Adding a backlight to the ‘ol Game Boy brick

For being more than 20 years old, [Max]‘s old brick-sized Game boy still has a lot of life left in it. Even though his Game Boy was still in good condition, there were a few vertical lines in the display, making it a perfect candidate for a restoration. While he had his DMG-01 open on his work bench, [Max] also decided to put in a back light.

After researching the blank vertical lines in his Game Boy’s display, [Max] learned the problem was probably a loose solder connection. [Max] whipped out his tri-wing screwdriver, disassembled his classic plastic friend, took a soldering iron to the LCD’s flex connector, and fixed the problem easily.

Since his Game Boy was already taken apart, he decided to add a 3rd party backlight. The installation was a snap – [Max] only removed the reflective LCD backing and shoved an edge-lit backlight panel into the Game Boy.

If you’re wondering why anyone would still be interested in a 20+ year-old Game Boy, the DMG-01 is highly regarded in the chiptune scene when paired with Little Sound DJ, in part because of the noisy amplifiers and unique sound. Anything that keeps these wonderful machines out of the garbage is alright in our book, so we’ve got to hand it to [Max] for putting together this wonderful tutorial.


  1. insapio says:

    I could be wrong, but it looks like a repaint. How’d he re-do the lettering? Hand paint, vinyl cut lettering, screen print or blue ink on clear media?

    Looks sharp.

  2. Sven says:

    I remember reading an article about someone putting a backlight in his Gameboy… i think it was back in 1992, in a paper magazine…

    This is more of a repair than a hack, and it isn’t really news. People do this daily and there are hundreds and hundreds of posts about it ever since you could post pictures on the net.

    If hackaday are going to make posts about everyone repairing anything electronic this site is going to become pretty uninteresting :P

  3. DanAdamKOF says:

    @MS3FGX I owned one of these previously and they rule. Best black and white GB screen (even when not lit up) hands down.

  4. medix says:

    Glad to see this posted. I just dug mine out of the closet over the weekend to discover the same vertical lines (and then that it could be repaired).

  5. Deg says:

    I had the pleasure of seeing this band live. Their music is pumped through a gameboy (maybe with the Little Sound DJ?):

  6. Graafvaag says:

    I took apart my DMG01 once, but after peeling off the reflective sticker, nothing showed on the display anymore. I thought that the polarising sheet had to stay in place so after this failure I declared it ‘dead’.

    Do you think that this was my problem? Did it stay blank (or look blank perhaps) because I left the polarisation sheet on?

    I’d say that by removing this, the screen wouldn’t show pixels anymore. Could you explain why yours does?

    • Max says:

      The backlight has a new polarizing film built in. Without that built in green film (or the new one provided inside the backlight) the pixels will be invisible to the naked eye. Leaving that sheet on while removing the reflective backing still allows the display to function, and you should still see pixels if that is the case.

      Perhaps you removed the polarizing filter by accident? You might try using a pair of polarized sunglasses and see if anything shows up then.

      • Sven says:

        That won’t work since he removed the back polarizing film, the LCD has to be between the two polarizing films for anything to show as the crystals only shift the polarized light by 90 degrees, it doesn’t create any polarization.

      • Graafvaag says:

        Thanks, I supposed that I applied too much pulling force on the LCD, killing all the pixels. I’m damn sure that I left the polarising film on.

        Could also be the solder connections. Breaking the wrong one might also disable the entire screen.

        I’ll check with a polaroid behind it btw, nice idea.

        Backlight also works with the old polarisation film btw, it’s just that it’ll be greenish..

  7. Someone says:

    The old Game Boy bricks didn’t use triwing screws…

    • JamieWho says:

      No, not the really old ones, but if you read the article, he makes this clear. It is less clear in the summary.

      Otherwise, it is an awesome hack and makes me want to dig out my old brick and back light it.

  8. Harry says:

    many of my friends still use their gameboy colours…

  9. zack says:

    I have a question though, where did you the get the backlight for it? Could I use any LED or what would you recommend? Any insight is greatly appreciated thanks

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