Fail Of The Week: [Mark] Makes An Atari Cartridge

Part of the magic of the movies is that the actors always know what will happen next. There never has to be a scene where James Bond orders wine, and the sommelier has to correct his pronunciation, or he miscounts his hand at baccarat. Real life is rarely as smooth. Of course, YouTube is more akin to a movie than real life, and we always wonder how many flawlessly executed projects you see on YouTube really went that well. [Mark Fixes Stuff] left no scenes on the cutting room floor, though, in his realistic portrayal of his quest to build a nice-looking Atairi 2600 cartridge. Watch it below.

Spoiler alert: In the end, it all worked out. But getting there was a series of misadventures. Starting out with [Parker Dillman’s] PCB, he put together the insides of the cartridge, including a socket for the EPROM. He then resin-printed a case. Like many of our own projects, the first run wasn’t quite the size he expected. It was probably close enough, though, but then he realized the socket made the board too tall to fit in the enclosure.

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Super NES Cartridge Pulls A Sneaky, Plays Minecraft

Sometimes it’s the little touches and details that make a project. That’s certainly the case with¬†[Franklinstein]’s Super Nintendo (SNES) Cartridge Hard Drive. It might only be an enclosure for a solid-state hard drive with a USB interface, but the attention to detail is what really makes it worth checking out.

A SNES cartridge has a pretty standard clamshell-ish construction, but fitting the solid-state drive plus cable adapter turned out to be a bit of a challenge.

Since [Franklinstein] wanted the cartridge to look as original as possible, careful measuring and cutting was needed to securely fit the drive and provide an unobtrusive USB-C port tucked discreetly into the cartridge’s opening. We like the technique of using a 3D printed fixture to take up the slack on the cable by exactly the right amount, resulting in a 100% rattle-free end product. A custom Minecraft sticker label provides the finishing touch.

Being able to plug it into a computer and actually play Minecraft is a neat gimmick, but it really shows that some careful construction and assembly can be what makes something look like a clean build instead of a hack job. Take a look at additional build detail and pictures, and check out the video of the build, embedded below.

Hey, if sneaky cartridge mod tricks intrigue you, then you’ll absolutely want to check out how it was possible to play DOOM on a NES from a cartridge. Maybe that’s the next evolution for a cartridge with a Minecraft label on it?

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Harvesting Rechargeable Batteries From Single-Use Devices

The price of lithium batteries has plummeted in recent years as various manufacturers scale up production and other construction and process improvements are found. This is a good thing if you’re an EV manufacturer, but can be problematic if you’re managing something like a landfill and find that the price has fallen so low that rechargeable lithium batteries are showing up in the waste stream in single-use devices. Unlike alkaline batteries, these batteries can explode if not handled properly, meaning that steps to make sure they’re disposed of properly are much more important. [Becky] found these batteries in single-use disposable vape pens and so set about putting them to better use rather than simply throwing them away.

While she doesn’t use the devices herself, she was able to source a bunch of used ones locally from various buy-nothing groups. Disassembling the small vape pens is fairly straightforward, but care needed to be taken to avoid contacting some of the chemical residue inside of the devices. After cleaning the batteries, most of the rest of the device is discarded. The batteries are small but capable and made of various lithium chemistries, which means that most need support from a charging circuit before being used in any other projects. Some of the larger units do have charging circuitry, though, but often it’s little more than a few transistors which means that it might be best for peace-of-mind to deploy a trusted charging solution anyway.

While we have seen projects repurposing 18650 cells from various battery packs like power tools and older laptops, it’s not too far of a leap to find out that the same theory can be applied to these smaller cells. The only truly surprising thing is that these batteries are included in single-use devices at all, and perhaps also that there are few or no regulations limiting the sale of devices with lithium batteries that are clearly intended to be thrown away when they really should be getting recycled.

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Pokemon ROM Hacks Brought To The Real World

If you were a kid anywhere in the last 30 years, it was nearly impossible to avoid at least some exposure to the Pokemon franchise. Whether that’s through games like Red and Blue to Scarlet and Violet, the brief summer everyone played Pokemon Go, or to other media such as the trading card game or anime, it seems to have transcended generations and cultures fairly thoroughly. And, if you’ve consumed all there is of official Pokemon video gaming, you may be surprised to know there are a number of slightly modified games floating around out there that can be translated onto game carts just like their official counterparts.

[imablisy] has played a lot of these ROM hack games but always within something like a virtual console or emulator, so he wanted something physical which would work on original hardware of the era. For this he’s making physical copies of Flora Sky and Vega, which are based on Pokemon Emerald and Fire Red originally for the Game Boy Advance. To get the cart he found a bunch of Mother 3 cartridges to use as the donor. From there he backed up his Emerald and Fire Red cartridges, modified the ROMs with the modifications, and then sent those new ROMs to overwrite the data on the Mother 3 cartridges.

A playable cartridge is only half of the build, though. He wants these to look and feel like real Pokemon games, so he added a color-appropriate translucent case and also printed custom holographic labels for each. It might seem straightforward, but from the style of [imablisy]’s video it’s clear he is very familiar with processes like these, from the artwork all the way to the hardware and software side. We’re also pleased no classic hardware was damaged during this build, much like this version of Doom on an NES cart which used a common game for the donor to upset the least number of collectors.

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DIY GameTank Game Console Gets Upgraded Cartridge

Over the summer, you might recall seeing a homebrew 6502 game console called the GameTank grace these pages. The product of [Clyde Shaffer], the system was impressively complete, very well documented, and even had a budding library of games.

Recently, [Clyde] took to the r/electronics subreddit to show off the latest improvement to the GameTank: a revised removable cartridge. The biggest change this time around is the addition of 32 KB of battery-backed SRAM that gives games (or any other software that might be on the cartridge) some persistent storage to work with. Continue reading “DIY GameTank Game Console Gets Upgraded Cartridge”

A Pokemon Silver Cartridge Made Of Pure Silver

The big problem with Pokemon Silver is that it came in a cartridge made of only-slightly-sparkly grey plastic. [Modified] decided to fix all that, making an all-silver cartridge instead.

The cartridge was first modeled to match the original as closely as possible, and 3D printed for a fit check. From there, a test cartridge was machined out of a block of aluminium to verify everything was correct. It’s a wise step, given the build relies on a 1-kilogram bar of silver worth roughly $750.

With everything checked and double-checked, machining the silver could go ahead. Every scrap of silver that could be saved from the CNC machining was captured in a box so that it could be recycled. Approximately 28 grams of silver was lost during the process. WD40 was used as a coolant during the machining process, as without it, the silver didn’t machine cleanly. The final cart weighed 164 grams.

It’s not a particularly hard project for an experienced CNC operator, but it is an expensive one. Primary expenses are the cost of the silver bar and the Pokemon cart itself, which can be had for around $50 on the usual auction sites.

However, the “heft and shine” of the finished product is unarguably glorious. Imagine handing that over to a friend to plug into their Game Boy! Just don’t forget to ask for it back. If you’re rich enough to do the same thing with Pokemon Gold or Platinum, don’t hesitate to drop us a line.¬†

We love a good casemod, and this one reminds us of a brilliant crystal PlayStation 2 from years past.

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HitClips Cartridge Hack

HitClips Custom Cartridge Hack Will Never Give Up, Let Down, Or Turn Around

In August 2000, Tiger Electronics released HitClips: Music cartridges and players designed to easily share 60 second low quality Clips of a youngster’s favorite Hits. Various players were available, and individual cartridges were inexpensive enough to collect. And it’s these toy music players that [Guy Dupont] has been hacking quite successfully on as you can see in the video after the break and on [Guy]’s Hackaday.io page.

HitClips Cartridge Hack
Two PCB’s make up the new cartridge

[Guy]’s main goal was to make cartridges of his own that could not just hold more music than the short clips in the commercially made product, but could make use of modern technology that has matured since HitClips came onto the scene more than 20 years go.

The project’s components are relatively simple, but beautifully executed. An ATTINY84 didn’t work out, so a SAM D09 controller was put it place to to read files from a microSD card and translate the WAV file into the HitClips player’s format. 3d printed cartridges and custom PCB’s complete the hack, ensuring that you can use any of the many HitClips players to play something new for a change.

The end result is quite good, considering that it’s still just 8 bit audio on a 20 year old toy player. Tiger Electronics made another toy that’s quite popular with hackers of the musical kind.

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