Clone Console Cribs Ben Heck’s Classic SNES Caché

“I don’t get mad when people rip me off. I actually think its kinda cool, because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” — Ben Heckendorn

For some “hacking things together” can mean heavily borrowing from other’s work in order to make a new, derivative work. Though longtime hardware hacker, Ben Heckendorn, didn’t expect one of his early SNES handheld projects to become the inspiration for a Famicom-style clone console. There have been a number of clone consoles available online for years, and all have been made to varying levels of build quality. The subject clone console in question is called the Easegmer 12-bit Retro Console, so [Ben] decided to record his teardown of the handheld borrowing from his original design. (Video, embedded below.)

The Easegmer handheld has a “surprising” list of features according to its packaging including: sports games, logic games, memoyr games, USB charger management, double power supply option, and dirunal double backlight option. All big (and slightly misspelled) promises though the most egregious claim has to be that, “No violent games, your child’s body and mind get full exercise.”. The statement may have a modicum of truth to it, except for the fact that game 84 of 220 is literally named “Violent”. Dunking aside, the handheld does feature a standard size rechargeable battery in addition to the option of powering the device with three AAA batteries. There’s even a “fun size” screwdriver and a few replacement screws included which is more than you can say for most modern electronics.

It has been almost twenty years after [Ben] originally published his SNES portable project on his website. So as a long awaited follow-up, [Ben] plans to make a “meta-portable”. This meta portable will start with the Adobe Illustrator files he kept from that SNES portable in 2001 and incorporate pieces of the Easegmer clone console. Thus spawning a new clone of the clone of his clone…or whatever that project ends up being its sure to be worth repeating.

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The Nintendo PlayStation: Finally Working

The Nintendo PlayStation is not a misnomer. Before the PS1, Sony teamed up with Nintendo to produce a video game console that used CD-ROMs as a distribution platform. These plans fell through, Sony went on to design the PS1, Nintendo the N64, but a few prototype ‘Nintendo PlayStations’ made it out into the wild. One of these unbelievably rare consoles was shipped to a company that eventually went into bankruptcy. The console was found when the contents of an office building were put up for auction, and last year, [Ben Heck] tore it apart.

It’s taken a year, but now this Nintendo PlayStation is finally working. This console now plays audio CDs and games written by homebrewers. The hardware lives, and a console once forgotten lives once more.

The last time [Ben Heck] took a look at the Nintendo PlayStation, the CD-ROM portion of the console was non-functional. The Super Nintendo was still functional, but for this prototype, the CD-ROM was completely self-contained and required a ‘boot cartridge’ of sorts to access anything on a CD. Somehow or another — [Ben] thinks it was a wonky cable or a dead cap — The CD-ROM came to life. Yes, jiggling a cable was the extent of the repair, after spending an inordinate amount of time reverse engineering the console.

With the CD-ROM working, [Ben] got audio playing and tried out of the few homebrew games for this PlayStation prototype. Super Boss Gaiden didn’t quite work because this game was designed to load in chunks. Another game written for this console, Magic Floor, was small enough to fit in the entirety of the CD-ROM’s buffer and loaded correctly. That doesn’t mean the game worked; there are some slight differences between the Nintendo PlayStation emulator and the actual hardware that now exists. [Ben] emailed the author of Magic Floor, and now, after a quarter-century, the Nintendo PlayStation works.

What’s next for the Nintendo PlayStation? Well, now the emulator for this system can correctly reflect the actual hardware, and hopefully the homebrewers can figure out how to write a game for this system.

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Tearing Apart The Nintendo PlayStation

The mid 90s were a weird time for video game hardware. There were devices that could play videos from compact disks. Those never caught on. Virtual reality was the next big thing. That never caught on. The Sony PlayStation was originally an add-on for the Super Nintendo. That never caught on, but a few prototype units were produced. One of these prototype ‘Nintendo Playstations’ was shipped to a company that went into bankruptcy. Eventually, the assets of this company were put up for auction, and this unbelievably rare game console was bought by [Terry Diebold] for $75.

[Terry] allowed [Ben Heck] tear into this piece of videogame history, and he has the video proof that this was a collaboration between Sony and Nintendo.

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Madison Maker Faire

Saturday was the first Madison Mini Maker Faire. In this case, it’s Madison, Wisconsin (sorry Madison, SD I didn’t mean to get your hopes up) where I live. Of course I’m not the only crazy hardware hacker in the area. As soon as I got there I almost tripped over Ben Heckendorn who also lives in the area.

ben-heck-gameboy

Check out that incredible Giant Game Boy the he was exhibiting. Okay, you think to yourself: Raspberry Pi and an LCD. Wrong! He’s actually using an FPGA to drive the LCD. Even cooler, it’s using an original Game Boy brain board, which the FPGA is connected to in order to translate the handheld’s LCD connector signals to work with the big LCD.

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Building The Novena Laptop

The latest hardware project from [Bunnie] is the Novena, a truly open source laptop where nearly every part has non-NDA’d datasheets. This is the ideal laptop for hardware hacking – it has an FPGA right on the motherboard, a ton of pin headers, and a lot of extras that make interfacing with the outside world easy.

While the crowdfunding campaign for the Novena included a completely custom laptop, it was terribly expensive. That’s okay; it’s an heirloom laptop, and this is a DIY laptop anyway. With the Novena now shipping, it’s time for people to build their laptops. [Ben Heck] is the first person to throw his hat into the ring with his own build of the Novena laptop, and it’s fantastic.

The second video of the build was dedicated to what is arguably the most important part of any laptop: the keyboard. For the keyboard, [Ben Heck] went all out. It’s a completely mechanical keyboard, with backlit LEDs built around the Phantom PCB with Cherry MX switches. Because this is a DIY laptop and something that is meant to be opened, the keyboard is completely removable. Think of something like the original Compaq luggable, but turned into a laptop that looks reasonably modern.

The laptop enclosure was constructed out of a sandwich of an aluminum and laser cut plastic. These layers were glued and screwed together, the parts were carefully mounted into the case. The USB keyboard was attached directly to one of the chips on the motherboard with a few flying wires and hot glue.

The finished build is fantastic, even if it is a bit thick. It’s the ultimate hacker’s laptop, with an FPGA, Linux, open source everything, and even a cute little secret compartment for storing tools and cable adapters. A great build from one of the best builders around.

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Hackaday Links: April 12, 2015

Everyone loves Top Gear, or as it’s more commonly known, The Short, The Slow, And The Ugly. Yeah, terrible shame [Clarkson] the BBC ruined it for the rest of us. Good News! A show featuring the Dacia Sandero drones will be filling the Top Gear timeslot. And on that bombshell…

More Arduino Drama! A few weeks ago, Arduino SRL (the new one) forked the Arduino IDE from Arduino LLC’s repo. The changes? The version number went up from 1.6.3 to 1.7. It’s been forked again, this time by [Mastro Gippo]. The changes? The version number went up to 2.0. We’re going to hold off until 2.1; major releases always have some bugs that take a few weeks to patch. Luckily the speed of the development cycle here means that patch should be out soon.

Need an ESP8266 connected to an Arduino. Arachnio has your back. Basically, it’s an Arduino Micro with an ESP8266 WiFi module. It also includes a Real Time Clock, a crypto module, and a solar battery charger. It’s available on Kickstarter, and we could think of a few sensor base station builds this would be useful for.

[Ben Heck] gave The Hacakday Prize a shoutout in this week’s episode. He says one of his life goals is to go to space. We’re giving that away to the project that makes the biggest difference for the world. We’re not sure how a [Bill Paxton] pinball machine fits into that category, but we also have a Best Product category for an opportunity to spend some time in a hackerspace… kind of like [Ben]’s 9 to 5 gig…

[Jim Tremblay] wrote a real time operating system for a bunch of different microcontrollers. There are a lot of examples for everything from an Arduino Mega to STM32 Discovery boards. Thanks [Alain] for the tip.

45s – the grammophone records that play at 45 RPM – are seven inches in diameter. Here’s one that’s 1.5 inches in diameter. Does it work? No one knows, because the creator can’t find a turntable to play it on.

Are we betting on the number of people who don’t get the joke in the second paragraph of this post? Decide in the comments.

Why Should You Enter The Hackaday Prize? Because [Ben Heck] Says So.

[Ben Heck] is well-known in the circles we frequent for being a consummate modder, tinkerer, builder, and hacker. We’ve seen his XBox 360 laptops, portabalized PS3s, the ultimate glue gun, and shutter shades that are too cool for [Kanye]. Now he’s telling us about something else that’s really cool – The Hackaday Prize.

All you need to be in the running for prizes that range from a thousand dollars in electronic components to milling machines to a trip to space is build a project that is open, connected (smoke signals count), and documented on hackaday.io. Think you don’t have time to submit an entry before the first round cutoff next week? You’re wrong. You can sit down and hit all the requirements in an hour. All you need is an idea at this point, and you have until November to actually build it.

Talking to Hackaday readers IRL gives us the impression that a lot of you have an idea for something cool and spaceworthy, but you just need a kick in the pants to write it down and start building it. Here it is. Go.