flat black in color and the lights and emblem are green, which was basically the XBOXs “color” which is used in the Start-up screen and dashboard graphics.
- Unit Lifetime: 2001-2006 (US)
- Units Sold Wordlwide: 24 million
- Resolution: 480p, 720p
- CPU: Pentium III
- Graphics: GeForce 3
- Polygon Count: 20 million per second
- Games Released US: 998
Looking at the from of the console you can see Microsoft stayed with the four built-in controller ports started by the Nintendo 64. Even though the original XBOX was built with online play in mind, people were still very much getting together to play games. The flagship game HALO: Combat Evolved, known as an amazing online game today, offered only local 4-player split screen as a multiplayer option. On the top left of the machine is the DVD Drive also emblazoned with the XBOX logo. This disc tray will slide open when you press the large Eject button located in the middle of the system. The eject button has a series of 4 green lights around it that light up when the system is turned on. The lights are broken into quadrants which light up (1-4) depending on how many controllers are plugged in. So if two controllers are plugged in, half of the circle is lit up. Below the eject button is the Start/Power button. On the top right face of the system are the Compact Disk and Dolby Sound logos.
One thing to note is that the original XBOX was the first game systems to offer real-time Dobly Digital 5.1 surround sound in game, where other systems only had it in pre-recorded cut-scenes.
The left and the right sides of system are just grill vents. These tie into the pattern on top but unlike those these are functional in that they have fairly large opening to allow for heat to escape. The original XBOX unfortunately was known to have some heat issues (among other problems) that we’ll touch on a little bit below.
Knowing which revision your Xbox is will help when installing some third-party modifications but maybe more importantly, determining if the clock capacitor needs to be replaced. Revisions 1.0 to 1.5 included a faulty capacitor that can potentially damage your Xbox. If your revision falls within that range, it’s definitely something you’re going to want to address.
If you flip your Xbox upside down you should see a sticker with a barcade, MFG Date, Serial No., etc. The MFG. DATE is what you’ll be interested in.
Using the chart below, match your MFG Date in the range of dates in the first column.
|Manufacturer Date||Model Revision|
|2001 -> 2002-07||1.0|
|2002-08-18 -> 2003-01-25||1.1|
|2002-12-01 -> 2004-03-15||1.2|
|2003-03-02 -> 2003-07-26||1.3|
|2003-07-20 -> 2004-04-10||1.4, 1.5|
|2004-03-14 -> 2004-09-06||1.6|
|2004-09-13 -> 2005-08||1.6b|
Based on our example MFG Date of 2002-05-24, that puts our model revision in the 1.0 range. As far as that faulty Xbox clock capacitor that was mentioned earlier, this revision is of concern and we’ll want to get it replaced sooner than later. If you have a 1.6 or later revision you wont need to worry about the clock capacitor.
Now to the business end of the original XBOX, the back. This power-house system keep it pretty straight forward here. On the left side you’ve got a round-edged standard two-prong port for a power cable. This means the actual meat of the power-supply is inside the unit, adding to it’s impressive 9lb weight! In the middle you’ll find the AV port. The XBOX shipped with a standard RCA Composite AV cables (red, white and yellow). HDMI was not an option at launch in 2001 (HDMI cables/ports became the standed between 2002-2006ish). You could however buy S-Video and HD Component Cables with the component cable able to display 720p or 1080i if the game (and your TV) supported it.
Finally on the right of the system is the all important and awesome RJ45 Ethernet Cable port. The original XBOX was the first system to come with high-speed online connetability built in (the SEGA Dreamcast did come with a telephone RJ11 modem attached, that could be ugraded to a RJ45 though). Having this built into the system was the beginning of making online gaming a standard it is now for console players.
The original XBOX has a proprietary AV connection port. The pack in cable was a standard RCA composite cable (red, white and yellow). You could get S-Video and HD Component Cables separately during its life time. And now HDMI cables are available also. The Component and HDMI cable will give you up to 720p or 1080i resolutions on games and TVs that support it.
The original Power Cable that came with the system also have a built-in surge protector on it. You can however use a standard 2-prong non-polarized (round on both ends) cable.
The HALO Edition XBOX
I mentioned that there were no major design revisions made/sold of the original XBOX, there were however several case color options that appeared. Most of these were not in the United States. The HALO edition is the most common here in the states. It was released around the same time HALO 2 came out (November 2004), which was bundled with the system.
This system sports a translucent green case with the HALO logo on the front, it also came with a matching controller.
Original XBOX Controller: The Duke
The SEGA Dreamcast has a decent controller. It is styled more like the SEGA Saturn 3D Controller than the smaller standard SEGA Saturn or Genesis controllers. This was the first time a system came standard with and analog D-pad. The Saturn one was released later in the Saturns life and was never packed with the system. The action button layout also changed from the standard SEGA three over three layout and went with the north-south-east-west or ABXY layout. It’s a shame it didn’t come with the now standard double analog controllers that made 3D gaming much easier to navigate. Sony would soon get this right as would every console moving forward. The one bonus for the Dreamcast was that you can hook a mouse and keyboard up to it for many game and have a control method even better than double analog pads.
The SEGA Dreamcast controller was still quite capable for 3D gaming. The new layout of the ABXY button would essentially act like a WASD layout everyone who plays on a computer/keyboard were used to. So for many game you move you character with he action buttons and look around with the analog page. Not as ideal or as smooth as a double analog but it works.
At the bottom center face of the controller is the start button and at the top is a large gapping hole! This whole actually allows for the viewing of another cool feature of this controller, the VMU. SEGA Visual Memory Unit (see below).
The controller actually has two slots for a VMU on the back. The top spot is the only one that would display the screen but the bottom slot could be used for other VMU options like a rumble pak or the micro-phone VMU. Or you could plug in two memory VMUs.
The controller has grips underneath for both hands with a single trigger style button on both sides. The cord for the controller actually comes out of the front/bottom (as the VMU ports took up the space on the back). There is an indention on the bottom of the controller that you can tuck the cord into so that is is diverted backwards.
SEGA Dreamcast VMU
These little devices contained 128k of memory for saving games on the Dreamcast. But, instead of just serving as a memory card they have a little mono-lcd screen and a tiny d-pad and four action buttons! They’re like little gameboy things. Many games came with little add-on games or functions that would be accessed using the VMU. This could even be used when the VMU was removed from the controller and carried around. One of my favorite functions was that it could display in-game information like character stats, maps and more. For football games, for example, you could have your next play options displayed on the VMU and not the TV! This was a great way of not showing your buddy sitting right next to you what you were calling. When the VMU’s were removed from the controller you could hook two together to transfer saved games and data.
The VMU’s are powered by two (2) standard 2032 batteries. While these are not needed to save or store games, it was needed if you wanted to use the VMU seperately to play games and such on it. One annoying aspect is that if the batteries are dead, then VMU will make a loud beep when you turn on the Dreamcast. It makes you want to run out and get some batteries…
SEGA Dreamcast Games
The SEGA Dreamcast was our first view of the 128-bit generation of game consoles. And with it brought a new level of detail and refinement to 3D gaming. The Dreamcast was a powerful machine and had some stunning looking games that you can still very much appreciate today. Soul Caliber and Dead or Alive are two games that come to mind. The SEGA Dreamcast also brought us our first true 3D Sonic games and perfect copies of some of SEGA arcade classics like the House of the Dead. And on top of all that we now had online multi-player gamins like Phantasy Star online and others!
With the Dreamcast, SEGA finally moved on from the large SEGA Saturn / SEGA CD game cases and went with the standard CD jewel case. I’m sure retailers were happy with this move as they take up far less space on the shelf. The SEGA Dreamcast uses a GD-ROM disk, which is basically a higher storage capacity CD (it would hold up to 1 gig).
With the move to the smaller CD jewel case, the game manuals had to get smaller also. The front cover for the case is also the manual.
With this small case these guys have held up as well as any music CD case, which is good. And if your game case gets cracked or broken it’s very easy to switchit out with a new case.