Building A GameCube Mini Because Nintendo Never Did

Nintendo never made a GameCube Mini, with the console’s form factor remaining the same until the eventual launch of the Wii in 2006. [Bringus Studios] decided to build one of his own instead.

The build began with a Revision C GameCube motherboard, which comes without the digital video port and the second serial port. It also comes with an integrated power supply on the motherboard which makes it much easier to slim down into a smaller form factor. The main space saving, though, came from removing the rarely-used ports on the bottom of the console and the DVD drive. The latter was replaced with PicoBoot, which allows ISOs to be loaded from an SD card.

Once trimmed down and fitted with a replacement cooling fan, the console then got a custom half-height 3D-printed case. It’s tidy and functional, but we’d love to see a more finished resin-printed version more accurately aping the traditional GameCube aesthetic.

If you want something even more portable, consider building a pocket-sized Wii. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Building A GameCube Mini Because Nintendo Never Did”

ESP32 Gets A Nifty Serial Console Library

Sometimes you need to get a project to talk to you, so you can see what’s going on inside. The ESP32 console Arduino library from [jbtronics] promises just that.

The library adds a simple serial console to the ESP32, and is compatible with the Arduino ecosystem to boot. It’s set up to allow the easy addition of custom commands so you can tweak the console to suit your own projects. It’s remarkably complete with nifty features, too. There’s autocomplete as well as a navigable command history – the sorts of features you only expect from a modern OS terminal. A bunch of system commands are built-in, too, for checking the status of things like the memory, network interface, and so on.

The tool is available via the Arduino library manager or the PlatformIO registry. You’ll want to use it with a VT-100 compatible terminal like PuTTY or similar, which lets you use all the fancy features including color output. [jbtronics] hopes to port it to the ESP8266 soon, too!

We’ve seen some other great serial tools of late, too. If you’re brewing up your own nifty console hacks, be sure to drop us a line!



Remote Screen Viewer Is Text-Only

Have you been slowly falling down a rabbit hole of Stallman-like paranoia of computers ever since installing Ubuntu for the first time in 2007? Do you now abhor anything with a GUI, including browsers? Do you check your mail with the command line even though you’re behind seven proxies? But, do you still want to play Minecraft? If so, this command-line-only screen viewer might just be the tool to use a GUI without technically using one.

This remote screen viewer is built in Python by [louis-e] and, once installed, allows the client to view the screen of the server even if the client is a text-only console. [louis-e] demonstrates this from within a Windows command prompt. The script polls the server screen and then displays it in the console using the various colors and textures available. As a result, the resolution and refresh rate are both quite low, but it is still functional enough to play Minecraft and do other GUI-based tasks as long as there’s no fine text to read anywhere.

The video below only shows a demonstration of the remote screen viewer, and we can imagine plenty of uses beyond this proof-of concept game demonstration. Installing a desktop environment and window manager is not something strictly necessary for all computers, so this is a functional workaround if you don’t want to waste time and resources installing either of those components. If you’re looking for remote desktop software for a more specific machine, though, take a look at this software which enables remote desktop on antique Macs.

Continue reading “Remote Screen Viewer Is Text-Only”

Console Controller Mod Gets Amputee Back In The Game

No matter how it happens, losing one or more fingers is going to change one’s life in thousands of ways. We’re a manipulative species, very much accustomed to interacting with the world through the amazing appendages at the ends of our arms. Finding ways around the problems that result from amputations is serious business, of course, even when it’s just modifying a game console controller for use with a prosthetic hand.

We’ve gotten to know [Ian Davis] quite well around these parts, at least from his videos and Instagram posts. [Ian]’s hard to miss — he’s in the “Missing Parts Club” as he puts it, consisting of those who’ve lost all or part of a limb, which he has addressed through his completely mechanical partial-hand prosthetic. As amazing as the mechanical linkages of that prosthetic are, he hasn’t regained full function, at least not to the degree required to fully use a modern game console controller, so he put a couple of servos and a Trinket to work to help.

An array of three buttons lies within easy reach of [Ian]’s OEM thumb. Button presses there are translated into servo movements that depress the original bumper buttons, which are especially unfriendly to his after-market anatomy. Everything rides in an SLA-printed case that’s glued atop the Playstation controller. [Ian] went through several design iterations and even played with the idea of supporting rapid fire at one point before settling on the final design shown in the video below.

It may not make him competitive again, but the system does let him get back in the game. And he’s quite open about his goal of getting his designs seen by people in a position to make them widely available to other amputees. Here’s hoping this helps.

Continue reading “Console Controller Mod Gets Amputee Back In The Game”

A Look Behind The “Big Boards” At Mission Control In The Golden Age Of NASA

Certified space-nerd and all-around retro-tech guru [Fran Blanche] has just outdone herself with a comprehensive look at how NASA ran the Mission Control “Big Boards” that provided flight data for controllers for Apollo and for the next 20 years of manned spaceflight.

We’ve got to admit, [Fran] surprised us with this one. We had always assumed that the graphs and plots displayed in front of the rows of mint-green consoles and their skinny-tie wearing engineers were video projections using eidophor projectors. And to be sure, an eidophor, the tech of which [Jenny] profiled a while back, was used on one of the screens to feed video into Mission Control, either live from the Moon or from coverage of the launch and recovery operations. But even a cursory glance at the other screens in front of “The Pit” shows projections of a crispness and clarity that was far beyond what 1960s video could achieve.

Instead, plots and diagrams were projected into the rear of the massive screens using a completely electromechanical system. Glass and metal stencils were used to project the icons, maps, and grids, building up images layer by layer. Colors for each layer were obtained by the use of dichroic filters, and icons were physically moved to achieve animations. Graphs and plots were created Etch-a-Sketch style, with a servo-controlled stylus cutting through slides made opaque with a thin layer of metal. The whole thing is wonderfully complex, completely hacky, and a great example of engineering around the limits of technology.

Hats off to [Fran] for digging into this forgotten bit of Space Race tech. Seeing something like this makes the Mission Control centers of today look downright boring by comparison.

Continue reading “A Look Behind The “Big Boards” At Mission Control In The Golden Age Of NASA”

A VGA Retro Console With Everything Generated From A Single ARM Cortex M0

The later game consoles of the 8-bit era such as Nintendo’s NES or Sega’s Master System produced graphics that went beyond what owners of early 1980s home computers had come to expect from machines with the same processors, but they did so only with the help of powerful custom chipsets for their day that took care of the repetitive hard work of assembling frames and feeding them to the display device. Reproducing their equivalent with more modern hardware requires either some means of creating similar custom silicon, or a processor significantly more powerful such that it can do the work of those extra chips itself. But even with a modern microcontroller it’s still a significant challenge, so [Nicola Wrachien]’s uChip, a VGA console that does the whole job in software on a humble ARM Cortex M0 is a significant achievement.

If you are familiar with the home computers that used the processor to generate the display output, you’ll know that they spent most of their time working on the lines of the display and only had a few milliseconds of the frame blanking period for the device to perform any computing tasks before returning to the next frame. The 320×240 at 57 frames per second gives a line sync frequency of 30 kHz, and the computing happens while the display is sent the black space at the top and bottom of the screen. This is reckoned to be equivalent of the ATSAMD21E18 microcontroller on the uChip module the system uses running at only 10MHz rather than the 48MHz it is running at in reality, and with these resources it also runs the game logic, USB controller interfacing, reading games from the SD card, and game sound.

The result is a complete game console on a small PCB little longer on its longest side than its connectors. We may have largely seen the demise of VGA on the desktop several years after we called it, but it seems there is plenty of life in the interface yet for hardware hackers.