Raspberry Pi Breathes Life Into A Scale Model SEGA

Miniature game consoles are all the rage right now. Many of the big names in gaming are releasing their own official “mini” versions of their classic machines, but naturally we see plenty of DIY builds around these parts as well. Generally they’re enclosed in a 3D printed model of whatever system they’re looking to emulate, but as you might expect that involves a lot of sanding and painting to achieve a professional look.

But for SEGA Genesis (or Mega Drive as it was known outside the US) fans, there’s a new option. A company by the name of Retro Electro Models has released a high-fidelity scale model of SEGA’s classic console, so naturally somebody hacked it to hold a Raspberry Pi. Wanting to do the scale detailing of the model justice, [Andrew Armstrong] went the extra mile to get the power button on the front of the console working, and even added support for swapping games via RFID tags.

[Andrew] uses the Raspberry Pi 3 A+ which ended up being the perfect size to fit inside the model. Fitting the Pi Zero would have been even easier, but it lacks the horsepower of its bigger siblings. The RFID reader is connected to the Pi over SPI, and the reed switch used to detect when the power switch has been moved is wired directly to the GPIO pins. The system is powered by a USB cable soldered directly to Pi’s PCB and ran out a small hole in the back of the case.

For input, [Andrew] is using a small wireless keyboard that includes a touch pad and gaming controls. Unfortunately, it has a proprietary receiver which had to be integrated into the system. In a particularly nice touch, he used snipped off component leads to “wire” the receiver’s PCB directly to the pins of the Pi’s USB port. Not only does it look cool, but provides a rigid enough connection that he didn’t even need to glue it down to keep it from rattling around inside the case. Definitely a tip to keep in the back of your mind.

The software side of this project is about what you’d expect for an emulation console, though with the added trickery of loading games based on their RFID tag. At this point [Andrew] only has a single “cartridge” for the system, so he simply drops the tags into the cartridge slot of the console to load up a new title. It doesn’t look like Retro Electro Models is selling loose cartridges (which makes sense, all things considered), so there might still be a job for your 3D printer yet if you want to have a library of scale cartridges to go with your console.

For those of you who were on Team Nintendo in the 1990’s, we’ve seen a similar build done with a 3D printed case. Of course, if even these consoles are a bit too recent for your tastes, you could build a miniature Vectrex instead.

9 thoughts on “Raspberry Pi Breathes Life Into A Scale Model SEGA

  1. Interesting, but I was able to fit a Pi 3 inside a Genesis Model 2. I also laid it out so there was still enough room to insert a cartridge. It isn’t functional, but for fun/showing off you could pop a game in there, turn on the system with the original power button, and your friends will be like “Whaaaaaaaaa–?!?! O:” when they see it boot up something totally different. xD

    1. How about making additional ‘cartridge’ cases available for separate purchase?

      If not, I’d suggest to those who want more to make a silicone mold and cast them using a black resin like Smooth-On Onyx.

    2. I’d like to see scale models of 1980’s micro computers, like the TI-99/4a, in both the black and silver and the beige versions. Would also need a matching Peripheral Expansion Box.

      1. Hi Greg. We’re aiming to produce just about every system you can think of as we think the old systems should be honoured properly just like cars and planes are! We have a limited number of Mega Drive models which if we sell can then move straight onto producing the next one. Hope to have replacement cartridges available soon.

      2. For me, TRS-80! Though I would probably go out of my way to find a 4:3 aspect TFT screen for it and silly as it sounds I’d insist that the keyboard works – I can’t abide by minis that have non functioning keyboards ????

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