Stock Looking PSP Hides a Raspberry Pi Zero

We don’t see that many PSP hacks around these parts, perhaps because the system never attained the same sort of generational following that Nintendo’s Game Boy line obtained during its heyday. Which is a shame, as it’s really a rather nice system with plenty of hacking potential. Its big size makes it a bit easier to graft new hardware into, the controls are great, and there’s no shortage of them on the second-hand market.

Hopefully, projects like this incredible “PiSP” from [Drygol] will inspire more hackers to take a second look at Sony’s valiant attempt at dethroning Nintendo as the portable king. With his usual attention to detail, he managed to replace the PSP’s original internals with a Pi Zero running RetroPie, while keeping the outside of the system looking almost perfectly stock. It wasn’t exactly a walk in the park, but we’d say the end definitely justifies the means.

The first half of the project was relatively painless. [Drygol] stripped out all the original internals and installed a new LCD which fit so well it looks like the thing was made for the PSP. He then added a USB Li-ion charger board (complete with “light pipe” made out of 3D printer filament), and an audio board to get sound out of the usually mute Pi Zero. He had some problems getting everything to fit inside of the case. The solution was using flat lithium batteries from an old Nokia cell phone to slim things down just enough to close up the PSP’s case with some magnets.

What ended up being the hardest part of the build was getting the original controls working. [Dyrgol] wanted to use the original ZIF connector on the PSP’s motherboard so he wouldn’t have to modify the stock ribbon cable. But it was one of those things that was easier said than done. Cutting out the section of PCB with the connector on it was no problem, but it took a steady hand and a USB microscope to solder all the wires to its traces. But the end result is definitely a nice touch and makes for a cleaner installation.

We’ve covered the exciting world of PSP homebrew, and even DIY batteries built to address the lack of original hardware, but it’s been fairly quiet for the last few years. Here’s hoping this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Sony’s slick handheld on these pages.

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PSP Media Player for the Home Workshop

It’s a common occurrence that some items we buy become more and more obsolete as time passes. This is especially true for electronics gear since technology progresses so quickly. [Rochefoucauld] had a PSP that he didn’t use anymore and was trying to figure out what to do with it. Then one day in his basement shop while yearning for some tunes, it hit him: use the PSP as a media player.

The PSP is actually not modified and uses the standard media player, it is the project’s execution that is interesting. Some old computer speakers were taken apart to harvest the amplifier. [Rochefoucauld] had an external hard drive that broke so he scavenged the sleek looking case and mounted the amplifier PCB inside. The speaker outputs were routed to terminal blocks mounted on the back of the case. The PSP now resides on a mount made out of a floor joist hanging bracket from the hardware store. The PSP and amplifier share the same power supply and master power switch. The whole unit powers a pair of bookshelf speakers.

In the end, [Rochefoucauld] solved his lack-of-music problem with parts he had kicking around and is also now making use of his PSP that was otherwise collecting dust. For more non-traditional uses for PSPs, check out this status monitor or this extended display.

Handheld Console Build-off

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The above pic isn’t a new Wii U controller from Nintendo – it’s the product of the 2013 Portable Build-Off Challenge over at the Made By Bacteria forums. Every year the Bacman forums hold a contest to build the best portabalized console, and like every year this year’s entries are top-notch.

One of the more interesting projects this year is a handheld PlayStation 2 put together by [Gman]. It uses a PS2 Slim motherboard and a dualshock 2 controller along with a 4-inch screen to stuff an entire PS2 into a convenient handheld gaming device. [Gman] ditched the CD drive and opted to play games off the USB drive, a clever substitution that really reduces the size and power consumption.

In our humble opinion, the best looking console mod is the one shown above by [Bungle]. It’s a portable GameCube stuffed inside a handmade case with a WiiKey Fusion that allows games to be played off an SD card. It’s an amazing build, and we can only hope [Bungle] will make a few molds of his case.

The entire contest has an incredible display of console modding expertise, and is well worth a look.

Driving a PSP screen with an FPGA

Here’s [FlorianH’s] setup for driving a PlayStation Portable screen with an FPGA. He’s using the DE0-Nano board to do this, and the first order of business was to establish a way to connect the two. He did a great job of etching his own breakout board, which has some traces that are less than 10 mils thick. Soldering the connectors for the screen was a bit of a challenge, and he shared several pictures of the process for your enjoyment.

With everything hooked up he fired it up with just a couple of lines of code to draw a test pattern. From there it was on to building a more intensive driver. [FlorianH] mentioned to us that he’s just starting to learn about FPGAs after having worked extensively with 8-bit microcontrollers. He’s been documenting his work on his site, and finds himself frequently referencing his own material so remember how he did things. Our vicarious enjoyment is an unintended (but welcomed) consequence of that habit.

One console to rule them all

[Bacteria] retro console modder extraordinaire, is back at it with a rather massive project. “Unity”(originally Dubbed Alpha Omega), this will be a single unit that can play games from 20 different console systems. It will run from one power supply, have one video output, and strangely enough, one controller.

[Chris Downing] was nice enough to tip us off to a video of the Unity controller in action.  The controller isn’t quite as bulky as we would have assumed with the extensive list of consoles it has to support, but that could be, in part, due to the fact that you actually swap out the brains for the controller for each system’s compatibility.

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Fill in the bass on your PSP

[Michael Chen] felt the sound his PSP was putting out needed more dimension. Some would have grabbed themselves a nice set of headphones, but he grabbed his soldering iron instead and found some space where he could add a bigger speaker.

Mobile devices tend to cram as much into the small form factor as possible so we’re surprised he managed make room. But apparently if you cut away a bit from the inside of the case there is space beneath the memory card. [Michael] cautions that you need to choose a speaker rated for 8 ohms or greater  in order to use it as a drop-in replacement for one of the two original speakers. But he also touches on a method to use both stock speakers as well as the new one. He suggests grabbing an LM386 op-amp and a capacitor and hooking them up. Yep, there’s room for that too if you mount it dead-bug-style. We wonder how the battery life will be affected by this hack?

Reverse engineering the PSP

The original PSP may be old news but there is an interesting relic of a website (translated) dedicated to the reverse engineering of a PSP (and exploring Saturn?). To determine the true capabilities of the PSP they desoldered most of the ball grid array chips and then hand soldered 157 jumper wires to allow for direct memory access. In later pictures it shows the PSP hooked up to external hardware for on the fly memory modification. Unfortunately the details are sparse and it doesn’t appear as if they will be updated anytime soon because the website has been “deleted and freezed because of spam. may ineffaceable curse prevail on the spammers.” Still this doesn’t detract too much some very impressive soldering.