Game Boy Replica Built In Brass

Nintendo’s Game Boy is legendary for being the meat in the handheld gaming revolution, as well as being nigh-on indestructible whether in the custody of children or soldiers in the Gulf War. However, [Jiri] decided to see if he could whip up a tribute of his own, in brass instead of plastic.

The hardware is based on the Odroid GO emulator firmware for the ESP32, running on a 2.2″ color TFT screen. It’s a great base for a custom build, which avoids gutting any precious classic hardware. It’s then assembled behind front plate milled out of brass, with delicate point-to-point brass wires giving it an artistic circuit sculpture look. The brass did prove difficult to work with at times, acting as a heat sink which prevented easy soldering of the standoffs in place. To get around this, [Jiri] used a hotplate to heat the plate from below, keeping it warm enough so that a hand iron could do the job.

The final result is a fun Game Boy emulator in a stylish case – though one you shouldn’t throw in a back pack lest it short out the exposed conductors. It would make a great gift for any lifelong Nintendo fan. [Jiri] is no strange to circuit sculpture, as we well know – we’ve featured his tools and methods before. Video after the break.

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The Game Boy Camera, Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Pixels

Never underestimate the power of nostalgia. In an age when there are more megapixels stuffed in the sensor of a smartphone camera than the average computer display can even represent, why would jagged images from a 20-year-old grayscale camera with pixels numbering in the thousands still grab attention? Maybe what’s old is new again, and the coolness factor of novelty is something that can’t be quantified.

The surprise I had last Monday when I saw my Twitter notifications is maybe only second to the feeling I had when I was invited to become a Hackaday contributor. I’d made a very simple web app which mimics a Game Boy Camera using the camera from your phone or desktop, and it got picked up by people so much that I’m amazed my web host is still holding. Let’s look at why something seemingly so simple gained so much traction.

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Game Boy Plays Forever

For those of us old enough to experience it first hand, the original Game Boy was pretty incredible, but did have one major downside: battery consumption. In the 90s rechargeable batteries weren’t common, which led to most of us playing our handhelds beside power outlets. Some modern takes on the classic Game Boy address these concerns with modern hardware, but this group from the Delft University of Technology and Northwestern has created a Game Boy clone that doesn’t need any batteries at all, even though it can play games indefinitely.

This build was a proof-of-concept for something called “intermittent computing” which allows a computer to remain in a state of processing limbo until it gets enough energy to perform the next computation. The Game Boy clone, fully compatible with the original Game Boy hardware, is equipped with many tiny solar panels which can harvest energy and is able to halt itself and store its state in nonvolatile memory if it detects that there isn’t enough energy available to continue. This means that Super Mario Land isn’t exactly playable, but other games that aren’t as action-packed can be enjoyed with very little impact in gameplay.

The researchers note that it’ll be a long time before their energy-aware platform becomes commonplace in devices and replaces batteries, but they do think that internet-connected devices that don’t need to be constantly running or powered up would be a good start. There are already some low-powered options available that can keep their displays active when everything else is off, so hopefully we will see even more energy-efficient options in the near future.

Thanks to [Sascho] for the tip!

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WiiBoy Color Is Exactly What It Sounds Like

Anyone can go out and buy a handheld console, and if you want to be the cool kid on the school bus, you can always ask your parents to take you out to get one. But if you want real street cred that lasts through your adult years, you’ve gotta put something together yourself. [GingerOfMods] has done just that with the Wiiboy Color. 

Yes, it’s another home-console-turned-portable, and it’s perfomed with exquisite execution. The Wii motherboard is cut and sliced to the absolute bare minimum, as the aim was to build the entire system to the rough form factor of the original Game Boy Color. Custom PCBs were then used to link the chopped ‘board to peripherals, such as the USB drive used to load games and the circuitry from a Gamecube controller. The screen is a beautiful looking 3.5″ IPS LCD, running at 480p and originally intended for use as an automotive backup camera. Battery life is around 2-3 hours, with a USB-C port included for easy charging. More details are included on the forum build log.

It’s a tidy build, and the 3D printed case, Switch joysticks and DS Lite buttons give it a near-production quality finish. [GingerOfMods] intends to build more for commissions, though expect a hefty price tag given the labor and custom work involved. We’ve seen other portable Wiis before too, like this tightly-packed Kapton-heavy build. Video after the break.

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RetroPlug Syncs Gameboy Emulators With Your DAW For Chiptunes Overload

The Gameboy is one of the biggest platforms in the chiptune scene. While it’s possible to play a show with a single handheld, many artists choose to use two or even more to fatten their sound and rock the crowd. To ease the workflow of creating songs for such a setup, [tommitytom] created Retroplug and you can see him walk through the features in the demo video after the break.

Retroplug is a VST wrapper for the Sameboy Gameboy emulator. This makes it possible to run multiple emulated Gameboy instances within digital audio software like Ableton or Fruityloops. Rather than having to juggle multiple 30-year old Gameboys and the associated batteries and link cables, instead, it can all be done within a hosted VST window.

Presently, the software works only with 64-bit Windows and VST2, however source is available for those eager to peek under the hood. It fully implements MIDI support for mGB, and works well with LSDJ and Arduinoboy setups. *.sav files are created for each emulated instance too, so when you’re done composing, you can throw your songs onto real hardware when you go out and perform!

We see no shortage of fresh projects, from Genesis chiptune players to MIDI control for Gameboys.  As its adherents always say, chiptune will never die. We’d love to see a similar project done with a C64 emulator, NES, or even the Genesis. If you happen to put it goether, drop us a line!

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The Game Boy As A Midi Synthesiser

In the world of chiptune music there are many platforms to choose from, each with their own special flavour tot heir sound. The Game Boy has a particular following, but it differs from some of its contemporary platforms in having a custom sound chip built into the same silicon as its processor. You can’t crank open a Game Boy and lift out the sound chip for your own synth project, instead you must talk to it through the Game Boy’s Z80 processor. This is something [Adil Soubki] knows well, as he’s completed a project that turns the handheld console into a MIDI synthesiser.

A Game Boy was designed to play games and not as a developer’s toy, so it doesn’t exactly roll out the red carpet for the hacker. He’s got under the console’s skin by mapping a section of its memory address map to the pins on a Teensy microcontroller board, and running some Game Boy code that reads the vaues there and uses them to configure the sound hardware. The Teensy handles the translation between MIDI and these byte values, turning the whole into a MIDI synthesiser. It’s a succesful technique, as can be seen in the video below the break. Best of all, the code is available, so you can have a go for yourself.

We’ve featured Game Boy synths before here at Hackaday, but usually they have been of the more conventional variety.

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Comparing Bare Silicon On Two Game Boy Audio Chips

We always look forward to a new blog post by [Ken Shirriff] and this latest one didn’t cure us of that. His topic this time? Comparing two Game Boy audio chips. People have noticed before that the Game Boy Color sounds very different than a classic Game Boy, and he wanted to find out why. If you know his work, you won’t be surprised to find out the comparison included stripping the die out of the IC packaging.

[Ken’s] explanation of how transistors, resistors, and capacitors appear on the die are helpfully illustrated with photomicrographs. He points out how resistors are notoriously hard to build accurately on a production IC. Many differences can affect the absolute value, so designs try not to count on exact values or, if they do, resort to things like laser trimming or other tricks.

Capacitors, however, are different. The exact value of a capacitor may be hard to guess beforehand, but the ratio of two or more capacitor values on the same chip will be very precise. This is because the dielectric — the oxide layer of the chip — will be very uniform and the photographic process controls the planar area of the capacitor plates with great precision.

We’ve decapsulated chips before, and we have to say that if you are just starting to look at chips at the die level, these big chips with bipolar transistors are much easier to deal with than the fine and dense geometries you’d find even in something like a CPU from the 1980s.

We always enjoy checking in with [Ken]. Sometime’s he’s taking apart nuclear missiles. Sometimes he is repairing an old computer. But it is always interesting.