If you didn’t grow up clutching Nintendo’s original DMG-01 Game Boy, it might difficult to see the appeal in 2023. It had the ergonomics of a brick, the system’s unlit LCD screen utilized a somewhat nauseating green color palette, and when compared to its contemporary competition like the Sega Game Gear or Atari Lynx, it would certainly appear to be the inferior platform. But despite its faults there was just something magical about the machine, and those who have a soft spot for the iconic handheld are always eager to relive those glory days.
When we last checked in with [Bucket Mouse], he had just finished cramming a Game Boy Advance (GBA) SP motherboard into the body of the iconic Game Boy DMG-01, complete with an aftermarket IPS display. Unfortunately, after a few weeks of using the system, he ran into a few issues that sent him back to the drawing board.
This time, he’s revamped Nintendo’s classic handheld with the internals from its successor, the Game Boy Color (GBC). Obviously that means this new build can’t play any GBA titles, but that was never actually the goal in the first place. It might seem obvious in hindsight, but owing to their general similarity, it ended up being far easier to fit the GBC hardware into the Game Boy’s shell. Though we still wouldn’t call this an “easy” swap by any stretch of the imagination…
Whether you want to follow his footsteps towards portable gaming bliss or just want to live vicariously through his soldering iron, [Bucket Mouse] has done an absolutely phenomenal job of documenting this build. While he cautions the write-up isn’t designed to be a step by step instructional piece, there’s an incredible wealth of information here for others looking to perform similar modifications.
The build involved removing much of the original Game Boy’s connectors and controls, such as the volume wheel, Link Port, and even headphone jack, and grafting them onto a GBC motherboard that’s been physically trimmed down. At a high level it’s not unlike the trimmed Wii portables we’ve seen, but made much easier due to the fact the GBC only used a two-layer PCB. It also helps that [Bucket Mouse] has once again used an aftermarket IPS display, as that meant he could literally cut off the LCD driver section of the GBC motherboard. Of course there have also been several hardware additions, such as a new audio amplifier, power regulation system, LiPo charger, and 2000 mAh battery.
There’s a lot of fantastic details on this one, so if you’re remotely interested in what made the Game Boy and its successors tick, we’d highly recommend taking the time to read through this handheld hacking tour de force. His previous build is also more than worthy of some close study, even if it ended up being a bit ungainly in practice.
The Game Boy DMG-01 is about as iconic as a piece of consumer electronics can get, but let’s be honest, it hasn’t exactly aged well. While there’s certainly a number of games for the system that are still as entertaining in 2021 as they were in the 80s and 90s, the hardware itself is another story entirely. Having to squint at the unlit display, with its somewhat nauseating green tint, certainly takes away from the experience of hunting down Pokémon.
Now on the surface, this might seem like a relatively simple project. After all, the GBA SP was much smaller than its predecessors, so there should be plenty of room inside the relatively cavernous DMG-01 case for the transplanted hardware. But [The Poor Student Hobbyist] made things quite a bit harder on himself by deciding early on that there would be no external signs that the Game Boy had been modified; beyond the wildly improved screen, anyway.
That meant deleting the GBA’s shoulder buttons, though since the goal was always to play older games that predated their addition to the system, that wasn’t really a problem. The GBA’s larger and wider screen is still intact, albeit hidden behind the Game Boy’s original bezel. It turns out the image isn’t exactly centered on the physical display, so [The Poor Student Hobbyist] came up with a 3D printed adapter to mount it with a slight offset. The adapter also allows the small tactile switch that controls the screen brightness to be mounted where the “Contrast” wheel used to go.
An incredible amount of thought and effort went into making the final result look as close to stock as possible, and luckily for us, [The Poor Student Hobbyist] did a phenomenal job of documenting it for others who might want to make similar modifications. Even if you’re not in the market for a rejuvenated Game Boy, it’s worth browsing through the build log to marvel at the passion that went into this project.
When you think about singer-songwriters, the name Bob Dylan might come to your mind. You might think about Jeff Buckley, you might think about Hank Williams, Springsteen, David Bowie, or Prince. You’d be wrong. The greatest singer-songwriter of all time is Tiny Tim, the guy who looks like Weird Al traveled in time and did a cameo in Baker-era Doctor Who. Tiny Tim had the voice of an angel, because Mammon and Belial were angels too, I guess. Tiny Tim is also the inspiration behind the current resurgence of the ukulele, the one thing keeping the stringed instrument industry alive today.
The first goal of this project was to build a functional ukulele out of a Game Boy case. This was simple enough — the neck was 3D printed, the bridge was screwed in, and the case of the Game Boy was reinforced with some PCB material. So far, this is nothing new; you can get a model for a 3D printed ukulele on Thingiverse.
The second goal of this project was to make this ukulele into a chiptune machine. This means designing a pickup for the strings, and since these are nylon you’re not going to do a magnetic pickup on a ukulele. The first solution was an IR reflectance sensor, which worked but had too high of a power draw. The better solution was a standard flex pressure sensor, which worked well enough. This signal is distorted into a square wave that gives a surprisingly Game Boy-like sound. You can check out the video demo below.