Hands On With The Smallest Game Boy Ever Made

The PocketSprite is the tiniest fully-functional Game Boy Color and Sega Master System emulator. Not only is it small enough to fit in your pocket, it’s small enough to lose in your pocket. It’s now available as a Crowd Supply campaign, and it’s everything you could ever want in a portable, WiFi-enabled, fully hackable video game console. It also plays Witcher 3. And probably Crysis, because of the meme.

This has been a year and a half in the making. The first hardware version of the PocketSprite was revealed at the 2016 Hackaday Superconference by hardware engineer extraordinaire [Sprite_TM]. As [Sprite] has a long list of incredibly impressive hardware hacks like installing Linux on a hard drive and building a Matrix of Tamagotchis, he always has to keep pushing deep into the hardware frontier.

In 2016, [Sprite] showed off the tiniest Game Boy ever, powered by the then brand-spankin’ new ESP32. This was released as Open Source, with the hope that a factory in China would take the files and start pumping out mini Game Boys for everyone to enjoy. Now, a year and a half later, it’s finally happened. In a collaboration with manufacturing wizard [Steve K], [Sprite] is the mastermind behind TeamPocket. The pocket-sized Game Boy-shaped emulator is now real. This is our hands-on review.

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Play A Few Games of Smash Brothers On The Go With A Portable Wii

How would you approach a build that required you to hack apart a perfectly good console motherboard? With aplomb and a strong finish. [jefflongo] from [BitBuilt.net] — a forum dedicated to making consoles portable — has finished just such a task, unveiling his version of a portable Wii to the world.

While this bears the general appearance of a portable GameCube, it’s what inside that counts. A heavily modified   Wii motherboard — to reduce size — forms this portable’s backbone, and it includes two infrared LEDs on its faceplate for Wii Remotes.  A single player can use the built-in controller, but [jefflongo] has included four GameCube controller ports for maximum multiplayer mayhem. Although he’ll likely plan on taking advantage of the built-in AV Out port to play on a TV and charge port for those extended gaming sessions, four 3400mAh batteries — with an estimated four hour battery life — should keep him satisfied on the go until he can recharge.

While the electronics display an impressive amount of work, but the final piece is a sight to behold. Check out the demo video after the break!

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Repairing A Sunburned Game Boy Screen

The original Game Boy is a classic. Sure, it had no backlight, but there is something special about playing on that classic green screen. Unfortunately, some of these older systems are suffering a terrible fate — screen burn. Game Boy’s played best with lots of light — especially out in the sun. But that same sun did terrible things to the screen. A black splotch in the center of the LCD is the telltale sign of a burned Game Boy. You might think that screen replacement is the only option, but [The Retro Future] shows us how to repair this issue.

A reflective LCD is a layer cake made up of polarizers, two panes of glass, and a reflector. The burns often seen on Game Boy screens usually are in the polarizer and the optically clear glue which attaches the plastic polarizer to the glass. We’re guessing these burns happen when someone leaves their Game Boy out in the sun. Between the sun rays directly striking the top polarizer and the rays bounced back from the reflector at the rear of the screen, that poor polarizer doesn’t stand a chance.

Repairing the burn is a delicate operation, as one false move could crack the thin LCD glass. The first step is to carefully peel off the burned polarizer. This leaves a mess of dried glue, which can be scraped off or dissolved with alcohol. A new linear polarizer can then be placed on the front of the screen. [The Retro Future] chose not to glue the polarizer, but we’re betting some UV cure LOCA (Liquid Optically Clear Adhesive) from a cell phone screen protector would do the trick.

If you love the look of the classic Game Boy, but want to play just about any classic game, grab a Raspberry Pi zero, and build a retro Pi Boy.

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This Home-Made PDA Is A Work Of Art

There was a time, back in the 1990s, when a PDA, or Personal Digital Assistant, was the height of mobile computing sophistication. These little hand-held touch-screen devices had no Internet connection, but had preloaded software to manage such things as your calendar and your contacts. [Brtnst] was introduced to PDAs through a Palm IIIc and fell in love with the idea, but became disillusioned with the Palm for its closed nature and lack of available software a couple of decades later.

His solution might have been to follow the herd and use a smartphone, but he went instead for the unconventional and produced his own PDA. And after a few prototypes, he’s come up with rather a well-executed take on the ’90s object of desire. Taking an ARM microcontroller board and a commodity resistive touchscreen, he’s clad them in a 3D-printed PDA case and produced his own software stack. He’s not prepared to release it just yet as he’s ashamed of some of its internal messiness, but lets hope that changes with time.

What this project shows is how it is now so much easier to make near commercial quality one-off projects from scratch. Accessible 3D printing has become so commonplace as to be mundane in our community, but it’s worth remembering just how much of a game-changer it has been.

To see the device in action, take a look at the video below the break.

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PostMarketOS Saves Old Smartphones

Modern smartphones, even the budget models, are extremely impressive pieces of technology. Powerful ARM processors, plenty of RAM, and an incredible number of sensors and radios are packed into a device that in some cases are literally given away for free when you sign up for a service plan. Unfortunately manufacturers are not obligated to keep up with software updates, and while the hardware may be willing to keep on fighting, the user is often pushed to upgrade due to perennially outdated software. Even if you aren’t the kind of person to be put off by using a phone that doesn’t have the latest and greatest OS, the lack of software security updates pose a clear threat in a world where mobile devices are increasingly targeted by attackers.

But what if the operating system on your phone worked more like the on one your computer? That’s the dream of postmarketOS, a Linux distribution created by [Oliver Smith] that is designed to be installed on outdated (mostly Android) smartphones and tablets. He’s recently made a comprehensive blog post about the state of the project a little over 6 months since it started, and we have to say things are looking very impressive so far.

One of the key goals of postmarketOS is to avoid the fragmented nature of previous attempts at replacing Android with a community-developed operated system. By avoiding binary blobs and focusing on getting the mainline Linux kernel running on as much as the hardware as possible, there’s no need to make different forks and releases for each supported device. By unifying the OS as much as far as it can be, an upstream update can be pushed to all devices running postmarketOS regardless of their make and model, just like with traditional Linux distributions.

The blog post shows two things very clearly: that the community is extremely excited and dedicated to the prospect of running what is essentially desktop Linux on old smartphones and tablets, and that postmarketOS still has a long way to go. In these early days, many devices aren’t what could be considered “daily drivers” by most standards. In fact, the blog post mentions that they’ve decided to abandon the term “supported” when talking about devices, and make no claims beyond the fact that they will boot.

Still, incredible progress is being made on everything from mainline kernel development to getting standard Linux desktops such as Gnome, MATE and XFCE4 running. Work has also been done on the backend process of compiling and packaging up components of the operating system itself, promising to speed up development times even for those who don’t have a beefy machine they can dedicate to compiling. The blog post ends with a helpful list of things the reader can do to help support postmarketOS, ranging from making your own t-shirts to porting to new hardware.

At Hackaday we’ve seen our fair share of hackers and makers re-purposing old smartphones and tablets, keeping them out of the landfills they would almost certainly end up in otherwise. A project that aims to make it even easier to hack these cheap and incredibly useful devices is music to our ears.

Touch-A-Sketch Gives an Old Toy a New Twist

After nearly 60 years and a lot of stairs and squares, there is finally an easier way to draw on an Etch A Sketch®. For their final project in embedded microcontroller class, [Serena, Francis, and Alejandro] implemented a motor-driven solution that takes input from a touch screen.

Curves are a breeze to draw with a stylus instead of joysticks, but it’s still a 2-D plotter and must be treated as such. The Touch-A-Sketch system relies on the toy’s stylus starting in the lower left hand corner, so all masterpieces must begin at (0,0) on the knobs and the touch screen.

The BOM for this project is minimal. A PIC32 collects the input coordinates from the touch screen and sends them to a pair of stepper motors attached to the toy’s knobs. Each motor is driven by a Darlington array that quickly required a homemade heat sink, so there’s even a hack within the hack. The team was unable to source couplers that could deal with the discrepancy between the motor and knob shaft sizes, so they ended up mounting the motors in a small plywood table and attaching them to the stock knobs with Velcro. This worked out for the better, since the Etch A Sketch® screen still has to be reset the old-fashioned way.

They also considered using belts to drive the knobs like this clock we saw a few years ago, but they wanted to circumvent slippage. Pour another glass of your aunt’s high-octane eggnog and watch Touch-A-Sketch draw something festive after the break.

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Building a Supersized Game Boy Advance

Unless you really look closely at the image above, you might not realize you aren’t looking at a normal Game Boy Advance; which is sort of the point. Even though it retains the looks of the iconic Nintendo handheld, this version built by [Akira] is supersized for adult hands. How big is it? To give you an idea, that screen is 5 inches, compared to the 2.9 inch screen the original sported.

Unlike most of the portable gaming hacks we’ve covered recently, this big-boy GBA isn’t powered by a Raspberry Pi. Internally it’s packing a genuine GBA motherboard, which has been wired into a portable screen originally intended for the PlayStation.

Though that may be understating things a bit, as getting the round PCB of the original screen into the rectangular shape of the GBA meant it had to be cut down and the traces recreated with jumper wires. The original CCFL backlight of the screen had to go in the name of battery life, and in its place is the backlight system pulled from a Nintendo DSi XL.

But where did [Akira] get a giant GBA case to begin with? No, it isn’t 3D printed. It’s actually a hard carrying case that was sold for the GBA. The carrying case obviously didn’t have a cartridge slot or openings for buttons, so those sections were grafted from a donor GBA case. So despite the system overall being so much bigger than the original, the D-Pad, face buttons, and cartridge slot on the back are at normal GBA scale.

The GBA XL is really a labor of love; browsing through the build log you can see that [Akira] actually started the project back in 2014, but it kept getting shelved until more research could be done on how to pack all the desired features into the final device.

While this may be the most historically accurate attempt at making a bigger Game Boy, it certainly isn’t the first. There seems to be a fascination with turning the quintessential pocket game system into something that’s quite the opposite.

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