Bringing old things back to life holds a great sense of joy for most people. The never ending pursuit of recapturing our youth leads us down roads we’ve long forgotten. Along the way, we tend to bump into forgotten memories which jostle other forgotten memories which allows us to relive happy times we haven’t thought of in years, sometimes even decades. For some, the roar of a 351 small block sweeps them back to high school and the fast nights of cruising down main street with the FM radio cranked up as high as it would go. For those of us who were born in the 80’s and 90’s, video games can bring back such memories. Who among us can forget our first encounter with Link, the elegant theme music of Final Fantasy or up-up-down-down-left-right-left-right-b-a-select-start?
Advances in processor technology has allowed us to relive our favorite games via emulators – programs that emulate processors of older computers. The games are ‘dumped’ from the ROM chips (where they are stored) into files. These game files can then be loaded into the emulator program, which allows you to play the game as if you were playing it on the original system.
Technology is truly a beautiful thing. It allows us to move forward, allows us to do today that which was not possible yesterday. There are a few cases, however, where this paradigm does not hold true. One of these has to do with the Nintendo Entertainment System and its “Zapper” gun controller. The NES was the most popular game console of its time, and rightfully so. From the minds of Nintendo engineers, programmers and audio experts came some of the best video games ever made. Unfortunately, some of these great games cannot be played on your Raspberry Pi favorite emulator due to the incompatibility of the Zapper gun and modern digital monitors. None of us can forget the fun that Duckhunt brought. The game came as standard issue with all NES systems, so we’ve all played it. But its nostalgia is currently entombed by a technological quirk that has yet to be solved.
From one hacker to another – this can no longer be tolerated. First, we’re going to learn how the Zapper works and why it doesn’t work with digital displays. Then we’re going to fix it.
[Furrtek] is a person of odd pursuits, which mainly involve making old pieces of technology do strange things. That makes him a hero to us, and his latest project elevates this status: he built a device that turns the Nintendo Gameboy camera cartridge into a camcorder. His device replaces the Gameboy, capturing the images from the camera, displaying them on the screen and saving them to a micro SD card.
Before you throw out your cellphone or your 4K camcorder, bear in mind that the captured video is monochrome (with only 4 levels between white and black), at a resolution of 128 by 112 pixels and at about 14 frames per second. Sound is captured at 8192Hz, producing the same buzzy, grainy sound that the Gameboy is famous for. Although it isn’t particularly practical, [Furrtek]s build is extremely impressive, built around an NXP LPC1343 ARM Cortex-M3 MCU processor. This processor repeatedly requests an image from the camera, receives the image and then collects the images and sound together to form the video and save it to the micro SD card. As always, [Furrtek] has made all of the source code and other files available for anyone who wants to try it out.
When it was announced in 2000 at a Nintendo trade show, the Game Boy Advance was clad in beautiful silver plastic, accented with brilliant orange buttons. As is usually the case with product introductions, the first color and style displayed to be public became the most popular. There was one problem with this silver and orange GBA; Nintendo never put it into production. Fast forward fifteen years, and [Michael Choi] decided it was time to make his own silver and orange Game Boy. It’s a great introduction to mold making and very detailed painting, and a useful guide for turning engineering prototypes into beautiful objects.
[Michael]’s build began with an aftermarket shell, painted with Tamiya spray paints. The color is remarkably accurate, considering the only pictures for the silver and orange Game Boy are fifteen years old, and with the right painting technique, these colors are indistinguishable from a properly colored, injection molded piece of plastic.
The buttons were not as easy as the shell. [Michael] originally decided casting would be the best solution, but after multiple attempts, he couldn’t get the color right. Even with opaque dyes in the resin, the buttons would still come out slightly translucent. In the end, [Michael] decided to paint the original buttons.
This casemod isn’t just about changing the color of the enclosure. [Michael] also wanted is Game Boy to have the backlight found in the second revision clamshell GBA. This was easily acquired on eBay, and with a few slight hardware modifications and a beautiful glass lens to replace the plastic occupying the bezel, [Michael] has a gorgeous Game Boy Advance, taken straight from a press event fifteen years ago.
[uXe] is using the same brains, an ATMEGA32U4, along with a 328 as a co-processor to handle the classic “creme-n-spinich” gameboy screen. 2K of dual port ram acts as a buffer between the two micro-controllers meaning they can not only run while not being in lock step with eachother, but that each micro can read or write to the ram at the same time.
Currently the whole setup is spread out on a breadboard while all the interfacing is worked out, but it is working quite well. Future plans are to make a drop in motherboard replacement for the classic game system, and there is ample room for all the new electronics on the original footprint.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Arduboy project, check out our interview with it’s creator, [Kevin Bates]. That and the demo of [uXe’s] hack based on the project are both found after the break.
[Garrett Greenwood] plays Smash Brothers, and apparently quite seriously. So seriously that he needed to modify his controller with five Neopixels so that it flashed different color animations according to the combo he’s playing on the controller; tailored to match the colors of the moves of his favorite character, naturally.
All of this happens with an ATtiny85 as the brains, which we find quite ambitious. Indeed, [Garrett] started out thinking he could simply read each of the inputs from the controller directly into the microcontroller at the heart of the whole thing, but then counted up how many wires that would be, and looked at how many pins he had free (six), and thought up a better solution.
[Garrett]’s routine instead reads the single line that the Gamecube controller uses to send back to the console. The protocol is well understood, using long-short and short-long signals to encode bits. The only trick is that each bit is sent in four microseconds, so the decoding routine has to be fairly speedy. To make it work he had to do quite a bit of work. More about that, and the demo video, after the break.
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.
The 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.
If your living room entertainment area is not home to a Raspberry Pi based retro game console, you no longer have any excuses. Break out your soldering iron and volt/ohm meter and preheat the 3d printer, because you will not be able to resist making one of the best retro game consoles we’ve ever seen – The Nin10do.
It’s creator is [TheDanielSpies]. Not only did he make the thing from scratch, he’s done an extraordinary job documenting all the build details, making it easier than ever to follow in his footsteps and make one of your own. He designed the case in Autodesk and printed it out with XT Co-polyester filament. He uses a Raspi of course, along with an ATX Raspi board from Low Power Labs to make the power cycling easier. There’s even a little stepper that opens and closes a cover that hides the four USB ports for controllers. Everything is tied together with Python, making the project super easy to modify and customize to your liking.
All code, schematics and .stl files are available on his github. It even has its own Facebook page! Be sure to check out the vast array of videos to help you along with your build.