The Nintendo PlayStation console was just a gaming fable until Terry Diebold and his son Dan discovered a working prototype in a box purchased at a bankruptcy auction.
The Nintendo PlayStation console was just a gaming fable until Terry Diebold and his son Dan discovered a working prototype in a box purchased at a bankruptcy auction.
Courtesy of Terry Diebold

Meet the Man Who Bought an Ultra-Rare Nintendo PlayStation Console in a $75 Auction Grab Bag

The gaming world may be new compared to movies and music, but it already has some interesting myths. Lost and fabled relics are being uncovered, like Atari's "E.T." cartridge landfill dump and the infamous "Hot Coffee" mode in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which sparked another national debate about children and video games.

In 2009, a man named Terry Diebold uncovered the biggest confirmed gaming legend to date. The artifact was a prototype for a home video game console made during a short partnership between Nintendo and Sony. A few years later, Sony released the first PlayStation system, which started an economic battle for superiority between the two companies that still rages.

Gaming fans will be able to see and even play this long lost video game console at the Let's Play Gaming Expo, thanks to Diebold and his son Dan, who were the first to confirm the console prototype's existence.

Diebold, a maintenance technician who worked for the now-defunct credit card company Advanta, found the prototype in a lot of goods he'd purchased from the Pennsylvania company's bankruptcy auction for $75. It took him two trips to get the lot home. It also contained a mix of dishes and silverware from the Advanta's boardroom and some personal items that once belonged to Olaf Olafsson, a former Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO who was Advanta's president before moving to Time Warner, where he now serves as executive vice president.

The video game console had the words "Sony" and "PlayStation" written on it and a controller that looked very close to the button scheme for the Super Nintendo system. The gray console, which had yellowed over time because of light exposure, contained both a top-loading cartridge bay and a CD tray. Diebold says he played video games and knew about some retro systems, but he didn't recognize this one.

"When I saw it, I tried finding some information about it online, and none of the paperwork or pictures online showed the prototype that I had," Diebold says.

His son Dan read a conversation about the Sony-Nintendo console on a Reddit gaming forum in 2015 and realized members were talking about the console his father kept boxed up in the attic at his home in Warminster, Pennsylvania.

"They were talking about back in the day in the '90s how Nintendo and Sony came together to create a CD-based console, and he wrote, 'Yeah, my dad has one of those up in his attic,' and you know how they are on Reddit," Diebold says. "They beat him up pretty bad."

Dan retrieved the console during a July 4 visit to his father's house and posted some pictures of it on the forum to back up his claims. The photos went viral, and both of the Diebolds started fielding tons of phone calls and emails from people wanting to know more about the Nintendo PlayStation console. The console made the Diebolds overnight stars in the gaming community.

Dan (second from right) and Terry Diebold (right) let legendary engineer and modder Ben Heck (second from left) restore the Nintendo PlayStation console to its fullest working order.EXPAND
Dan (second from right) and Terry Diebold (right) let legendary engineer and modder Ben Heck (second from left) restore the Nintendo PlayStation console to its fullest working order.
Courtesy of Terry Diebold

The Diebolds started receiving invitations from gaming conventions in places as distant as Japan and Monte Carlo that wanted them to show the console to attendees and tell their story. They plugged it in for the first time at the Retro.HK gaming expo in Hong Kong.

"The boot card came up, but there was no sound," Diebold says. "We could play games on it, but it didn't have any sound and the CD portion wasn't working."

Diebold says during one of his convention appearances, he met famed electronics engineer and video game modder Ben Heckendorn, who hosts The Ben Heck Show, a YouTube series in which Heckendorn and his crew construct quirky electronic gadgets and machines like portable versions of modern-gen video game consoles and original gaming accessories. Heckendorn worked on the console in 2016, and it became one of the show's most viewed episodes.

Thanks to Heckendorn's repairs, the console can play games like "Street Fighter II" with sound. The CD tray also works, but it can only play music CDs. Diebold says he has no reservations about letting fans play the console if that's what convention organizers want. Attendees of the Let's Play expo will get the opportunity to play it in August, he says.

"Some expos I go to, they want me to hook it up and let people play it, and others, they don't want that to happen," Diebold says. "They want it under a glass case and a security guard."

Diebold says video game consoles are meant to be played, no matter how rare. A console like the Nintendo PlayStation has a shelf-life and could stop working any day. Diebold says as parts become rarer, it could one day become unplayable. But as long as it's in working order, he wants as many people as possible to get the chance to play it, and he's willing to travel just about anywhere to give them that chance.

"That's what it was made for," Diebold says. "Me and my son have had our share of playtime with it, and a lot of the expos I go to, some of the people who run them give us cartridges and people who don't even know me walk up and give us a cart to play on it, and I have them sign it and I bring them with me wherever they go."

Diebold gets a kick out of seeing some gamers' reactions as they hold a rare piece of gaming history in their hands.

"When we were at [the SoCal Retro Gaming Expo] last year, I unplugged it at the end of the day, and this kid was standing there shaking and his girlfriend's laughing at him because that's what he went there for, just to look at it," Diebold says. "When I went to go hand it to him, he started shaking more violently and he started stuttering, and when I handed it to him, he stopped moving. He turned white and he stopped breathing. I put my hand on his arm and I said, 'Just breathe.' It's pretty funny when you get some of these people just to hold it."

Terry Diebold will bring the Nintendo PlayStation prototype console to the Let's Play Gaming Expo, Aug. 5-6 at the Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas, 500 W. Las Colinas Blvd., Irving, $15-$75, letsplaygamingexpo.com. Diebold can be reached at tdiebold51@verizon.net. 

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