Hackaday Links: May 29, 2016

Hackaday has a store‽ Yes, it’s true, and we have a Memorial Day sale going on right now. Get a cool robot had t-shirt, a cool clock, or a GoodFET. Spend money. Consume.

Learn COBOL. Seriously, you should learn COBOL. It’s a fact of nature that every computer-minded person will eventually hear that COBOL developers make bank, and you’ll have job security for the rest of your life. Now look at the Hello World for COBOL. Yes, there’s a reason COBOL devs make bank, and they’re still vastly underpaid. [Folkert] figured a way around this problem: he built a Brainfuck to COBOL compiler. Mainframe programming for the rest of us.

[fbustamante] got his hands on an old GP2X Wiz, one of those ARM-based portable media player/emulator things from a few years ago. This is a complete computer, and like the Pandora, it’ll do everything one of those Raspberry Pi laptops can do. The Wiz doesn’t have a keyboard, so [fbustamante] created his own. He etched his own PC, repurposed a keyboard controller from a USB keyboard, and stole the keycaps from an old Sharp digital organizer.

Speaking of portable consoles, [Element18592] built this incredible Nintendo 64 portable. He’s done an XBox 360 laptop and stuffed a Pi into an old brick Game Boy. This N64 mod is great, uses a 3D printed enclosure, and has truly amazing vinyl graphics.

To the surprise of many, [Photonicinduction] is not dead. The drunk brit with a penchant for high voltage electrics and a very, very confused power company is back making videos again. His latest video is a puzzle. It’s a plastic block with a light bulb socket, a UK power outlet, and a switch. Plug in a light bulb, flip the switch, and it turns on. Plug a blender into the outlet, and that turns on too. No wires, so how is he doing it?

Introduced at CES last January, Monoprice – yes, the same place you get HDMI and Ethernet cables from – has released their $200 3D printer. This one is on our radar and there will be a review, but right away the specs are fantastic for a $200 printer. The build area is 120mm³, it has a heated bed, and appears to be not completely locked down like the DaVinci printers were a few years ago.

Handheld Nintendo 64 Only Plays Ocarina of Time

Introducing the SG-N64 — the Single Game Nintendo 64 Portable Console. You can play any game you want, as long as it’s the Ocarina of Time.

You might be wondering, why would you go to the effort of making a totally awesome portable N64 player, and then limit it to but a single game? Well, the answer is actually quite simple. ocarina-of-time-handheld[Chris] wanted to immortalize his favorite game — the Ocarina of Time. As he puts it, making a SG-N64 “takes the greatness of a timeless classic and preserves it in a body designed solely for the purpose of playing it”.

Inside you’re going to find the motherboard from an original N64, as well as the game cartridge PCB which shed its enclosure and is now hardwired in place. Of course that’s just the start. The real challenge of the build is to add all of the peripherals that are needed: screen, audio, control, and power. He did it, and in a very respectable size considering this was meant to sit in your living room.

Now that is how you show your kids or grand-kids a classic video game. Heck, maybe you can even convince them that’s how all games were sold and played! What’s the fun in being a parent without a bit of trolling?

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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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Inexpensively Replace A Worn Out N64 Joystick

The Nintendo 64 is certainly a classic video game system, with amazing titles like Mario Kart 64 and Super Smash Bros that are still being played across the world today. But, like finding new parts for a classic car, finding an original controller that doesn’t have a sad, wobbly, worn-out joystick is getting to be quite the task. A common solution to this problem is to replace the joystick with one from a Gamecube controller, but the kits to do this are about $20USD, and if that’s too expensive then [Frenetic Rapport] has instructions for doing this hack for about $2.

The first iteration of using a Gamecube stick on an N64 controller was a little haphazard. The sensitivity was off and the timing wasn’t exactly right (very important for Smash Bros.) but the first kit solved these problems. This was the $20 kit that basically had a newer PCB/microcontroller that handled the Gamecube hardware better. The improvement which drove the costs down to $2 involves modifying the original PCB directly rather than replacing it.

While this solution does decrease the cost, it sacrifices the new potentiometer and some of the easier-to-work-with jumpers, but what was also driving this project (in addition to cost) was the fact that the new PCBs were becoming harder to get. It essentially became more feasible to simply modify the existing hardware than to try to source one of the new parts.

Either way you want to go, it’s now very easy to pwn your friends in Smash with a superior controller, rather than using a borked N64 controller you’ve had for 15 years. It’s also great to see hacks like this that come together through necessity and really get into the meat of the hardware. Perhaps we’ll see this controller ported to work with other versions of Super Smash Bros, too!

The Proper Use for a Gameboy Advance Carrying Case

About a decade ago, Nintendo released a Game Boy Advance carrying case in the shape of a Game Boy Advance. It was the obvious answer to the original brick Game Boy carrying case every eight year old had in 1990. This jumbo-sized Game Boy Advance case also makes a really good platform for a console mod, which is exactly what [frostefires] got when he put an N64 in one.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this bit of old Nintendo paraphernalia used to house an N64. A few years ago, [Hailrazer] used the same GBA carrying case as the body of an N64 build. There were a few shortcomings in that build, most importantly the removal of the D pad.  [frostedfires]’ build fixes this oversight.

Inside the GBA enclosure is a 4.3 inch screen, a replacement Gamecube joystick, an SNES D pad, and of course the entire N64 circuit board with a few modifications.

[frostedfires] entered this into a ‘Shark Tank’-ish  competition at school, and this build was so impressive he won first place. Link to the full build thread here.

Vacuum Formed Portable N64 is the Real Deal

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This portable N64 looks good enough to be sold in stores — that’s because [Bungle] vacuum formed the case!

He started by creating a wooden template of his controller, using bondo to add grips and features. Once satisfied with the overall look and feel of the controller, he threw it into his own vacuum former and created two shiny plastic halves.

He’s chosen a nice little 3.5″ LCD screen for the display, with a 7.4V 4400mAh battery pack that will last just over 4 hours of constant play — he’s included a battery indicator as well! An old N64 controller takes care of electronics, but [Bungle’s] gone and made custom buttons and is using a Gamecube style joystick as well. He’s included both the rumble pack and an internal memory card which can be changed with the flick of a switch. A tiny HMDX Go portable audio amp and speakers are also integrated directly into the controller.

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Aluminum Unibody Nintendo 64

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[Travis] wanted us to take a look at his N64 portable to see if it could be featured on Hackaday. By the looks of it, we’re going to say hell yeah. Everything on this portable N64, down to the buttons, is milled from aluminum. It’s an amazing build that raises the bar of what a portabalized game system can be.

Inside this anodized enclosure is the circuit board from an original N64. To cut down on the size, [Travis] milled a new heat sink for the CPU and GPU. All the games – quite possibly all the games ever released for the N64 – are stored on an SD card and accessed through an EverDrive 64. Two 5000 mAh Lipo batteries provide three hours of play time on a beautiful high-res screen.

What’s even more amazing is that [Travis] machined all the parts on an exceedingly small, manual mini-mill. Truly a portabalized console for the ages.

You can check out a gallery of pics [Travis] sent in and his demo video below.

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