One Arduino Handheld To Rule Them All

There’s nothing quite as annoying as duplicated effort. Having to jump through the same hoops over and over again is a perfect way to burn yourself out, and might even keep you from tackling the project that’s been floating around in the back of your mind. [Alain Mauer] found that he’d build enough Arduino gadgets that were similar enough he could save himself some time by creating a standardized piece of hardware that he can load his code du jour on.

He’s come to call this device the Arduino Nano QP (which stands for Quick Project), and now it’s part of the 2019 Hackaday Prize. [Alain] doesn’t promise that it’s the perfect fit for everything, but estimates around 85% of the simple Arduino projects that he’s come up with could be realized on QP. This is thanks to the screw terminals on the bottom of the device which let you easily hook up any hardware that’s not already on the board.

The QP board itself has the ubiquitous 16×2 character LCD display (complete with contrast control trimmer), seven tactile buttons arranged in a vaguely Game Boy style layout, and of course a spot to solder on your Arduino Nano. All of which is protected by a very slick laser cut acrylic case, complete with retained buttons and etched labels.

We’ve seen no shortage of handheld Arduino devices, but we have to admit, something about the utilitarian nature of this one has us intrigued. We wouldn’t mind having one of these laying around the lab next time we want to do a quick test.

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Arduboy Goes Thin And Flexible For Portable Gaming

We all have a gaming system in our pocket or purse and some of us are probably reading on it right now. That pocket space is valuable so we have to budget what we keep in there and adding another gaming system is not in the cards, if it takes up too much space. [Kevin Bates] budgeted the smallest bit of pocket real estate for his full-size Arduboy clone, Arduflexboy. It is thin and conforms to his pocket because the custom PCB uses a flexible substrate and he has done away with the traditional tactile buttons.

Won’t a flexible system be hard to play? Yes. [Kevin] said it himself, and while we don’t disagree, a functional Arduboy on a flexible circuit makes up for practicality by being a neat manufacturing demonstration. This falls under the because-I-can category but the thought that went into it is also evident. All the components mount opposite the screen so it looks clean from the front and the components will not be subject to as much flexing and the inputs are in the same place as a traditional Arduboy.

cost = low, practicality = extremely low, customer service problems = high

     ~[Kevin Bates]

These flexible circuit boards use a polyimide substrate, the same stuff as Kapton tape, and ordering boards is getting cheaper so we can expect to see more of them popping up. Did we mention that we currently have a contest for flexible circuits? We have prizes that will make you sing, just for publishing your flex PCB concept.

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The Tiniest RetroPie

The RetroPie project is a software suite for the Raspberry Pi that allows the user to easily play classic video games through emulators. It’s been around for a while now, so it’s relatively trivial to get this set up with a basic controller and video output. That means that the race is on for novel ways of implementing a RetroPie, which [Christian] has taken as a sort of challenge, building the tiniest RetroPie he possibly could.

The constraints he set for himself were to get the project in at under 100 mm. For that he used a Pi Zero loaded with the RetroPie software and paired it with a 1.44″ screen. There’s a tiny LiPo battery hidden in there, as well as a small audio amplifier. Almost everything else is 3D printed including the case, the D-pad, and the buttons. The entire build is available on Thingiverse as well if you’d like to roll out your own.

While this might be the smallest RetroPie we’ve seen, there are still some honorable mentions. There’s one other handheld we’ve seen with more modest dimensions, and another one was crammed into an Altoids tin with a clamshell screen. It’s an exciting time to be alive!

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Stock Looking PSP Hides A Raspberry Pi Zero

We don’t see that many PSP hacks around these parts, perhaps because the system never attained the same sort of generational following that Nintendo’s Game Boy line obtained during its heyday. Which is a shame, as it’s really a rather nice system with plenty of hacking potential. Its big size makes it a bit easier to graft new hardware into, the controls are great, and there’s no shortage of them on the second-hand market.

Hopefully, projects like this incredible “PiSP” from [Drygol] will inspire more hackers to take a second look at Sony’s valiant attempt at dethroning Nintendo as the portable king. With his usual attention to detail, he managed to replace the PSP’s original internals with a Pi Zero running RetroPie, while keeping the outside of the system looking almost perfectly stock. It wasn’t exactly a walk in the park, but we’d say the end definitely justifies the means.

The first half of the project was relatively painless. [Drygol] stripped out all the original internals and installed a new LCD which fit so well it looks like the thing was made for the PSP. He then added a USB Li-ion charger board (complete with “light pipe” made out of 3D printer filament), and an audio board to get sound out of the usually mute Pi Zero. He had some problems getting everything to fit inside of the case. The solution was using flat lithium batteries from an old Nokia cell phone to slim things down just enough to close up the PSP’s case with some magnets.

What ended up being the hardest part of the build was getting the original controls working. [Dyrgol] wanted to use the original ZIF connector on the PSP’s motherboard so he wouldn’t have to modify the stock ribbon cable. But it was one of those things that was easier said than done. Cutting out the section of PCB with the connector on it was no problem, but it took a steady hand and a USB microscope to solder all the wires to its traces. But the end result is definitely a nice touch and makes for a cleaner installation.

We’ve covered the exciting world of PSP homebrew, and even DIY batteries built to address the lack of original hardware, but it’s been fairly quiet for the last few years. Here’s hoping this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Sony’s slick handheld on these pages.

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It Looks Like A Nintendo, But It’s Running A Pi: A Gamer’s Long-Sought Dream Handheld

[Christopher Foote] didn’t play quite as many games as he wanted to as a child. After years of catching up using the RetroPie and the PiGRRL 2, it was when he first picked up a Switch’s joy-cons that inspiration struck. Behold: the PiSwitch!

Realizing they operated on Bluetooth tech, [Foote] spent a fair chunk of time getting the joy-cons to properly pair to the Raspberry Pi 3 and function as one controller. Once done, he relied on Linux Joystick Mapper to manage the keybindings with some extra legwork besides to get the analog sticks working properly.

To make this console mobile, he’s packed a 6600mAh battery and Adafruit Powerboost 1000c into the device, added a second headphone jack and speaker for commuting and home enjoyment, and a Pi V2 camera module. A 3D printed case, encapsulating these components and a seven-inch touchscreen, also allows the joy-cons to be detached — though he plans on updating its design in the future.

The PiSwitch boots into a custom UI  that lets you select different services — RetroPie, Kodi, Debian, and the terminal — while the joy-cons seamlessly function together or individually regardless of the activity. Check out the quick intro tour for this project after the break!

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Emulating Handheld History

There’s a certain class of hardware only millennials will cherish. Those cheap ‘LCD Video Games’ from Tiger Electronics were sold in the toy aisle of your old department store. There was an MC Hammer video game. There was a Stargate video game. There was a Back To The Future video game. All of these used the same plastic enclosure, all of them had Up, Down, Left, Right, and two extra buttons, and all of them used a custom liquid crystal display. All of them were just slightly disappointing.

Now, there’s an effort to digitize and preserve these video games on archive.org, along with every other variety of ancient handheld and battery powered video game from ages past.

Double Dragon. You remember this, don’t you?

This is an effort from volunteers of the MAME team, who are now in the process of bringing these ‘LCD Video Games’ to the Internet Archive. Unlike other games which are just bits and bytes along with a few other relatively easily-digitized manuals and Peril Sensitive Sunglasses, preserving these games requires a complete teardown of the device. These are custom LCDs, after all. [Sean Riddle] and [hap] have been busy tearing apart these LCDs, vectorizing the segments (the game The Shadow is seen above), and preserving the art behind the LCD. It’s an immense amount of work, but the process has been refined somewhat over the years.

Some of these games, and some other earlier games featuring VFD and LED displays, are now hosted on the Internet Archive for anyone to play in a browser. The Handheld History collection joins the rest of the emulated games on the archive, with the hope they’ll be preserved for years to come.

Teardown: “The Oregon Trail” Handheld

If you were a school-age child in the 1980’s or 1990’s, you almost certainly played The Oregon Trail. Thanks to its vaguely educational nature, it was a staple of school computers until the early 2000’s, creating generations of fans. Now that those fans are old enough to have disposable incomes, we are naturally seeing a resurgence of The Oregon Trail merchandise to capitalize on one of humanity’s greatest weaknesses: nostalgia.

Enter the Target-exclusive The Oregon Trail handheld game. Priced at $24.99 USD and designed to look like the classic beige-box computers that everyone of a certain age remembers from “Computer Class”, it allows you to experience all the thrills of dying from dysentery on the go. Naturally there have been versions of the game for mobile devices in the past, but how is that going to help you when you want to make your peers at the coffee shop jealous?

But we’re not here to pass judgement on those who hold a special place for The Oregon Trail in their hearts. Surely, there’s worse things you could geek-out on than interactive early American history. No, you’re reading this post because somebody has put out a handheld PC-looking game system, complete with a simplified keyboard and you want to know what’s inside it. If there was ever a cheap game system that was begging to be infused with a Raspberry Pi and some retro PC games, this thing is it. Continue reading “Teardown: “The Oregon Trail” Handheld”