Hacking your NES/Famicom console for better video and audio


[Dominic] wrote in to share a pretty neat Famicom console mod that improves both the video and audio output of the system. While some of you may be familiar with the PlayChoice 10, we’re guessing that many of you are not. The PlayChoice 10 was an arcade-style machine that allowed you to play up to 10 different NES games. The system’s hardware was quite similar to the Famicom/NES consoles, but the graphics and sound performance was superior to either console.

[Dominic] decided to tweak his Famicom system, and ended up replacing its native Picture Processing Unit (PPU) with one from a PlayChoice 10. This allows the console to output RGB video natively, resulting in a crisper picture with brighter coloring. He didn’t stop there however. His Famicom system also sports an upgraded audio circuit that boasts psuedo-stereo sound as well as increased bass response and better overall audio clarity.

The console looks nearly stock, and performs quite well according to [Dominic]. Be sure to check out the video comparison embedded below to see how the modifications improved his system’s performance.

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Help identify this vintage electronics component


[Windell] over at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories has reached out in order to help them identify a mystery piece of electronics equipment they came across a few years ago. Discovered at an electronics surplus store, the mystery component looks like a cross between an over-sized chess board and a breadboard. Failing to identify it they eventually disposed of the board, snapping a couple of pictures for good measure before it was gone for good.

Recently while visiting a local electronics flea market, they came across what looked to be a similar, though much smaller board. This piqued their curiosity and compelled them to dig out the pictures of the mystery board in hopes of finally discovering what it was. Using markings on the new board they found, the team at EMSL located some images of a patchboard cartridge that looked quite similar to their mystery object. Upon closer inspection however, they think that the two pieces might be related, but are not quite the same item.

Swing by their site and chime in if you happen to have any good leads – we’re sure they will appreciate it.

Tape delay made from recycled cassette decks

Professional tape delay units are great fun, but often expensive. You’d think that with so many derelict cassette decks filling the world’s dumpsters someone must have figured out a way to make a cheap tape delay… not only in the interest of saving money (sometimes quality is worth paying for) but also in the interest of re-using otherwise wasted resources.

Forosdeelectronica forum user [Dano] has made just such a device from used cassette decks and miscellaneous parts (translated). First he investigated the operation of the playback, erase, and record mechanisms and broke out the tape heads. The playback head is on a plastic rail so that the delay time can be changed, while the record head is fixed. [Dano] encountered some difficulties in ensuring good quality for the recording and erasure, which is an important consideration when working with magnetic tape.

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“Strong enough to lift a person, yet gentle enough to embrace a child.”

Tentacles have inspired fear and respect in humans long before anime came into the scene. Sailors shivered in their timbers at the thought of the great Kraken, or that octopus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It’s no surprise to know that humans have been trying to harness this fear and respect in technological form since the mid-20th century at least.

The fascinating world of tentacle robots has come a long way. It used to be that every breakthrough in tentaclebot technology had to be justified with either a military or misogynistic application, as demonstrated in this remarkable MIT project from 1968.

Thankfully our society has moved on since those misguided times, and while there is still the ever-present military-industrial complex to push for tentacled combat-omatons, forward-thinking people on the domestic front like [festo] demonstrate that at least some of us want to use tentacle robots for peace, love and food handling.

Catch the video after the break.


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Elder Robots

It’s always nice to show our appreciation for our elders. Today’s young robots may be whippier, snappier, and go-gettier than their forbears but you have to admit that few of them have the moxie to dust themselves off after 45 years and have a walk around town (although it still wouldn’t qualify for a senior’s discount). George, a British humanoid robot made out of a WWII bomber, was resurrected by his inventor after decades in the garage–and all it took was a little bit of oil and some new batteries. Respect.

George is very impressive, but he’s not the oldest robot by any means. Ever-popular Buddha inspired a Japanese robot some 80 years ago that has recently been updated (pics here)–do robots meditate in solid state?

In a similar aesthetic vein to George, Chinese farmer Wu Yulu made a robotic rickshaw driver, one of his many eccentric projects since the 80s.

Here on hackaday we see a lot of modern robotics, but what about a return to the old school? Next time you have a scrap airplane on hand why not weld together a classic robot, and while you’re at it give your regards to old George.

BAMF2010: SolarPump Charging Station

Amidst the noise of a bazillion robots and Tesla coils at the 2010 Bay Area Maker Faire, we located a bubble of usable WiFi, and got a nearby power charge to boot. If nothing else here, we want this:

The SolarPump Charging Station is a self-contained oasis of free power for laptops, cel phones and even electric bikes. This charging station is one of several designs created by Sol Design Labs of sunny Austin, Texas. No bigger than a bus stop (and way cooler looking), it’s like the ultimate case mod, repurposing a vintage Citgo gas pump and recycled metals for more modern needs. Three large Sanyo solar panels provide power for devices and shade for users, while topping off the internal 24V 100AH battery for nighttime use (with LED lighting) or cloudy days. The end result transcends “green” — the SolarPump is simply appealing at a visceral level, managing to be simultaneously fun, attractive and practical. Did we mention wanting one? We totally want one.

Modded C64 eye candy

“Everyone needs a hobby,” they tell us. For the blogger mysteriously identified only as “R,” that hobby would be an almost fanatical nostalgia for the Commodore 64 computer.

At first we thought this was a fan community site, but apparently it’s all the work of a single person. [R] has tweaked, extended, repackaged and resurfaced this 1980’s icon in nearly every imaginable way. They tend to gloss over the technical aspects of these mods, but that’s okay – the C64 is such an exhaustively documented system now that the site dwells mainly on the aesthetics and meaning of these reborn devices.

The 64 has made an indelible impression on electronic music, and the machines are still sought after by collectors, composers and circuit-benders. [R] pays homage by housing these vintage systems in styles reminiscent of even vintage-er synthesizers. Any one of these would warrant a post here, yet there’s a whole collection to browse. Check it out!

[via Retro Thing]