Programmable Game Boy Cartridge Walk Through

We looked at [Gerry’s] PLCC based programmable Game Boy cartridge back in May and mentioned that he was working on a how-to video. He did quite a bit more than that. He’s made a PDF version of the instructions but went into deep detail with a collection of four videos on his YouTube channel. We’ve embedded all four after the break. They include an introduction and background about the cartridges, desoldering the ROM chip, preparing sockets and wire, and making the solder connections. Whether you’re interested in this particular hack or not, seeing [Gerry’s] soldering practices make the videos worth watching.


Introduction and cartridge background


Desoldering ROM from an old cartridge


Preparing chips sockets and wire


Soldering wire to the pads

41 thoughts on “Programmable Game Boy Cartridge Walk Through

  1. That would be a good place to hide passwords/data.
    Replace the ROM whit a ROM that you programed to send the passwords/data to the (serial?) port at the side of the game-boy.
    Who would take the cartridges/game-boy to check for your passwords/data?

  2. I am impressed at the quality of these posts since the publication of the open letter from the HaD owner. Keep up the good work! (Not that your articles were ever that bad Mike) ;)

    – amishx64

  3. When desoldering SMT i usually flood all the pins with solder the heat the whole chip up and just lift it off with tweezers then clean up the pads after with the braid

  4. Oh Gawd.. I own a GB still, this makes me wanna give it a shot if nothing else to say I did. Except it was hard enough to do the xbox 360 RF LED swap to blue.. I dont know if I could handle tha.

  5. I watched the uhhh video uhh to see uhh what UltimateJim was uhh talking about and uhh, I have to uhh agree with him about the uhh less than eloquent speech of the creator.

    That said, the hack, the music, and the effort were AWESOME. Keep up the good work and if you need to make a video again, try writing a scrip first so you don’t have to think about what you’re going to say next. Cheers!

  6. Maybe Mike should Change the title of this Hack from “Programmable Game Boy cartridge walk through” to “Programmable Game Boy cartridge Stutter through”
    HA! :)

    Well, regardless of my poor ability for finding the right choice of words, I’m glad you all liked this hack. :)

    Cheers Everyone! :)

  7. its a great hack but the actual finished wire to solder pad joint doesn’t look great to me. Kind of messy, I know its utlra fiddly work but considering how much everyone is praising him – this is not the best soldering.
    And all that stuff about solder liking copper braid more than the legs of the chip because of the materials blah blah blah, I thought it was simply a wicking effect?

  8. If you’re going to do things the hard way (You can get perfectly good GB flash carts…) why not use NVRAM with an EPROM with some serial bootloader firmware? Your development cycle would be a ton quicker.

  9. A little tip for soldering: Make sure your tip is clean and tinned. That black oxidation and residue on the tip greatly inhibits heat transfer. As you can see in the video the solder is not wetting to the tip of the iron.
    Solid technique though.

  10. If you can afford it, a Hakko 808 is a nice desoldering iron with a built-in vac pump that runs about $175 USD brand new. Beats the hell out of desoldering braid, and won’t cost you the insane coin of those “industrial” duty desoldering guns (I’ve used all three, and the Hakko does well enough for a reasonable price tag). I got mine from, but I’ve seen them on Amazon as well.

  11. I’m planning on building some carts and an Arduino-based reader/writer within the next few months, and this is a great help. I had actually planned on doing a swappable-chip job exactly like this. :]

  12. @Gerry:

    Could you give the stats of your magnifier setup? I’ve been looking for a decent one for awhile with a camera output (feed to video monitor) for some of my more “How can I solder it when I can’t even see it?” projects.

    As for you guys picking on his stammering through words, where are your videos? He has 28 videos finished. It’s normal to have about 100 before you get over that nervous stammering thing.

    Remember, he’s probably a geek just like the rest of us, and recording a video for the rest of the world to see is outside of our normal anti-social comfort zone. :)

  13. @Dosbomber:

    I purchased mine broken off eBay last year and managed to repair it.

    Here is the store Link on eBay that carries them:

    They cost $500.00 US New with free shipping.
    Mine was a “Trinocular Stereo ZOOM Microscope 3.5x~90x Zoom with a Boom Stand.

    They have a 3.0 MegaPixel USB camera that fits right into the top Ocular on the microscope and does both video and Image capture. They go for around $250.00 I think.

    I ran out of money and so I just rigged up my own setup using a Color CCD security camera and some metal brackets and braces to secure the camera in place. I used a spare X10 Eyepiece that I had lying around and used it for the camera. I’m currently using X20 Eyepieces. I also purchased a X2 Barlow lens to bring total Magnification up to X180. Although, I don’t use that lens that often for soldering.

    You may find other Microscopes out there at a cheaper price, but this one is really rugged and I’m very pleased with it overall.

    Here are a Few Hi-Res Photos of it on my Bench: 014.jpg LAB/Microscope/MICROSCOPE_ 017.jpg

  14. Can rom dumps be loaded on this? I’d liek to play mai pokemans again.

    Kidding, looks like a fun weekend project, agreed the soldering looks a little dirty but god damn look at how many wires the gay had to solder.

  15. This is True, allot of my research was done off of Reiner’s page and he deserves the original credit. My plan form the beginning is actually to use the GameBoy for Robotics Interfacing applications. This was just the first part of my whole project. I’m continuing with it and the end goal is to use the Gamboy to replace a Robotic arm “TeachPendant” hand-held Controller. I’ve also seen many other similar designs but that are using different addressing methods. One I’ve come across uses an older Altera MAX 7000 PLD for interfacing purposes.

    I actually contacted Reiner showing him this HACK, and was getting feedback on a similar project that involves using a Sega GameGear as the interface. Once I get it working I’ll post a video for it also.

  16. FWIW, these videos aren’t that great. Their biggest flaw is that they all discuss soldering/desoldering *technique* and have little to do with the actual hack. I expected 30 minutes of information about how he reverse engineered the cartridge or something like that – not some tutorial that teaches me what I already know.

    Maybe these should be relabeled “how to solder/desolder smt components”?

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