A Beautifully Crafted N64 Portable

With dozens of powerful single board Linux computers available, you would think the time-tested practice of turning vintage video game consoles would be a lost art. Emulators are available for everything, and these tiny Linux boxes are smaller than the original circuitry found in these old consoles. [Chris], one of the best console modders out there, is still pumping out projects. His latest is a portable N64, and it’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from one of the trade’s masters.

We’ve seen dozens of Nintendo 64s modded into battery-powered handhelds over the years, and [Chris]’ latest project follows the familiar format: remove the PCB from the console, add a screen, some buttons, and a battery, and wrap everything up in a nice case. It’s the last part of the build – the case – that is interesting here. The case was fabricated using a combination of 3D printing CNC machining.

rogueThe enclosure for this project was initially printed in PLA, the parts glued together and finally filled for a nice, smooth finish. [Chris] says PLA was a bad choice – the low melting point means the heat from milling the face plate gums up the piece. In the future, he’ll still be using printed parts for enclosures, but for precision work he’ll move over to milling polystyrene sheets.

With the case completed, a few heat sinks were added to the biggest chips on the board, new button breakout board milled, and a custom audio amp laid out. The result is a beautifully crafted portable N64 that is far classier and more substantial than any emulator could ever pull off.

[Chris] put together a video walkthrough of his build. You can check that out below.

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Give In To Nostalgia With a Retro Game And Watch

One of the earliest Nintendo products to gain popularity was the Game and Watch product line. Produced by Nintendo between 1980 and 1991, they are a source of nostalgia for many an 80s or 90s kid. These were those electronic handheld games that had pre-drawn monochrome images that would light up to make very basic animations. [Andrew] loved his old “Vermin” game as a kid, but eventually he sold it off. Wanting to re-live those childhood memories, he decided to build his own Game and Watch emulator.

The heart of [Andrew’s] build is a PIC18F4550 USB demo board he found on eBay. The board allows you to upload HEX files directly via USB using some simple front end software. [Andrew] wrote the code for his game in C using MPLAB. His device uses a Nokia 5110 LCD screen and is powered from a small lithium ion battery.

For the housing, [Andrew] started from another old handheld game that was about the right size. He gutted all of the old parts and stuck the new ones in their place. He also gave the housing a sort of brushed metal look using spray paint. The end result is a pretty good approximation of the original thing as evidenced by the video below. Continue reading “Give In To Nostalgia With a Retro Game And Watch”

RetroPie portable looks like SNES Gameboy

[Mat] wanted a portable RetroPie project he could take while travelling. He made one with a laser cut plastic housing and, according to him, it turned out to be a ‘hideous deformed beast’. In version 2 he took a different approach and we must say it came out looking pretty nice.

This time [Mat] went with a 3D printed case. He designed it himself in SketchUp. Unfortunately, [Mat] doesn’t have access to a 3D printer so he had to send it out to a professional printing company to the tune of £60 ($90). Although that was a large chunk of change, he was happy with the quality of the print. The final exterior dimensions of the case is 13 x 13 x 2.5 cm.

A quick look at the controls will remind anyone of an SNES controller. [Mat] took the innards of an SNES-like USB gamepad and modeled the new case around it. Not having to cut up or otherwise modify the controller PCB makes for an easy addition to the project. Conveniently, the width of the controller was just about the same as the 4.3 inch LCD used for the gamepad’s display. Both fit nicely together.

Under the hood is a Rasberry Pi running RetroPie. An internal 2600mAh Lithium Ion battery provides up to 3.5 hours of game play. Battery charging management is provided by an Adafruit Powerboost 500 which also has a micro USB port that makes connecting an external charger easy.

Is That a Tuner in Your Pocket…?

As a musician, it’s rare to consistently recognize with the naked ear whether or not a single instrument is in tune. There are a number of electronic devices on the market to aid in this, however if you’re leading into an impromptu performance to impress your friends, using one feels about as suave as putting on your dental headgear before bed. When tuning is necessary, why not do so in a fashion that won’t cramp your style?

To help his music-major friends add an element of Bond-like flare to the chore, [dbtayl] designed a chromatic tuner that’s disguised as a pocket watch, pet-named the “pokey”. The form for the custom casing was designed in OpenSCAD and cut from aluminum stock on a home-built CNC mill. Under its bass-clef bedecked cover is the PCB which was laid out in KiCad to fit the watch’s circular cavity, then milled from a piece of copped-clad board. The board contains the NXP Cortex M3 which acts as the tuner’s brain and runs an FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) that uses a microphone to match the dominant pitch it hears to the closest note. Five blue surface-mount LEDs on the side indicate how sharp or flat the note is, with the center being true.

[dbtayl’s] juxtaposition of circuitry in something that is so heavily associated with mechanical function is a clever play on our familiarity. You can see a test video of the trinket in action below:

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A SEGA Dreamcast Controller With a Built-in Screen

[Fibbef] was hard at work on a project for a build-off competition when he accidentally fried the circuit board. Not one to give up easily, he opted to start a new project with only two days left in the competition. He managed to modify a SEGA Dreamcast controller to hold a color screen in that short amount of time.

The Dreamcast controller’s shape is somewhat conducive to this type of mod. It already has a small window to ensure the view of the visual memory card is not obstructed. Unfortunately [Fibbef’s] screen was a bit too large for this window. That meant he would have to expand the controller and the circuit board.

After taking the controller apart, he desoldered the memory card connectors. He then cut the circuit board cleanly in half vertically. He had to re-wire all of the traces back together by hand. It turned out initially that he had messed something up and accidentally fried the right half of the controller. To fix it, he cut a second controller in half and soldered the two boards together.

With some more horizontal space to work with on the PCB side of things, [Fibbef] now needed to expand the controller’s housing. He cut the controller into several pieces, making sure to keep the start button centered for aesthetics. He then used duct tape to hold popsicle sticks in place to make up for the missing pieces of the case. All of the sticks were then covered with a thick layer of ABS cement to make for a more rigid enclosure. All of this ended up being covered in Bondo, a common trick in video game console mods. It was then sanded smooth and painted with black primer to make for a surprisingly nice finish.

The screen itself still needed a way to get power and a video signal. [Fibbef] built an adapter box to take both of these signals and pass them to the controller via a single cable. The box as a USB-A connector for power input, and a composite connector for video. There’s also a USB-B connector for the output signals. [Fibbef] uses a standard printer USB cable to send power and video signals to the controller. The end result looks great and serves to make the Dreamcast slightly more portable. Check out the demo video below to see it in action. Continue reading “A SEGA Dreamcast Controller With a Built-in Screen”

MagnID – Sneaky New Way of Interacting With Tablets

New magnetic tech dubbed “MagnID” is being presented this weekend at Stanford’s annual TEI conference. It is a clever hack aimed to hijack a tablet’s compass sensor and force it to recognize multiple objects. Here is a sneak peek at the possibilities of magnetic input for tablets.

Many tablets come with some sort of triaxial magnetic sensor but as [Andrea] and [Ian]’s demo shows, they are only capable of passing along the aggregate vector of all magnetic forces. If one had multiple magnetic objects, the sensor is not able to provide much useful information.

Their solution is a mix of software and hardware. Each object is given a magnet that rotates at a different known speed. This creates complex sinusoidal magnetic fields that can be mathematically isolated with bandpass filters. This also gives them distance to each object. The team added an Arduino with a magnetometer for reasons unexplained, perhaps the ones built into tablets are not sufficient?

The demo video below shows off what is under the hood and some new input mechanics for simple games, sketching, and a logo turtle. Their hope is that this opens the door to all manner of tangible devices.

Check out their demo at Standford’s 9th annual “Tangible, Embedded, Embodied Interaction” this January 15-19, 2015.

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[lovablechevy] transforms a Nomad into the HandyGen

[lovablechevy], aka the Queen of Bondo, has added another member to her Mushroom family of custom portable consoles.  This time, it’s the HandyGen, an improved Sega Nomad.  As an owner of the latter, we can attest that the Nomad had limitations, including its unwieldy size and shape, and its godawful battery life. As part of a build-off contest over at the Bacman forums , [lovablechevy] took apart a half-working Nomad and trimmed its board to fit into a smaller case of her own design, while retaining features such as the A/V out, headphone jack, and Player 2 controller port.  She also bumped up the size of the screen, swapping in a new 4″ LCD and its corresponding controller board. The best improvement was increasing the battery life considerably; HandyGen uses 2 LiPo batteries lasting 7 hours instead of the Nomad needing 6AA’s that barely lasted two. HandyGen’s battery life is roughly double that of the GeneBoy, an earlier portable Genesis mod we’ve featured before.

[lovablechevy] always does a great job with her portables, from the Nintenduo to the HandyNES. Being avid PS fans, we also award her bonus points for testing out the HandyGen with Phantasy Star 4. Check out her video of the HandyGen after the break.

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