Optical Disc Emulators are wonderful creations which allow disc-based systems to run ISO files, essentially acting like a flashcart for these consoles. When you consider that many consoles – such as the Saturn, Dreamcast and PlayStation – now have titles which are hard to come by unless you're insanely rich, these devices are essential to those who wish to experience the full library on original hardware.
The catch is that ODEs often require you to take apart the system in question and remove its disc drive – a process which then means you can no longer run your original discs on the machine. There are some exceptions to this and some ODE makers have found ways of keeping the disc drive in place, but on the whole, it's not as elegant an option as a flashcart - until now, that is.
Modder TZMWX recently showcased a way of loading Saturn games using the console's controller port. Dubbed the SegaSaturn SDLoader, t's based on the hard work done by fellow developer Murzik, who, earlier this month came up with the means of loading data via the controller port. The hack was focused on transferring save data, but Murzik found it could be used to play games, too (a cartridge with PseudoSaturn Kai seems to be required to run the ISO on the micro SD card):
Wanted to backup saves from my Saturn, so I decided to do [an] SD card tool which [uses the] second gamepad port to communicate with SD cards. It is just a proof of concept, but it works. To match levels, [the] fastest and cheaper way to utilize [a] micro SD module (you may get one in any electronic DIY shop, get micro SD one, as it includes 5v tolerant buffer IC and 3.3v voltage regulator).
Given that many Saturn ODEs like MODE and Fenrir are very costly (and the Satiator, which uses the Saturn video card slot, is also expensive), this could turn out to be the cheapest way to run ISOs on your console; the parts required cost very little, although some soldiering skills are required if you plan to build your own unit.