GBA On The Big Screen: FPGA Delivers HDMI And Every Feature Imaginable

The concept of creating a gaming portable out of a home console has been around for some time, but it’s hardly seen the other way around. There have been a few devices that dared to straddle the line (i.e., Sega Nomad, Nintendo Switch, etc.), but the two worlds typically remain separate. [Stephen] looked to explore that space by attempting to turn the Game Boy Advance into a “big boy” console. The FPGA-based mod kit he created does just that, and comes complete with controller support and digital video output in 720p over a mini HDMI cable.

The kit itself was designed specifically for the original model GBAs containing the 40-pin LCD ribbon cable. These original models were the early run of non-backlit screens that are also denoted by a motherboard designation that can be seen by peering into the battery compartment. RGB signals are read directly from the GBA LCD socket by removing the handheld’s screen in favor of a fresh flat flex ribbon cable. This method enables a noise-free digital-to-digital solution as opposed to the digital-to-analog output of Nintendo’s own Game Boy Player add-on for the GameCube.

At an astonishing 240×160 native resolution, GBA video is scaled by the FPGA up to 5x within a 720p frame. Of course some of the image is cutoff in the process, so options for 4x and 4.5x scales were included. As a wise man once said, “Leave no pixel behind”. Since Nintendo designed the GBA clock to run at 59.7276 Hz, [Stephen] removed the oscillator crystal in order to sync the refresh rate to a more HDMI friendly 60 Hz. This means that the mod kit overclocks GBA games ever so slightly, though [Stephen] included a GBA cycle accurate mode as an option if your display can handle it.

The video below is [Stephen]’s initial test using a SNES controller. Tests must have gone well, because he decided to incorporate a SNES controller port in the final design. Now all those Super Nintendo ports on the GBA are back home once again thanks to this “consolizer” kit.

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Microgamer Is A Micro:Bit Handheld Console

The BBC micro:bit single board ARM computer aimed at education does not feature as often as many of its competitors  in these pages. It’s not the cheapest of boards, and interfacing to it in all but the most basic of ways calls for a slightly esoteric edge connector. We’re then very pleased to see that edge connector turned from a liability into a feature by [Fabien Chouteau] with his handheld console, he uses micro:bits preprogrammed with different games in the manner of game cartridges in commercial consoles.

The micro:bit sits in its edge connector on the underside of a handheld PCB above a pair of AAA batteries, while on the other side are an OLED display and the usual set of pushbuttons. It’s a particularly simple board as the micro:bit contains all the circuitry required to support its peripherals.

He’s coded the games using the Arduino IDE with a modified version of the Arduboy2 library that allows him to easily port Arduboy games written for Arduino hardware. It’s a work in progress as there are a few more features to incorporate, but the idea of using micro:bits as cartridges is rather special. There is a video of the console in action, which we’ve placed below the break.

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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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Gamebuino: A Handheld Arduino Gaming Console Ready For Prime Time

[Rodot] wrote in to tell us about the Gamebuino, a very nicely designed and easily reproducible version of his handheld Arduino gaming console. We originally featured [Rodot’s] Arduino based gaming console over a year ago.

With the Gamebuino, you too can build your own games and gaming hardware around the Arduino. While there is a lot of information currently missing from the site’s Wiki, such as the layout and game code, [Rodot] plans on making everything open source. The console includes a rechargeable lithium battery, a micro SD card, and I2C expansion connectors. This is one project to keep an eye (and two hands) on, especially since a full game library is going to be provided, letting you easily create your own games. See what the console can do in the demo video after the break.

It would be amazing so see some old Game Boy games ported to run on the Arduino, or maybe one of our readers can make an Game Boy emulator for the Arduino!
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Meggy Jr RGB Portable Game Platform

meggy

Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories have just announced the release of the Meggy Jr RGB, a fully programmable handheld console with an 8×8 RGB LED matrix display. Like its big sisters Peggy and Peggy 2.0, the Meggy Jr is driven by an ATmega168 microcontroller and is made up of a bank of fully addressable LEDs. Unlike its siblings, the device boasts six buttons and the ability to be mounted inside of a custom case (or “handle set”) constructed from plastic or wood, drastically altering the look of the console. Using the popular open-souce Arduino environment, users are able to write custom software for the device. While it works great as a game console, of the many possible configurations and suggested uses, we think “disco floor for your Lego minifigurines” is the most amusing.

AVR Game Console


This is a bit reminiscent of the missing DC entry, so consider it a bonus hack. [Eric] sent in his latest project, an AVR game console. It uses a pair of ATMega168v micro-controllers, a nokia 3110 LCD, and an eeprom to store a selection of games. The interface above the console is the serial loader/charger. No word on the game source, but judging from his site, maybe he’s writing them all on his own.