Open Source SNES to USB Converter Lets You Emulate Legally

[Andrew Milkovich] was inspired build his own Super Nintendo cartridge reader based on a device we covered an eternity (in internet years) ago. The device mounts a real cartridge as a USB mass storage device, allowing you to play your games using an emulator directly from the cart.

This uses a Teensy++ 2.0  at its core. [Andrew] had to desolder the EEPROM pins from the SNES cartridge and reverse engineer the pinouts himself, but the end result was a device that could successfully read the cartridge without erasing it, no small accomplishment. The finished cartridge reader is build on some protoboard and we’d like to complement [Andrew] on his jumper routing on the underside of that board.

Of course, the experience of any console is just not the same without the original controller. So [Andrew] went a step further and made his own SNES controller to USB converter. This had the venerable Atmel ATmega328 at its core, and can be used separate from the cartridge reader if desired.

Bluetooth HID Gamepad And HC-05 Serial Hack

“Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Don’t bother us with stupid questions, they both co-evolved into the forms that we now serve up in tasty sandwiches or omelets, respectively. “Which came first, the HC-05 serial-flash-hack, or the wireless Bluetooth Gamepad?” Our guess is that [mitxela] wanted to play around with the dirt-cheap Bluetooth modules, and that building the wireless controller was an afterthought. But for that, it’s a well-done afterthought! (Video below the break.)

It all starts with the HC-05 Bluetooth module, which is meant to transfer serial data, but which can be converted into a general-purpose device costing ten times as much with a simple Flash ROM replacement. The usual way around this requires bit-banging over a parallel port, but hackers have worked out a way to do the same thing in bit-bang mode using a normal USB/Serial adapter. The first part of [mitxela]’s post describes this odyssey.

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Winning the Console Wars – An In-Depth Architectural Study

From time to time, we at Hackaday like to publish a few engineering war stories – the tales of bravery and intrigue in getting a product to market, getting a product cancelled, and why one technology won out over another. Today’s war story is from the most brutal and savage conflicts of our time, the console wars.

The thing most people don’t realize about the console wars is that it was never really about the consoles at all. While the war was divided along the Genesis / Mega Drive and the Super Nintendo fronts, the battles were between games. Mortal Kombat was a bloody battle, but in the end, Sega won that one. The 3D graphics campaign was hard, and the Starfox offensive would be compared to the Desert Fox’s success at the Kasserine Pass. In either case, only Sega’s 32X and the British 7th Armoured Division entering Tunis would bring hostilities to an end.

In any event, these pitched battles are consigned to be interpreted and reinterpreted by historians evermore. I can only offer my war story of the console wars, and that means a deconstruction of the hardware.

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Neural Networks And MarI/O

Minecraft wizard, and record holder for the Super Mario World speedrun [SethBling] is experimenting with machine learning. He built a program that will get Mario through an entire level of Super Mario World – Donut Plains 1 – using neural networks and genetic algorithms.

A neural network simply takes an input, in this case a small graphic representing the sprites in the game it’s playing, sends that input through a series of artificial neurons, and turns that into commands for the controller. It’s an exceedingly simple neural network – the network that can get Mario through an entire level is less than a dozen neurons – but with enough training, even simple networks can accomplish very complex tasks.

To train the network, or weighting the connections between inputs, neurons, and outputs, [SethBling] is using an evolutionary algorithm. This algorithm first generates a few random neural networks, watches Mario’s progress across Donut Plains 1, and assigns a fitness value to each net. The best networks of each generation are combined, and the process continues for the next generation. It took 34 generations before MarI/O could finish the level without dying.

A few members of the Internet’s peanut gallery have pointed to a paper/YouTube video by [Tom Murphy] that generalized a completely different technique to play a whole bunch of different NES games. While both [SethBling]’s and [Tom Murphy]’s algorithms use certain variables to determine its own success, [Tom Murphy]’s technique works nearly automatically; it will play about as well as the training data it is given. [SethBling]’s algorithm requires no training data – that’s the entire point of using a genetic algorithm.

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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.

SNES Headphones Cry for Bluetooth Has Been Answered

A year and a half ago we ran a post about a SNES controller modified into a pair of headphones. They were certainly nice looking and creative headphones but the buttons, although present, were not functional. The title of the original post was (maybe antagonistically) called: ‘SNES Headphones Scream Out For Bluetooth Control‘.

Well, headphone modder [lyberty5] is back with a vengeance. He has heeded the call by building revision 2 of his SNES headphones… and guess what, they are indeed Bluetooth! Not only that, the A, B, X and Y buttons are functional this time around and have been wired up to the controls on the donor Bluetooth module.

To get this project started, the SNES controller was taken apart and the plastic housing was cut up to separate the two rounded sides. A cardboard form was glued in place so that epoxy putty could be roughly formed in order to make each part completely round. Once cured, the putty was sanded and imperfections filled with auto body filler. Holes were drilled for mounting to the headband and a slot was made for the Bluetooth modules’ USB port so the headphone can be charged. The headphones were then reassembled after a quick coat of paint in Nintendo Grey. We must say that these things look great.

If you’d like to make your own set of SNES Bluetooth Headphones, check out the build video after the break.

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BeagleSNES for Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, NES, and – yes – SNES

By far the most common use for the Raspberry Pi is shoving a few dozen emulators on an SD card and calling it a day. Everybody’s got to start somewhere, right? There are other tiny, credit card-sized Linux boards out there, and [Andrew] is bringing the same functionality of the Raspi to the BeagleBone Black and BeagleBoard with BeagleSNES, an emulator for all the sane pre-N64 consoles.

BeagleSNES started as a class project in embedded system design, but the performance of simply porting SNES9X wasn’t very good by default. [Andrew] ended up hacking the bootloader and kernel, profiling the emulator, and slowly over the course of three years of development making this the best emulator possible.

After a few months of development, [Andrew] recently released a new version of BeagleSNES that includes OpenGL ES, native gamepad support through the BeagleBone’s PRU, and support for all the older Nintendo consoles and portables. Video demos below.

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