A green highlight emphasizes a cut-down XBox 360 motherboard on top of an intact board. The cut-down board is less than half the size of the intact one.

Shrinking The XBox 360

One of the coolest things in the retro gaming scene is making desktop consoles into portables. [Millomaker] is building an XBox 360 handheld, and the first step is shrinking the console’s motherboard.

Most 360 portables up to this point have been laptop-shaped instead of something handheld, but that hasn’t stopped people from trying to miniaturize the console further. [Millomaker]’s cut seems to be the most successful so far, shrinking the device’s motherboard down to the size of its old competitor, the Wii.

In the video (in French with available auto-translation) below the break, you can get the full harrowing journey during which several 360s sacrificed their motherboards for the cause despite [Millomaker]’s meticulous testing between component removals. This is truly an awesome mod, and we’re glad that the video shows not only the successes, but also the missteps on the way. It wouldn’t really be a hack if it was smooth sailing, would it?

For more fun with handhelds, check out the Sprig Open Source Handheld, a Portable PS2, or this Handheld Linux Computer.

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Front and back of a handheld 6502 computer with bubble LED displays

The Pocket265 Is A Pocket-Sized 6502 Single-Board Computer

Single-board computers have been around ever since microprocessors became affordable in the 1970s and never went away. Today we have Raspberry Pis and LattePandas, while back in the ’70s and ’80s there were the Ferguson Big Board, the KIM-1 and a whole array of Intel SDK boards. Although functionally similar to their modern counterparts with a CPU, RAM, ROM and some basic peripherals, the old boards were huge compared to today’s tiny platforms and typically required a rather beefy power supply to operate.

It doesn’t have to be that way though, as [Aleksander] shows with the Pocket265: a handheld 6502 single-board computer somewhat reminiscent of the famous KIM-1. Like that classic machine, it’s got a hexadecimal keypad to enter programs using machine code and a row of LED displays to show the programs’ output. Unlike the KIM, the Pocket265 is small enough to hold in one hand and uses bubble LED displays, which make it look more like a programmable calculator from the 1970s. It comes with a lithium battery that makes it truly portable, as well as a sleek 3D printed case to make it more comfortable to hold than a bare circuit board.

The single ROM chip contains a monitor program that runs the basic user interface. It also makes programming a bit less tedious by implementing a number of system calls to handle things like user input and display output. A serial EEPROM enables local data storage, while a UART with a USB interface enables data transfer to other computers. If you’re interested in building and programming such a machine yourself, [Aleksander] helpfully provides code examples as well as full hardware documentation on his GitHub page.

The 6502 remains a firm favorite among hardware hackers: some projects we recently featured with this CPU include one beautifully made machine, this easy-to-build single-board computer and this huge breadboard-based contraption. Looking for something smaller? Try this tidy little board or this 6502 coupled to an FPGA.

A small plastic case with an OLED screen showing a side-scrolling game

Game & Light Brings Video Games To Your Keychain

If you’re old enough to remember the 1990s, you might recall the sheer variety of portable gaming platforms that were around in those days. There was of course the ubiquitous hand-held Game Boy, and if you preferred something larger you could buy a Sega Game Gear or an Atari Lynx. But you could also go smaller with tiny LCD games like Nintendo’s Game and Watch series, with some versions literally the size of a wristwatch.

With all of these having gone the way of the dodo, we’re happy to see that [grossofabian] kept the tiny game world alive by designing the Game & Light: a tiny hand-held games platform with an OLED screen. It’s small enough to attach to your keychain and comes with an LED to act as a mini flashlight. But of course the main feature is the included video game: currently it comes with LEDboy Adventures, a side-scrolling platformer similar to Google’s T-Rex Game. A USB port can be used to recharge the device as well as to upload new games.

The Game & Light is housed in a 3D printed case and powered by a lithium-ion capacitor that can store enough charge for around 40 minutes of play time. The CPU is an ATtiny402 eight-pin microcontroller with 4 kB of flash, which is just enough to store the entire LEDboy game. Although currently only one game is available, the system is fully programmable and open sourced, so anyone who feels up to the task can help develop new games for the platform.

If you like keychain-sized games, you’re in luck: we recently featured the solar-powered but otherwise similar RunTinyRun. A bit longer ago, creative hackers even managed to squeeze entire Game Boys into tiny packages.

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Tiny Mario Clone On A Tiny Processor

We’ve become used to seeing retro games running on commodity microcontrollers where once they would have required the bleeding-edge console hardware of their day. [Duncan]’s Mario clone takes the genre a little further, using not a processor with plenty of pins for peripherals, but instead the humble ATtiny85. Its eight pins drive two OLED displays, and accept input from the buttons of a cheap Nintendo-like controller.

The write-up is split between software and hardware sections, with all the software itself available from a GitHub repository. He’s bit-banging the i2C for the displays for an impressive turn of speed, and the ATtiny’s lack of pins is addressed by clever use of resistive dividers to present a different voltage for each button pressed. With a truth table of voltages he’s even able to detect multiple simultaneous button presses. Music is achieved with the chip’s limited resources by storing the sounds in EEPROM, and clocked it at 16 MHz for smooth gameplay.

The whole is mounted inside the shell of the controller, with its USB guts removed and replaced by a smart custom PCB. An unexpected problem with ground plane fill caused a temporary roadblock reading the buttons, but the finished product is a very Nintendo-like experience. We like it.

GBA Consolizer Kit RetroRGB

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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