The Nokia N-Gage might not have put up much of a fight against Nintendo’s handheld dynasty, but you can’t say it didn’t have some pretty impressive technology for the time. [BeardoGuy] happens to have a perfectly functional N-Gage QD, which he turned into a universal Bluetooth gamepad.
The handheld runs a program that makes it act as a gamepad, and a DIY Bluetooth dongle is required on the client side. The dongle consists of an ATtiny85-based development board and HC-06 Bluetooth module, and will be recognized as a USB gamepad by just about anything it plugs in to.
[BeardoGuy]’s custom GamepadBT program sends button events via Bluetooth to the dongle, and those events are then sent via USB and look just like those from any standard gamepad.
This project can be used as a resource for how to implement a USB gamepad, whether on a Nokia N-Gage or not. You can see all the details at the project’s GitHub repository, and watch it in action in the video embedded below.
[Michael] tells us that this first version is pretty simplistic, and currently uses a single word list with all 2,309 terms in the New York Times version. Translations to Finnish, Russian, and German are in the works, though interestingly it looks like the effort is currently stymied by the fact that the code doesn’t support words with hyphens in them; meaning it’s possible to find yourself in an unwinnable situation if you’re playing in Russian. We’re sure that’s just a coincidence and not meant as any kind of political commentary, but still…you can’t make this stuff up.
So how does one go about developing a new game for a failed console from the early 2000s? The answer is by using the modern N-Gage SDK that’s is currently in development, which lets you write code for the system using popular tools and libraries like Visual Studio 2022, CMake, and SDL. But [Michael] isn’t just a user of this new SDK, he’s also the brains behind the operation.
The hope is this new development platform will lead to something of a renaissance for the maligned device, and he’s even started a Discord server to discuss the past, future, and present of sidetalkin’. If you’re surprised to find yourself looking up what a used N-Gage goes for on eBay these days, join the club.
One of the brave but unsuccessful plays from Nokia during their glory years was the N-Gage, an attempt to merge a Symbian smartphone and a handheld game console. It may not have managed to dethrone the Game Boy Advance but it still has a band of enthusiasts, and among them is [Michael Fitzmayer] who has produced a CMake-based toolchain for the original Symbian SDK. This is intended to ease development on the devices by making them more accessible to the tools of the 2020s, and may serve to bring a new generation of applications to those old Nokias still lying forgotten in dusty drawers.
In much of the public imagination, the invention of the smartphone came with the release of the first Apple iPhone in 2007. Hackaday readers will of course trace the smartphone back much further than that to an original IBM prototype, and will remind any doubters that the Nokias which the iPhone vanquished were very successful smartphones without any of Cupertino’s magic in sight. Nokia’s tragedy was that they appeared not to understand what they had in Symbian, and released a bewildering array of devices intended to satisfy every possible market without recognizing that the market they needed to serve was their customers being easily able to run the apps of their choice on the things.
Symbian itself has long ago become a piece of abandonware, but during its chequered history there was a period in which an open-source version was released. It would be nice to think that projects such as this one might revive interest in this capable yet forgotten operating system, as with the passage of a decade the cost of hardware which might run it has fallen to the point of affordability. Does anyone want to relive the 2000s?
If there’s anything you can guarantee about a video game system, it’s that in 20 years after one suffers a commercial failure there will be a tiny yet rabid group of enthusiasts obsessed with that system. It’s true for the Virtual Boy, the Atari Jaguar, and of course, the Nokia N-Gage. For those not familiar, this was a quirky competitor of the Game Boy Advance that was also a cell phone. And for that reason it had more buttons than a four-player arcade cabinet, which has led to things like this custom controller.
Most N-Gage gaming these days takes place on emulators, this build is specifically built for the emulator experience. The original system had so many buttons that it’s difficult to get even a standard 102-key keyboard mapped comfortably to it, so something custom is almost necessary. [Lvaneede], the creator of this project, took some parts from an existing arcade cabinet he had and 3D printed the case in order to craft this custom controller. The buttons he chose are a little stiff for his liking, but it’s much better than using a keyboard.
In the video below, [Lvaneede] demonstrates it with a few of the N-Gage’s games. It seems to hold up pretty well. With backing from Sony and Sega, it’s a shame that these gaming platforms weren’t a bigger hit than they were, but there are plenty of people around with original hardware who are still patching and repairing them so they can still play some of these unique games.
Today the Nokia brand can be found on a range of well-screwed-together Androind phones and a few feature phones, but as older readers will remember that before their descent into corporate chaos and the Windows Phone wilderness, there was once a time when the Finnish manufacturer dominated the mobile phone landscape and produced some of the most innovative and creative handset designs ever created. It’s for some of these that [Michael Fitzmayer] has done some work providing tools revive the devices from an unfortunate bricking.
The N-Gage was the phone giant’s attempt to produce a handset that doubled as a handheld game console, and though it was a commercial failure at the time it has retained a following among enthusiasts. The flaw comes as its Symbian operating system fills its user partition, at which point the infamous “White Screen Of Death” occurs as the device can no longer reboot. Rewriting the flash chip used to be handled by Nokia service tools, but these can no longer be found. His fix substitutes a “Blue pill” STMF103-based dev board that connects to the Nokia FBus serial port and does its job. It’s possible that it could be used on other Symbian devices, but for now it’s only been tested on the N-Gages.
It’s easy to forget when a smartphone is defined by iOS and Android, that Symbian gave us a smartphone experience for the previous decade. For those of us who still pine for their miniaturised Carl Zeiss Tessar cameras and candybar form factors, it’s good to see them receiving some love.