Modded GBA SP Does Its Best Switch Impression

The whole idea behind the Nintendo Switch is that the system isn’t just a handheld, but can be converted into a more traditional home game console when placed into its dock. The wireless controllers even pop off the sides so you can kick back on the couch and enjoy your big-screen gaming from a distance. Judging by how many units Nintendo has sold of their latest system, it’s clearly a winning combination.

Which is probably why [Tito] of Macho Nacho and his friend [Kyle Brinkerhoff] decided to recreate some of the Switch’s core features using one of Nintendo’s older handhelds, the Game Boy Advance SP. There was already a video-out mod kit on the market for the GBA SP that would let them play games on the TV, but the team still had to figure out how to make a dock for the 18 year old handheld, plus get it working with the official Switch Joy-Cons.

Wiring the custom PCB into the GBA SP

Lucky, this crew is no stranger to developing impressive GBA SP add-ons. Last month they took the wraps off of an expanded 3D printed rear panel for the system that housed a number of upgrades, such as an expanded battery pack and support for Bluetooth audio.

This mod uses a similarly expanded “trunk” for the GBA, but this time it’s to hold the rails the Joy-Cons mount to, as well as the electronics required to get the modern controllers talking to the Game Boy. Namely, a Raspberry Pi Zero and a custom PCB designed by [Kyle] that uses a dozen transistors to pull the system’s control inputs low when the Pi’s GPIO pins go high.

[Tito] doesn’t seem to mention it in the video below, but we’re assuming the dock component of this project is just a 3D printed box with a connector sticking up for the GBA SP’s link cable port, since that’s where the TV-out modification outputs its video. Incidentally that means you don’t really need the dock itself, but it certainly looks cool.

At the end of the video [Tito] goes over a few of the rough edges of the current build, including the rather lengthy pairing process to get the Joy-Cons talking to the Raspberry Pi. But ultimately, he says that not only does the system feel good in his hands, but playing those classic games on the big screen has been a nice change of pace.

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Open-DIP Surgery Cuts Retro Chips Down To Size

At least by today’s standards, some of the early chips were really, really big. They may have been revolutionary and they certainly did shrink the size of electronic devices, but integrating a 40-pin DIP into a modern design can be problematic. The solution: cut off all the extra plastic and just work with the die within.

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How To Play Doom – And More – On An NES

Doom was a breakthrough game for its time, and became so popular that now it’s essentially the “Banana For Scale” of hardware hacking. Doom has been ported to countless devices, most of which have enough processing ability to run the game natively. Recently, this lineup of Doom-compatible devices expanded to include the NES even though the system definitely doesn’t have enough capability to run it without special help. And if you want your own Doom NES cartridge, this video will show you how to build it.

We featured the original build from [TheRasteri] a while back which goes into details about how it’s possible to run such a resource-intensive game on a comparatively weak system. You just have to enter the cheat code “RASPI”. After all the heavy lifting is done, it’s time to put it into a realistic-looking cartridge.

To get everything to fit in the donor cartridge, first the ICs in the cartridge were removed (except the lockout IC) and replaced with custom ROM chips. Some modifications to the original board have to be soldered together as well, since the new chips’ pinouts don’t match perfectly. Then, most of the pin headers on the Raspberry Pi and the supporting hardware have to be removed and soldered together. Then, [TheRasteri] checks to make sure that all this extra hardware doesn’t draw too much power from the NES and overheat it.

The original project was impressive on its own, but with the Doom cartridge completed this really makes it the perfect NES hack, and also opens up the door for a lot of other custom games, including things like Mario64.

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Micro-Sized Flex For Commercial Quality Bodging

We love watching the creativity unleashed by the democratization of once-exotic technologies. The casualness by which one can order a cheap, small run of PCBs has unlocked a flood of fine pitch components and projects which look commercial quality even with a total build volume of one. Now the once mythical flex PCB has been falling from it’s stratospheric pricing and with OSHPark’s offering it feels like we’re at the inflection point. [qwertymodo] leveraged this by creating a beautifully twisted flex to add link port support to the Super Game Boy

In the mid-90’s Nintendo released the Super Game Boy, a cartridge for the SNES which allowed you to play Game Boy games on the big screen. Each cartridge was in fact an entire Game Boy with the appropriate hardware to present it in a way the host console could interface with, but missing some of the hardware a standalone Game Boy would include like a link port to connect it to another system. This mod fixes this limitation by bridging the correct pins out from the CPU to a breakout board which includes the link port connector. For general background on what’s going on here, check out [Brian]’s article from April describing a different mod [qwertymodo] executed to the same system.

What’s fascinating is how elegant the mod is. Using a a flex here to create a completely custom, strangely shaped, one-of-a-kind adapter for this random IC, in low volume is an awesome example of the use of advanced manufacturing techniques to take our hacks to the next level. It reminds us a little of the method [Scotty] used to add the headphone jack to his iPhone 7 back in 2017. At the time that seemed like a technology only available to hackers who could speak a little Mandarin and lived in Shenzhen.

Detailed information on this hack is a little spread out. There is slightly more info in these tweets, and if you have a Super Game Boy crying out for a link port the adapter flexes are sometimes available here. Look beyond the break to see what the mod originally looked like sans-flex.

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Nerf Blaster Goes Next-level With Propane Power

There are no shortage of Nerf gun mods out there. From simply upgrading springs to removing air restrictors, the temptation of one-upping your opponents in a Nerf war speaks to many!

Not content with such lowly modifications [Peter Sripol] decided that his blaster needed to see some propane action.

[Peter] completely stripped out the existing firing mechanism before creating a new combustion chamber from some soldered copper pipe. He added a propane tank and valve on some 3D-printed mounts, and replaced the barrel to produce some intense firepower.

To ignite the fuel inside the combustion chamber, some taser circuitry creates the voltage needed to jump the spark gap inside whilst an added switch behind the trigger kicks off the whole process. After experimenting with different ignition methods, [Peter] eventually found that positioning the spark in the center of the chamber provided the best solution for efficient combustion and non-deafening volume.

Though highly dependant on the amount of gas in the chamber during combustion, the speed of the dart was able to reach a maximum of 220 fps – that’s a whopping 150mph!

Next follows the obligatory sequence for all souped-up Nerf guns:  slow motion annihilation of various food items and beverage containers. To obtain some extra punch, some custom Nerf darts were 3D-printed, including one with a fearsome nail spear-head.

We strongly advise against taking up [Peter] on any offer of Nerf based warfare, but you can check out his insane plane adventures or last winter’s air sled.

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Gamecube Dock For Switch Mods Nintendo With More Nintendo

[Dorison Hugo] let us know about a project he just completed that not only mods Nintendo with more Nintendo, but highlights some of the challenges that come from having to work with and around existing hardware. The project is a Gamecube Dock for the Nintendo Switch, complete with working Gamecube controller ports. It looks like a Gamecube with a big slice out of it, into which the Nintendo Switch docks seamlessly. Not only that, but thanks to an embedded adapter, original Gamecube controllers can plug into the ports and work with the Switch. The original orange LED on the top of the Gamecube even lights up when the Switch is docked. It was made mostly with parts left over from other mods.

The interesting parts of this project are not just the attention to detail in the whole build, but the process [Dorison] used to get everything just right. Integrating existing hardware means accepting design constraints that are out of one’s control, such as the size and shape of circuit boards, length of wires, and often inconvenient locations of plugs and connectors. On top of it all, [Dorison] wanted this mod to be non-destructive and reversible with regards to the Nintendo Switch dock itself.

To accomplish that, the dock was modeled in CAD and 3D printed. The rest of the mods were all done using the 3D printed dock as a stand-in for the real unit. Since the finished unit won’t be painted or post-processed in any way, any scratches on both the expensive dock and the Gamecube case must be avoided. There’s a lot of under-cutting and patient sanding to get the cuts right as a result. The video (embedded below) steps through every part of the process. The final screws holding everything together had to go in at an odd angle, but in the end everything fit.

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Xbox Needs No TV

If you want a custom video game system, you could grab a used computer, throw an emulator on it, and build yourself a custom arcade cabinet. On the other hand, if you’d rather not deal with emulators, you can always use a console and modify it into your own tiny arcade cabinet using the original hardware. That’s what the latest project from [Element18592] does, using an Xbox 360 Slim and a small LCD screen to make a mini-arcade of sorts.

The build uses a 7″ TFT LCD and a Flexible Printed Circuit (FPC) extension board. The screen gets 12V power from the Xbox and another set of leads are soldered directly to the composite output on the motherboard. The project also makes use of a special switch which can enable or disable the built-in monitor and allow the Xbox to function with a normal TV or monitor.

Admittedly, he does point out that this project isn’t the most practical to use. But it is still a deceptively simple modification to make to the Xbox compared to some of the more complicated mods we’ve seen before. The fact that almost anyone could accomplish this with little more than some soldering is an impressive feat in the world of console mods.

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