The Nintendo Game Boy and its many permutations represent one of the most well-known and successful gaming platforms ever produced. There was a decades-long stretch of time where the most popular kid in the lunch room was the one who brought in their Game Boy so the rest of the class could huddle around and check out the latest Pokemon title.
But those days are long gone, and now these once-coveted handhelds can be had for a song on the second-hand market. Which makes it the perfect time to check out this project [kgsws] released recently that allows you to interface the Game Boy LCD with the ESP32 or the Raspberry Pi. In the most basic of applications, it lets you push video from your Linux computer out to the Game Boy LCD over WiFi. But as the video below illustrates, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
With the ESP32 wired between the handheld’s LCD and main PCB, the microcontroller can also act as a capture device using I2S camera mode. Compared to what ends up showing on the handheld’s LCD, the recorded gameplay [kgsws] shows off looks fantastic. Visuals are crisp and fluid, and naturally devoid of the Game Boy’s iconic (if slightly nauseating) greenish tint.
The project also includes the capability to control an array of Game Boy LCDs, which allows for some interesting possibilities. The image can be stretched to cover multiple displays, which [kgsws] demonstrates by playing a game on 3 x 3 grid of salvaged panels, but each LCD also can be controlled individually as is the case with the large digital clock seen above.
Whether you’re looking for a way to capture gameplay on the real hardware, or want to run RetroPie on a real Game Boy screen, we’re excited to see what folks come up with using this project.
Continue reading “ESP32 And Raspberry Pi Take Over Game Boy LCD”
Fans of [Ben Heck] know that he has a soft spot for pinball machines and his projects that revolve around that topic tend to be pretty epic. This is a good example. At a trade show he saw an extra-wide format LCD screen which he thought would be perfect on a pinball build. He found out it’s a special module made for attaching to your car’s sun visor. The problem is that it only takes composite-in and he wanted higher quality video than that offers. The solution: reverse engineer the LCD protocol and implement it in an FPGA.
This project is a soup to nuts demonstration of replacing electronics drivers; the skill is certainly not limited to LCD modules. He starts by disassembling the hardware to find what look like differential signaling lines. With that in mind he hit the Internet looking for common video protocols which will help him figure out what he’s looking for. A four-channel oscilloscope sniffs the signal as the unit shows a blue screen with red words “NO SIGNAL”. That pattern is easy to spot since the pixels are mostly repeated except when red letters need to be displayed. Turns out the protocol is much like VGA with front porch, blanking, etc.
With copious notes about the timings [Ben] switches over to working with a Cyclone III FPGA to replace the screen’s stock controller. The product claims 800×234 resolution but when driving it using those parameters it doesn’t fill the entire screen. A bit more tweaking and he discovers the display actually has 1024×310 pixels. Bonus!
It’s going to take us a bit more study to figure out exactly how he boiled down the sniffed data to his single color-coded protocol sheet. But that’s half the fun! If you need a few more resources to understand how those signals work, check out one of our other favorite FPGA-LCD hacks.
Continue reading “Reverse Engineer Then Drive LCD With FPGA”