Microsoft WebTV Connection Kit
From Sega Retro
|Microsoft WebTV Connection Kit|
|Developer: WebTV Networks|
|Peripherals supported: Dreamcast Keyboard, Dreamcast Modem, Dreamcast VGA Box|
|Genre: Network (ネットワーク), ETC|
|Number of players: 1|
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Microsoft WebTV Connection Kit (マイクロソフト ウェブ・ティービー接続キット), or simply WebTV for Dreamcast, is a Japanese-only disc that allowed users of Microsoft's WebTV service to access the Internet from their Sega Dreamcast. The disc used the Windows CE capabilities of the Dreamcast to run a port of the WebTV client technology, with the browser engine assumed to be based off of Internet Explorer 2.0. The complementing service for the software is believed to have debuted in Spring 1999. At the time of its release, the WebTV browser was an improvement over Sega's bundled Dream Passport software. By the release of Dream Passport 3, however, the Sega browser became more capable than WebTV.
As the software requires the Japanese WebTV service to work, which shut down sometime in March 2002 (compared to the prolonged lifespan of the American service, which lasted from 1996 all the way into September 2013), Microsoft WebTV Connection Kit is no longer usable officially.
There were only ever two major releases of Microsoft WebTV Connection Kit. The one released at launch, which was simply titled Microsoft WebTV Connection Kit (マイクロソフト ウェブ・ティービー接続キット), and a later revision released in December of 1999 that added 128-bit SSL capabilities not present in the launch disc, aptly named Microsoft WebTV Connection Kit 128bit SSL Compatible Version (マイクロソフト ウェブ・ティービー接続キット 128bit SSL対応版). The currently known methods of officially obtaining the WebTV Connection Kit disc that were available back in the day were mailing a special postcard that came with Japanese Dreamcast units, or e-mailing an address operated by WebTV with a specific subject line.. The launch disc has a yellow label with black and silver elements, while the 128-bit SSL upgrade disc is almost entirely silver with black elements. Both releases have since been dumped in GDI format.
In total, there are four known Microsoft WebTV Connection Kit prints, each believed to have their own user agent:
- WebTV/1.0 (Compatible; MSIE 2.0)
- WebTV/1.2 (compatible; MSIE 2.0)
- WebTV/2.2.3 (Compatible; MSIE 2.0)
- WebTV/188.8.131.52 (Compatible; MSIE 2.0)
Three prints also have known catalog codes, which will be listed down below with the corresponding release they were manufactured for:
- 610-7117 (Launch)
- 610-7390 (128-bit SSL)
- 610-7391 (128-bit SSL)
The 610-7117 and 610-7391 prints have thick, but standard size jewel cases, while 610-7390 just has a standard CD jewel case (like most Dreamcast games used) to house the disc. The 610-7390 print also doesn't include an instruction manual like the 610-7117 print does (and the 610-7391 print might have). This might hint that the 610-7390 print was intended to be shipped to those already subscribed to the WebTV service in Japan before the 128-bit SSL upgrade was published.
There has also been mention that a copy of the launch WebTV disc without a full manual exists. Confirmation that this claim is true has not been verified yet, however.
- Main article: Microsoft WebTV Connection Kit/Magazine articles.
"Luck'n Luck WebTV"
The postcards for requesting the Microsoft WebTV Connection Kit that were bundled with Japanese Dreamcast units came attached with a small flyer titled "Luck'n Luck WebTV" (らくらくウェブティービー). This flyer is related to WebTV. It is a conversation between four friends to introduce a new person to what WebTV is. Images of the pages from this flyer have recently been found from a Yahoo! Auctions Japan listing and have since been uploaded here to preserve the contents of this otherwise-unknown piece of WebTV history.
In the high density area of the WebTV for Dreamcast disc is a file named WEBTV.ROM, which contain files used by the software stored in a proprietary format specific to WebTV called ROMFS. Most of these files pertain to the user interface of WebTV for Dreamcast, which mainly consist of HTML files and images, but also includes proprietary .dat string files. WEBTV.ROM also contains numerous files either made for WebTV for Dreamcast that are unused, or in the case of the 128-bit SSL version, include files that belong to other versions of the WebTV technology entirely. The WEBTV.ROM file uses no compression or encryption and ignoring proper extraction tools, can be somewhat easily analyzed with a hex editor. It's believed that this file is used by the WEBTV.EXE program on the disc when it starts up.
All text used by WebTV for Dreamcast has so far been observed to be encoded in either Shift-JIS or ISO-2022-JP format.
WebTV for Dreamcast, like its dedicated hardware counterparts, allows for a user to enter in a "power-off code" on boot up, mainly in the event troubleshooting is needed (the codes are called "power-off codes" because on dedicated WebTV/MSN TV hardware, the codes would be entered in when a box was powered off). To accomplish this, the user has to press the S3 key on the Dreamcast keyboard three times right as the splash screen fades in, and then quickly type in the code. Only a few codes have been confirmed to work on WebTV for Dreamcast, and the time window to enter in the code at the splash screen is very short, making it difficult to attempt. Codes that have been 100% confirmed to work on WebTV for Dreamcast are listed below:
(Information from https://webtvwiki.net/wiki/Power-Off_Codes#Japanese_Dreamcast)
|411||Shows technical information about the WebTV disc and SSID (WebTV serial ID) assigned to Dreamcast|
|32768||Resets WebTV flash data (TellyScript, dialing options, etc.). This does not appear to affect data stored by other titles in the Dreamcast's flash memory, but this hasn't been confirmed yet so use this code with caution|
|1111||Power up for DataDownload. Triggering this PO code on the Dreamcast results in the screen fading to back and the Dreamcast booting back into its menu|
|77437||"Spooky Dialing Options"|
Believe it or not, WebTV for Dreamcast uses its own protocol to communicate with the WebTV service and even query HTTP websites. This protocol is known as the WebTV Protocol, or WTVP, which is the same protocol used by dedicated WebTV/MSN TV hardware to communicate with the standard WebTV/MSN TV service. Information on this protocol in general and the content it served is extremely scarce, and next to no information on how the Japanese WebTV service differed on a technical level compared to its American counterpart is readily available as of writing. There have been efforts to document this protocol in as much detail and clarity as possible, although it isn't much to decently recreate the service at the moment.