Game Boy with Lithium Batteries and USB

[Alan] procured a few Game Boys from a Yahoo auction with the intent of using them for some other projects, but one of the Game Boys was shipped with a very corroded battery which had eaten up one of the terminals. When [Alan] had repaired it, he was left with a Game Boy with no battery terminal at all, so he decided to splice in some lithium-ion batteries.

Not only does the Game Boy now have a new battery pack, but [Alan] was able to source a USB charger to handle the batteries’ charging needs. However, he realized that his battery pack was 3.7 volts, while the Game Boy only needed 3 volts. To lower the voltage of the battery pack to the required voltage, [Alan] grabbed a 1N4148 diode and put it in series with the battery pack, which also helps prevent any accidental reverse polarity.

This isn’t the most technically advanced Game Boy hack we’ve ever seen but it’s great to see new life breathed into these classic video game systems. Not to mention that [Alan] saved some lithium batteries from the landfill!

Game Boy Cartridge Emulator Uses STM32

Game Boys may be old tech, but they still provide challenges to modern hackers. [Dhole] has come up with a cartridge emulator which uses an STMicroelectronics STM32F4 discovery board to do all the work. Until now, most flash cartridges used programmable logic devices, either CPLDs or FPGAs to handle the high-speed logic requirements. [Alex] proved that a microcontroller could emulate a cartridge by using an Arduino to display the “Nintendo” Game Boy boot logo. The Arduino wasn’t fast enough to actually handle high-speed accesses required for game play.

[Dhole] kicked the speed up by moving to the ARM Cortex-M4 based 168 MHz STM32F4. The F4’s  70 GPIO pins can run via internal peripherals at up to 100MHz, which is plenty to handle the 1MHz clock speed of the Game Boy’s bus. Logic levels are an issue, as the STM32 uses 3.3V logic while the Game Boy is a 5V device. Thankfully the STM32’s inputs are 5V tolerant, so things worked just fine.

Simple Game Boy cartridges like Tetris were able to directly map a ROM device into the Game Boys memory space. More complex titles used Memory Block Controller (MBC) chips to map sections of ROM and perform other duties. There were several MBC chips used for various titles, but [Dhole] can emulate MBC1, which is compatible with the largest code base.

One of the coolest tricks [Dhole] implemented was displaying a custom boot logo. The Game Boy used the “Nintendo” logo as a method of copyright protection. If a cartridge didn’t have the logo, the Game Boy wouldn’t run. The logo is actually read twice – once to check the copyright info, and once to display it on the screen. By telling the emulator to change the data available at those addresses after the first read, any graphic can be displayed.

If you’re wondering what a cartridge emulator would be useful for (other than pirating games), you should check out [Jeff Frohwein’s] Gameboy Dev page! [Jeff] has been involved in Game Boy development since the early days. There are literally decades of demos and homebrew games out there for the Game Boy and various derivatives. .

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ArTICam Interfaces Game Boy Camera with TI Calculators

[Christopher Mitchell] has given Texas Instruments calculators the ability to capture images through a Game Boy Camera with ArTICam. First introduced in 1998, The Game Boy Camera was one of the first low-cost digital cameras available to consumers. Since then it has found its way into quite a few projects, including this early Atmel AT90 based hack, and this Morse code transceiver.

TI calculators don’t include a Game Boy cartridge slot, so [Christopher] used an Arduino Uno to interface the two. He built upon the Arduino-TI Calculator Linking (ArTICL) Library  to create ArTICam. Getting the Arduino to talk with the Game Boy Camera’s M64282FP image sensor turned out to be easy, as there already are code examples available. The interface between the camera sensor and the Arduino is simple enough. 6 digital lines for an oddball serial interface, one analog sense line, power and ground. [Christopher] used a shield to solder everything up, but says you can easily get away with wiring directly the Arduino Uno’s I/O pins. The system is compatible with the TI-83 Plus and TI-84 Plus family of calculators. Grabbing an image is as simple as calling  GetCalc(Pic1) from your calculator program.

So, If you have an old calculator lying around, give it a try to enjoy some 128×123-pixel grayscale goodness!

HDMI Out With A Brick Game Boy

A few years ago, some vastly clever people figured out how to listen in on the LCD display on the classic brick Game Boy from 1989. There have been marked improvements over the years, including a few people developing VGA out for the classic Game Boy. Now, the bar has been raised with an HDMI adapter for the Game Boy, designed in such a way that turns everyone’s favorite battery hog into a portable console.

Your classic beige or cleverly named Color Game Boy is composed of two halves. The rear half contains all the important circuitry – the CPU, cartridge connector, and the rest of the smarts that make the Game Boy game. The front half is fairly simple in comparison, just an LCD and a few buttons. By designing an adapter that goes between these two halves, [Zane] and [Joshua] were able to stuff enough circuitry inside the Game Boy to convert the signals going to the LCD to HDMI. Plug that into your TV, and you have a huge modern version of the Super Game Boy, no SNES required.

The HDMIBoy also breaks out the buttons to the classic NES controller connector. With HDMI out and a controller input, the old-school Game Boy become a portable if somehow even more brick-like console.

A Raspberry Pi in a Game Boy Advance SP

It’s not the biggest use of a Raspberry Pi, but running emulators for old game systems is by far the most visible use of the Pi. In fact, putting Pis inside old game systems has led to a resurgence of case modding not seen since the heyday of the Mini-ITX craze of the early ‘aughts.

You’d think every possible Pi casemod had been done by now, but [frostedfires] is still raising the bar with a Pi casemod that stuffs a clone of everyone’s favorite credit card sized computer into a Game Boy Advance SP.

[frostedfires] isn’t using a real Raspi from The Foundataion. Instead, he found the Odroid W, a raspi compatible board that’s about half the size of a model B. It still has everything needed to complete the build – analog video out, a reasonable Linux system, and enough processing power to run Quake III. Right now, [frostedfires] has the screen working – that was taken from a car backup camera. Other than that, the only portion of the build left to go is a few buttons.

This is officially the smallest derivative casemod we’ve ever seen. the previous record holder was the still tiny Game Boy Pocket build from last summer. That build required heavy modifications to the Model B board, though, so if you’re aiming for a smaller build, the Odroid is the way to go.

Thanks to the Bacman forums for yet another great build.

The Tale of Two Wearable Game Boys

We’re well past the time when Halloween costume submissions stop hitting the tip line, but like ever year we’re expecting a few to trickle in until at least Thanksgiving. Remember, kids: documentation is the worst part of any project.

[Troy] sent us a link to his wearable Game Boy costume. It’s exactly what you think it is: an old-school brick Game Boy that [Troy] wore around to a few parties last weekend. This one has a twist, though. There’s a laptop in there, making this Game Boy playable.

The build started off as a large cardboard box [Troy] covered with a scaled-up image of everyone’s favorite use of AA batteries. The D-pad and buttons were printed out at a local hackerspace, secured to a piece of plywood, and connected to an Arduino Due. The screen, in all its green and black glory, was taken from an old netbook. It was a widescreen display, but with a bezel around the display the only way to tell it’s not original is from the backlight.

Loaded up with Pokemon Blue, the large-scale Game Boy works like it should, enthralling guests at wherever [Troy] ended up last Friday. It also looks like a rather quick build, and something we could easily put together when we remember it next October 30th.

[Troy] wasn’t the only person with this idea. A few hours before he sent in a link to his wearable Game Boy costume, [Shawn] sent in his completely unrelated but extremely similar project. It’s a wearable brick Game Boy, a bit bigger, playing Tetris instead of Pokemon.

[Shawn]’s build uses a cardboard box overlaid with a printout of a scaled-up Game Boy. Again, a laptop serves as the emulator and screen, input is handled by a ‘duino clone, and the buttons are slightly similar, but made out of cardboard.

Both are brilliant builds, adding a huge Game Boy to next year’s list of possible Halloween costume ideas. Videos of both below.

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Game Tin: Handheld Games with no Batteries

Anyone who grew up with a Game Boy knows how well they sucked through AA batteries. [Nick]’s Game Tin console solves this problem by running of an ultracapacitor charged by solar power.

The console is based on a EFM32 microcontroller: an ARM device designed for low power applications. The 128×128 pixel monochrome memory display provides low-fi graphics while maintaining low power consumption.

There’s two solar cells and a BQ25570 energy harvesting IC to charge the ultracap. This chip takes care of maximum power point tracking to get the most out of the solar cells. If it’s dark out, the device can be charged in about 30 seconds by connecting USB power.

The 10 F Maxwell ultracapacitor can run a game on the device for 1.5 hours without sunlight, and the device runs indefinitely in the sun. Thanks to the memory display, applications that have lower refresh rates will have much lower power consumption.

The Game Tin is open source, and is being developed using KiCad. You can grab all the EDA files from Bitbucket. [Nick] is also gauging interest in the Game Tin, and hopes to release it as a kit.