Gorgeous Bartop Arcade Build is a Cut Above

At this point we’ve seen a good number of desktop-sized arcade cabinets, and while they’ve naturally all been impressive in their own ways, they do tend to follow a pretty familiar formula. Cut the side panels out of MDF (or just buy a frame kit), stick a Raspberry Pi and an old LCD monitor in there, and then figure out how to control the thing. Maybe a couple strategically placed stickers and blinking LEDs to add a few extra horsepower, but nothing too surprising.

[Andy Riley] had seen plenty of builds like that, and he wasn’t having any of it. With the heart of an old laptop and bones made of IKEA cutting boards, his build is proof positive that there’s always more than one way to approach a problem that most would consider “solved” already. From the start, he set out to design and build a miniature arcade cabinet that didn’t look and feel like all the other ones he’d seen floating around online, and we think you’ll agree he delivered in a big way.

Powering the arcade with an old laptop is really a brilliant idea, especially since you can pick up older models for a song now that they’re considered nearly disposable by many users. As long as it doesn’t have a cracked display, you’ll get a nice sized LCD panel and potentially a rather powerful computer to drive it. Certainly the graphical capabilities of even the crustiest of used laptops will run circles around the Raspberry Pi, and of course it opens the possibility of playing contemporary PC games. As [Andy] shows in his detailed write-up, using a laptop does take more custom work than settling for the Pi, but we think the advantages make a compelling case for putting in the effort.

Of course, that’s only half the equation. Arguably the most impressive aspect of this build is the cabinet itself, which is made out of a couple IKEA bamboo cutting boards. [Andy] used his not inconsiderable woodworking skills, in addition to some pretty serious power tools, to turn the affordable kitchen accessories into a furniture-grade piece that really stands out from the norm. Even if you aren’t normally too keen on working with dead trees, his step-by-step explanations and pictures are a fascinating look at true craftsman at work.

If you’re more concerned with playing Galaga than the finer points of varnish application, you can always just turbocharge the old iCade and be done with it. But we think there’s something to be said for an arcade cabinet that could legitimately pass as a family heirloom.

How the Xbox Was Hacked

The millennium: a term that few had any use for before 1999, yet seemingly overnight it was everywhere. The turning of the millenium permeated every facet of pop culture. Unconventional popstars like Moby supplied electronica to the mainstream airwaves while audiences contemplated whether computers were the true enemy after seeing The Matrix. We were torn between anxiety — the impending Y2K bug bringing the end of civilization that Prince prophesied — and anticipation: the forthcoming release of the PlayStation 2.

Sony was poised to take control of the videogame console market once again. They had already sold more units of the original PlayStation than all of their competition combined. Their heavy cloud of influence over gamers meant that the next generation of games wasn’t going to start in until the PS2 was on store shelves. On the tail of Sony announcing the technical specs on their machine, rumors of a new competitor entering the “console wars” began to spread. That new competitor was Microsoft, an American company playing in a Japanese company’s game.
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Digital Picture Frame Turned Vectrex Overlay

For Hackaday readers which might not be so well versed in the world of home video gaming before the 1983 crash, the Vectrex was an interesting attempt at bringing vector graphics into player’s living rooms. Priced around $500 in today’s dollars, the machine was unique in that it included its own black and white CRT display rather than requiring the owner to plug it into their television. To spice things up a little bit, games would include a thin plastic overlay you could put over the screen to give the game faux colors. What can we say? It was the 1980’s.

Like many vintage gaming systems, the Vectrex still commands a devoted following of fans, some of which continue to find ways to hack and mod the system nearly 40 years after its release. One such fan is [Arcade Jason], who’s recently been fiddling with the idea of creating a modern take on the overlay concept using a hacked LCD display. While it’s still a bit rough around the edges, it does hold promise. He hopes somebody might even run with the idea and turn it into a marketable product for the Vectrex community.

[Jason] started by getting an old digital picture frame and tearing it down until he liberated the LCD panel. By carefully disassembling it, he was able to remove the backlight and was left with a transparent display. He then installed the panel over the display of the Vectrex, leaving the picture frame’s PCB and controls dangling off to the side. Extending the display’s ribbon cable should be easy enough for a more robust installation.

He then loaded the frame with random psychedelic pictures he found online, as well as some custom overlays which he quickly whipped up using colored blocks in an art program. In the video after the break, [Jason] shuffles through images on the frame using the buttons on the PCB while loading different demos to show the kind of visual effects that are possible.

While a neat concept, there are a couple of issues that need to be resolved before this could really be put into practice. For one, the LCD panel isn’t the proper size or aspect ratio to match the Vectrex display, so it doesn’t cover the whole CRT. It’s also rather difficult to select images to show on the LCD panel; an improved version might use something like the Raspberry Pi to load images on the panel while exposing a control interface on a secondary screen of some type.

This isn’t the first time [Jason] has experimented with the Vectrex, or even the first time he’s tried to add color to the classic system. We’re interested to see what he comes up with next.

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Put an ItsyBitsy Zork in your Pocket

Before computer games had all these fancy graphics, text based games were a very popular genre. Rather than move a character on the screen, you’d type out commands for your player in sentence form which the game would interpret; decades before the “cloud” language processing technology that the likes of Amazon and Google currently use to power their virtual assistants. In some ways the genre was ahead of its time, but it didn’t survive the graphical revolution for home computers. Of course, these games still have some diehard fans out there.

[Dan The Geek] is one such fan. He loves text based adventure games like Zork so much that he wanted to create his own implementation of the core technology that made these games possible all those years ago. But he didn’t want to just do it on this desktop computer, there’s already projects that let you run these classic games on modern hardware. He wanted to see if he could run these classic games on a modern microcontroller, and create a authentic retro experience on a handy portable device.

[Dan] starts by explaining the technology used to make titles like these possible in the days when the wide array of home computer types required a nuanced approach. By separating the story files from the actual interpreter, developers could more easily port the games to various computers. In theory these interpreters, known as “Z-machines”, could be written for any computer that could compile C code, had enough RAM to hold the story, and had a terminal and keyboard. Not exactly the kind of system requirements we’re used to seeing for modern PC games, but it was the 1980’s.

In theory a modern microcontroller will meet these requirements, so [Dan] wanted to create his own Z-machine for one. But rather than “cheat” by using an SD card like previous Arduino Z-machines have, he wanted to see if there was a development board out there that could do it all internally. The answer came in the form of the  Adafruit ItsyBitsy M4 Express, with its 192 kB of RAM and 2 MB of SPI flash.

The Z-machine created by [Dan], which he’s calling A2Z, allows users to run Zork and other compatible interactive text games on the ItsyBitsy without any additional hardware. Just plug the board into your computer and you’ll be able to play the games over the the serial connection. He’s even implemented some retro color schemes to make the experience more authentic, like the blue of the Amiga or Compaq green.

We’ve covered previous projects that brought Zork and friends to the Arduino, your web browser via a virtual Altair 8800, and even some more exotic targets like custom FPGAs. You can play cave adventure, the game that inspired Zork, on the Supercon Badge.

Eight Player GameCube Adapter is Ready for Smash

With the release of Smash Ultimate fast approaching for the Nintendo Switch, [Patrick Hess] wanted to get ahead of the game and make sure his squad had the equipment they’d need. Namely, support for the GameCube controllers that serious Smash Bros players demand. But it wasn’t enough to have one or two of them hooked up, or even four. Not even six GameCube controllers could satiate his desire. No, he needed to have support for eight simultaneous GameCube controllers, and he wanted to look good doing it too.

Enter his meticulously designed eight player GameCube to USB adapter. Made out of dual official Nintendo GameCube to USB adapters (intended for the Wii U) merged together in a 3D printed case, the final result looks like something that could earn the coveted Nintendo Seal of Approval. Or at least, something that might pop up on the import sites in the next month or two for a few bucks.

[Patrick] started the project by recreating the official adapter PCBs and their housings in 3D using a pair of calipers. After a couple of test prints to make sure he had all the dimensions right, he could then move on to designing his final enclosure knowing he had accurate data to model around.

In addition to the two adapter boards, there’s also a four port USB hub inside the device’s case. Each adapter has two USB leads, here shortened to fit inside the case, which connect up to the hub. The integrated hub allows connecting all eight GameCube controllers through only a single USB connection. All controllers worked as expected during intense testing on the Wii U’s version of Smash Bros, though at this point [Patrick] can only assume it will work when the Switch version is released.

If there’s a downside to this project, it’s that the design for the 3D printed case is so intricate that [Patrick] was only able to print it on a machine that supported water-soluble PVA supports. A somewhat tall order for the average hacker; it would be interesting to see if somebody could make a second pass on the enclosure that is geared more towards printability than aesthetics.

While the design of the GameCube controller remains somewhat controversial after all these years, there’s no denying it retains an impressive following. Whether turning them into USB devices, shrinking them to preposterously small dimensions, or just finding increasingly creative ways to use them on Nintendo’s latest console, hackers are definitely in love with the gonzo little controller that’s now pushing 20 years old.

Prototype Proves Wii was Two Gamecubes Taped Together All Along

Say what you will about Nintendo’s little purple lunchbox, the Gamecube, but it was home to many delightful experiences from Super Smash Bros. Melee to The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. We now know it was also home to one of the very first Nintendo Wii remotes as well thanks to the recent listing from [Kuriaisu1122] on Yahoo Auctions.

The prototype Wii remote is a wired design and features a proprietary Gamecube controller cable. Notable differences include the two buttons toward the bottom are labeled ‘B’ and ‘A’ respectively. This shows that Nintendo always intended to have players hold the remote sideways in order to play Virtual console games. The large white button next to the directional pad is unlabeled, and along the middle are the traditional ‘Start’ and ‘Select’ labels on either side of ‘Home’. However, these all would go through multiple revisions on the way to the final design. Interestingly there is an Ethernet jack at the base used to connect accessories. That connector would eventually become the often maligned “Nunchuk interface”, but what modder wouldn’t have loved it if that Ethernet port had carried on to the final design?

Much like the “invaluable” Mario Party 6 microphone, the prototype’s IR sensor bar communicates via the Gamecube memory card port. The auction listing featured a photo size comparison of the prototype sensor bar is around four inches wider than the final design. Missing from the prototype Wii remote is the small tinny speaker, but that always seemed like an after thought anyway.

Credence as to the controller’s validity was given in a tweet from WayForward’s James Montagna who said on Twitter, “Wow, it’s the prototype Wii Remote & Nunchuk! I remember seeing these back when it was still known as the Nintendo Revolution!”. Montagna would go on to post photos of the Wii remote from E3 2006 that featured ‘Back’ and ‘Pause’ buttons where the plus and minus buttons would ultimately reside on the final design. These photos of the missing links in the evolution of the Wii remote help fill in the design process at Nintendo. They also further the idea that Nintendo always wanted players to measure each of their new consoles’ processing power in “X number of Gamecubes duct taped together”.

[via Nintendo Life]

For more on the console formerly known as the Nintendo Revolution, check out this incredible Wii console mod in an Altoids tin featured on Hackaday.

This RC Fortnite Rocket Is A Victory Royale

Minecraft is over and Red Dead Redemption II has barely even started yet. The biggest thing on the planet right now is Fortnite, and oh man, is it awesome. It’s the best game ever, and we wish every day was a Battle Royale. But what if Fortnite was real life? That’s exactly what [Giaco] and [David] did when they made an RC Fortnite Foam Rocket. It’s Fortnite, in the real world! If you don’t mind, we’re going to go T-pose in the corner.

The core of this build was done with the Maker Knife, first introduced as a Kickstarter by [Giaco] as an everyday carry utility knife that features ceramic blades. It’s impressive for a box cutter, but what’s even more impressive is that this fantastic tool can be used to make a real-life Fortnite rocket.

This rocket, like so many other RC planes we see these days, was constructed out of foam board, a technique that was popularized by the folks at Flite Test, and uses all the construction techniques you would usually see in a foam board model airplane. The hinges for the control surfaces are chamfered and reinforced with packing tape, servos are just hot glued to the body, and the control horns are just bits of cardboard.

What makes this really impressive is that this Fortnite rocket actually flies. [Giaco] took this plane out with [David] of rcexplorer fame, and even though this ‘plane’ didn’t really have any lifting surfaces, despite indiscernible center of gravity, and the fact that the paint weighed more than the plane itself, this thing can fly. Fairly well, too, until it gets stuck in a tree. There are prices to pay for producing content that’s this attractive to 12-year-olds, I guess.

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