Turning a Game Boy into an Android gamepad

gameboy

[Chad] has been messing around with emulators on his phone, but as anyone with a smart phone knows, even the most advanced touchscreen controls are terrible. Wanting something that pays tribute to the classic systems he was emulating, he decided to turn a classic old school brick Game Boy into an Android gamepad.

After gutting an old DMG-01, [Chad] set to work turning the D-pad and buttons in the Game Boy into something his Galaxy Nexus could understand. He chose a Bluetooth connection to provide input for his emulators, with the hardware generously donated from a Nintendo Wiimote.

The Game Boy PCB was cut up and a few leads attached to the Wiimote PCB. After modifying the case to include space for the Wiimote and a cell phone mount, [Chad] had a functional game pad, perfect for his adventures in emulation.

You can see [Chad]’s demo of his game pad after the break,

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Programming a Game Boy while playing Pokemon

We hope our readers are familiar with the vast number of ROM hacks for the original 1st-gen Pokemon games. With certain sequences of button presses, it’s possible to duplicate items in the player’s inventory, get infinite money, or even catch a glimpse of the elusive MissingNo. [bortreb] is familiar with all these hacks, but his efforts to program a Game Boy from inside Pokemon is by far the greatest Pokemon glitch ever created.

This ‘total control’ ROM hack was inspired by [p4wn3r]’s extremely impressive 1 minute and 36 second long speed run for Pokemon Yellow. The technique used in [p4wn3r]’s run relies on the fact the warp points in Pokemon Yellow are right after the item list in the Game Boy’s memory. By corrupting the item list, [p4wn3r] figured out how to make the front door of his house warp directly to the end of the game resulting in the fastest Pokemon speed run ever.

Realizing this ROM hack is able to control the CPU with only the player’s inventory, [bortreb] wanted to see how far he could push this hack. He ended up writing a bootstrapping program by depositing and discarding items from the in-game PC, and was then able to reprogram the Game Boy with a number of button presses on the D-pad, select, start, A and B buttons.

The resulting hack means [bortreb] can actually make Pong, Pacman, a MIDI player, or even a copy of Pokemon Blue. In the video after the break, you can see all of [bortreb]’s speed run along with the finale of playing a MIDI file of the My Little Pony theme song. [bortreb] has a really amazing hack on his hands here that really pushes the definition of what can be done by tinkering around with a Pokemon ROM.

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Making a Game Boy Color louder

When [Anton] picked up an old translucent purple Game Boy Color, he noticed a nearly complete lack of sound coming from the speaker. This simply would not do, so [Anton] replaced the speaker and soldered in a 2 Watt amp, making his Game Boy very loud indeed.

After cracking open his Game Boy, [Anton] noticed the speaker was rusted. He replaced it by soldering in a speaker from a Motorola cell phone, fixing the most immediate problem. After plugging in a few batteries, he still noticed a nearly complete lack of sound.

Turning to his electronics junk drawer, [Anton] pulled out a TI TPA2000D1 Class D amplifier. This tiny amplifier is able to provide 2 Watts to a speaker and is very power efficient given it’s Class D pedigree.

After making a PCB and wiring up his amp to the Game Boy’s circuit board, [Anton] spent a little time tracking down the source of some high-frequency hissing. As it turns out, the power regulators and converters on a 15-year old Game Boy aren’t of the highest quality, but after adding a few capacitors [Anton] got everything under control.

Now [Anton]’s Game Boy has very loud, crystal-clear sound. Considering the lengths chiptune artists take modifying old ‘brick’ style game boys for use with Little Sound DJ or nanoloop, [Anton]’s build could become a worthwhile modification for musicians looking for a little more oomph to their performance.

Turning a DS into a Game Boy Advance

The venerable Game Boy is dead – and has been for a long time – after being replaced by the DS, DSi, DSi XL, and the 3DS. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing of value to the old Game Boy catalog; Pokemon Red/Blue is still as much fun as it was 15 years ago, and the game play of Advance Wars is still superb.

[Maarten] over at Bureau voor Gamers decided to put a modern twist on our old friend by taking a first-gen DS and converting it to a proper single screen Game Boy (Dutch, Google translation).

The donor machine was a broken first gen DS with a broken top screen. [Maarten] removed the top screen, did a tiny bit of Bondoing, moved the speaker, and gave his new toy a bright orange paint job.

Now [Maarten] has a modern version of the best portable system ever created, packed full of more powerful hardware and a much more capacious battery. Sure, it’s not a build that requires rewiring everything, but it’s still an awesome build for GBA aficionados.

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.

Simple trick for replacing Game Boy cart batteries while retaining game saves

[Adr990] wants to make sure his Game Boy game saves aren’t lost to aging batteries. They’re stored in SRAM with a small coin cell inside the cartridge to keep the memory energized when the game is not being played. But if you pull out the battery in order to replace it the data will be lost in the process. It turns out that you can hot-swap the battery without too much effort. As shown in the video after the break, he disassembled the case of the cartridge, then replaced the battery while the Game Boy is switched on. The edge connector feeds power which will keep the SRAM active while the backup battery is removed. We’re sure this could be done with a bench supply as well, but you’ll need to do your own testing before risking those prized game saves.

The other option is to backup your SRAM before replacing the batteries. We’ve seen an AVR-based cartridge dumper, and also one that uses an Arduino. Both should be able to read and write SRAM data. Continue reading “Simple trick for replacing Game Boy cart batteries while retaining game saves”

Adding a MIDI input to a Game Boy

[Sprite_tm] is back again, and his work never fails to impress. His latest project is a Game Boy Advance MIDI synth that takes MIDI data from a keyboard or sequencer and maps that to Game Boy sound channels.

Because he seems to never do anything the normal way, [Sprite_tm] decided to run the Game Boy without a cartridge. We’ve seen this before; the GBA boots into the synth software over the link cable with multibooting.

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