Playing classic games, whether they are games from the golden age of arcades or simply games from consoles that are long out of production, tends to exist on a spectrum. At one end is grabbing a game’s ROM file, finding an emulator, and kludging together some controls on a keyboard and mouse with your average PC. At the other is meticulously restoring classic hardware for the “true” feel of what the game would have felt like when it was new. Towards the latter end is emulating the hardware with an FPGA which the open-source MiSTer project attempts to do. This build, though, adds ATX capabilities for the retrocomputing platform. Continue reading “Classic Gaming With FPGA And ATX”
Exploring The Cutting Edge Of Desktop ARM Hardware
While the x86 architecture certainly isn’t going away anytime soon, it seems that each year more and more of our computing is done on ARM processors. It started with our smartphones, spread into low-cost Chromebooks, and now Apple’s gone all-in with their M1/M2 chips. But so far we haven’t seen too much movement in the desktop space, a fact which has arguably slowed the development of ARM-compatible software and operating systems.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t options out there, and no, we don’t mean using a Raspberry Pi. [Wooty-B] has been documenting their efforts to switch over to a ARM desktop, which makes for fascinating reading even if you’re currently comfortable with your architecture choices. The key is the HoneyComb LX2K, a Mini-ITX ARM development board that offers enough expansion and raw power to meet most daily computing needs…assuming you’re willing to put in the effort. Continue reading “Exploring The Cutting Edge Of Desktop ARM Hardware”
3D Print An Entire PC Case
With laptops having become a commodity item and single-board computers having conquered the lower end for our community, building a PC for yourself is no longer the rite of passage that it once was; except perhaps if you are a gamer. But there is still plenty of fun to be had in selecting and assembling PC hardware, especially if as [makerunit] did, you design and 3D-print your own case.
This is no motherboard in an old pizza box, but instead a highly compact and well-designed receptacle for a reasonable-performance gaming machine with an ITX motherboard. The chassis holding all the parts sits inside a slide-on textured sleeve, and particular attention has been paid to air flow and cooling. The GPU card is a little limited by the size of the case and there’s no room at all for a conventional hard drive, so a PCIe SSD board takes that role.
We’d hazard the opinion that were this case cranked out by the likes of Apple it would be hailed as some kind of design masterpiece, such is its quality. It certainly shows that there’s so much more to building your own PC than the normal rectangular tower case.
Over the decades we’ve brought you so many PC cases, a recent-ish one that’s worth a look is this Lego Minecraft one for an Intel NUC motherboard.
Original Xbox Gets The Steam Overhaul
When Microsoft released the original Xbox, it deviated from the design of traditional game consoles in that it used several off-the-shelf computer components. The fact that Microsoft would want their game console to resemble a PC isn’t particularly surprising in hindsight, but we doubt anyone at Redmond ever imagined folks like [Ryan Walmsley] would be cramming in full-fledged computers nearly 20 years later.
[Ryan] tells us he was looking for a way to play some older games from the early 2000s, and thought it was a good opportunity to put together a quiet set-top computer. The final hardware is more than capable of running older titles, and can even be used with Steam Link to stream newer content from his primary gaming computer.
Even with a diminutive Gigabyte GA-H81N Mini ITX motherboard, things are pretty tight inside the Xbox. Fairly tight wire management was required to prevent any airflow obstructions, especially since [Ryan] decided to put the system’s 80 watt laptop-style power supply inside the case. While this made the build a bit more complicated, it does make the final product a lot cleaner and makes it feel just that much more like a proper game console.
Benchmarks show the machine has decent performance, all things considered. [Ryan] says there are some potential upgrades down the line, but as with most gaming PC builds, cost is the limiting factor. Until he’s ready to spend the cash on revamping the internals, he says that streaming newer games over the the network has been working great.
For those looking for a slightly more modern alternative to this project, we’ve also seen a gaming PC shoehorned into an Xbox 360 with similarly impressive results.
An OpenSCAD Mini-ITX Computer Case
We’re no strangers to 3D printed enclosures here at Hackaday. From the plethora of printed Raspberry Pi cases out there to custom enclosures for electronic projects, small plastic boxes turn out to be an excellent application for desktop 3D printing. But as printers get bigger and filament gets cheaper, those little boxes don’t always need to be so little. We aren’t talking about running off boxes for your sneaker collection either, if you’ve got the time and the print volume, you could whip up an enclosure for your PC.
[Nirav Patel] writes in to share his impressive 3D printed Mini-ITX computer case project, which would be a neat enough trick in its own right, but he took the concept one step farther and made it a parametric design in OpenSCAD. This allows the user to input their particular hardware configuration and receive STL files for a bespoke case. The list of supported hardware isn’t that long yet, but with the OpenSCAD code up on GitHub and released under the BSD license, hopefully the community can improve on that as time goes on.
To keep things simple (and strong), [Nirav] implemented what he refers to as a “bucket” design. The majority of the case is a single print, which does take a long time (just shy of 40 hours on his Prusa i3 MK3), but nearly eliminates any post-printing assembly. Only the optional feet and the lid need to be printed separately. Threaded inserts are used throughout the design for mounting hardware, so you don’t run the risk of blowing out the printed holes during hardware changes or upgrades.
A particularly neat feature, and a testament to the power of OpenSCAD, is the fact that the case’s internal volume is calculated and embossed into the side of the design. Does this have any practical purpose? Not exactly, but [Nirav] thought it would be appealing to the Mini-ITX case modding community which apparently measures their accomplishments in liters of volume.
We’ve seen a 3D printed computer case before, but it used acrylic sheets and couldn’t be made without a large format printer. There’s something to be said for a project that can be completed on the hacker community’s favorite printer.
PC In An SNES Case Is A Weirdly Perfect Fit
For better or for worse, a considerable number of the projects we’ve seen here at Hackaday can be accurately summarized as: “Raspberry Pi put into something.” Which is hardly a surprise, the Pi is so tiny that it perfectly lends itself to getting grafted into unsuspecting pieces of consumer tech. But we see far fewer projects that manage to do the same trick with proper x86 PC hardware, but that’s not much of a surprise either given how much larger a motherboard and its components are.
So this PC built into a Super Nintendo case by [NoshBar] is something of a double rarity. Not only does it ditch the plodding Raspberry Pi for a Mini-ITX Intel i5 computer, but it manages to fit it all in so effortlessly that you might think the PAL SNES case was designed by a time traveler for this express purpose. The original power switch and status LED are functional, and you can even pop open the cart slot for some additional airflow.
[NoshBar] started by grinding off all the protruding bits on the inside of the SNES case with a Dremel, and then pushed some bolts through the bottom to serve as mounting posts for the ASUS H110T motherboard. With a low profile Noctua CPU cooler mounted on top, it fits perfectly within the console’s case. There was even enough room inside to add in a modified laptop charger to serve as the power supply.
To round out the build, [NoshBar] managed to get the original power slider on the top of the console to turn the PC on and off by gluing a spring-loaded button onto the side of the CPU cooler. In another fantastic stroke of luck, it lined up almost perfectly with where the power switch was on the original SNES board. Finally, the controller ports have been wired up as USB, complete with an adapter dongle.
[NoshBar] tells us the inspiration for sending this one in was the Xbox-turned-PC we recently covered, which readers might recall fought back quite a bit harder during its conversion.
A Mini-ITX PDP-11
The PDP-11 is perhaps the most important computer in history. This was the king of all minicomputers, and once you get past the amazing front panels of the 11/20, 11/40, and 11/70, you’ll find PDP-11s everywhere. Heathkit sold one. It was the smallest computer that could run Unix. There were desktop versions sold as DEC Professionals. I have been told Ticketmaster — the entire backend of all event ticket sales in the United States — still runs on PDP-11s.
One of the interesting bits of the PDP-11 is the miniaturization that happened over the course of its development. Over time, the Unibus processor cards of the earlier models were shrunk down into a single chip. This PDP-on-a-chip was then cloned by the Soviets, and like most vintage Eastern European electronics, they’re all readily available on eBay.
For his Hackaday Prize entry, [SHAOS] is taking one of these chips and turning it into a modern machine. The PDPii is a project to bring the PDP-11 back to life in the form of an Open Source motherboard with a Mini-ITX motherboard. Is it game-changing? No, not really; you could buy a desktop PDP-11 thirty years ago. This project, though, is taking new old stock chips you can buy for ten dollars and turning it into something resembling a modern system. Finally, Ticketmaster can upgrade.
The design of this project doesn’t quite meet the spec for the Mini-ITX form factor; it’s based off the RC2014 backplane Z80 computer, but desktop computer cases are cheap, as are power supplies, and I’m sure someone out there knows how to fit an eight inch floppy in a five and a quarter inch hole.
The key feature for this Mini-ITX backplane PDP-11 is a redesign of the Q-bus found in later PDPs to something that’s a bit smaller, a bit cheaper to manufacture, and still has all the relevant pins accessible. With some reconfiguring of the baroque DEC standards, [SHAOS] came up with the Bread-Board Friendly Q-bus Extended, or BBQ-Bus+. The next step for this project is gathering up a few PDP-11 compatible Russian КР1801ВМ2 CPUs and going to town on the architecture of what is probably the most replicated computer design ever.