A DIY handheld PONG game

DIY Pocket PONG Breaks The Mobile Spell

[Minikk], aka [Athul] is about to enter 10th grade and reports that they and their contemporaries are eschewing boring mobile games for 90s stuff and old games like PONG. Well, we already knew the 90s were back, but it’s nice to see that even older stuff is coming along with it. The kids are alright.

Whether you want to play alone or with a friend, it’s a classic to have in your pocket for sure. The brains behind this 70s-era operation is a Seeed Xiao ESP32-C3, which takes input from the two potentiometers and outputs the game on a 128 x 64 OLED. There’s also a small buzzer for when the ball hits the paddle, or you or your friend slips one past the goalie.

Our favorite part of this build has to be the DIY rivets that hold the OLED in place. [Athul] built posts into the enclosure that get heat-smashed into place with a soldering iron. Pretty neat, huh?

PONG is a specific thrill, certainly. How can it be more thrilling? Maybe with LEDs instead of a screen? Just a thought.

1D LED PONG, Arduino-Style

Maybe it’s just us, but isn’t it kind of amazing that in a world of pretty darn realistic games, PONG is still thrilling to play? This 1D implementation by [newsonator] is about as exciting as it gets.

It works like you’d probably expect — the light moves back and forth between the two players. Keep it in the green and you have a nice, gentle volley going. Let it hit your red LED and you’ve lost a point. But if you can push your button while your yellow LED is lit, the light speeds up tremendously until the next button press in the green.

Our only wish is that subsequent yellow-light button presses would make it speed up even more. But there are really just the two speeds with the current programming.

Inside the cool laser-cut box is an Arduino Uno and a 9V battery, plus a current-limiting resistor and the all-important buzzer. We like how [newsonator] wired up the LEDs to the Arduino by soldering them to a row of header pins and sticking that into the Arduino so it can be used in other projects down the line. We also like how [newsonator] shoved a couple of dowels through the box to ultimately support the two buttons.

Check out the intro video after the break for the overall details. The build is done over a few different short videos which follow.

Although this is pretty small, it isn’t quite the minimum viable.

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General Instruments Video Game Chip Rides Again

Early video games like Pong were not computer-controlled. They used discrete logic to generate the TV signals. As you might expect, the market exploded when you could get all the logic on a chip. Many of those games used the General Instrument AY-3-8500-1 chip, and [Jeff Tranter] shows us the chip and the many different yet similar games it could play. You can check out the retro gameplay in the video below.

These were marvels of their day, although, by today’s standards, they are snoozers. All the games were variations on a theme. A ball moved and hit paddles, walls, or goals. A few available light gun games were rarely seen in the wild because they took extra components.

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A small B/W TV showing a Pong-like game being played on a Soviet-era game console

Soviet-Era Pong Console Is Easy To Repair

Many early home video game consoles were developed by American and Japanese companies: think Nintendo, Commodore, and Atari. But on the other side of the Iron Curtain, which was still very much in place in the 1980s, an entirely separate industry was built on names like Tesla and Elektronika. As a resident of the republic of Georgia, [Thomas] over at Workshop Nation has built up a sizeable collection of such Soviet-era hardware. A while back, he stumbled upon an Elektronika Video Sport 3, a 1990-vintage Pong-like video game console made in the USSR, and made a delightful video that shows him bringing it back to life.

A circuit board from an Elektronika game consoleLike its Western counterparts, the Video Sport 3 is built around a dedicated chip, in this case a K145IK17. This is a Soviet clone of the GI AY-3-8500 that powered nearly every TV Pong console in the West, allowing it to run several variations of Pong as well as a simple target shooting game. Interestingly, the Video Sport 3 also has a “test” mode in which it outputs a test signal to help you adjust your TV settings — quite useful in the days of analog CRTs. It also came with a comprehensive user manual, as well as full schematics to help you repair it in case anything breaks.

[Thomas]’s device didn’t immediately work, which is why he opened it up and tried to find any errors. The main board he found inside was a beautifully hand-made, single-layer board with around a dozen chips and lots of discrete components. Nothing seemed obviously broken, but [Thomas] decided to replace a few electrolytic capacitors as a precaution. This turned out to be enough to get the console working again — dodgy caps truly are a universal problem with older hardware.

A small Elektronika black-and-white TV that [Thomas] found earlier forms a perfect complement to the Video Sport 3. Together, they give us a glimpse into what a typical video game setup may have looked like in an early 1990s Soviet home. In fact, the Eastern Bloc supplied a reasonably wide selection of home computers, although not many people could actually buy them. Some truly bizarre machines were also produced for professional users.

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It’s A Humble ‘Scope, But It Changed Our World

A few years ago on a long flight across the North Atlantic, the perfect choice for a good read was iWoz, the autobiographical account of [Steve Wozniak]’s life. In it, he described his work replicating the wildly successful Pong video game and then that of designing the 8-bit Apple computers. A memorable passage involves his development of the Apple II’s color generation circuitry, which exploited some of the artifacts of the NTSC color system to produce a color display in a far simpler manner than might be expected. Now anyone seeking a connection with both Pong and the Apple II can have one of their very own if they have enough money because [Al Alcorn]’s Tektronix 465 oscilloscope is for sale. He’s the designer of the original Pong and used the instrument in its genesis, and then a few years later, he lent it to [Woz] for his work on the Apple II.

This may be the first time Hackaday has featured something from the catalogue of a rare book specialist, but if we’re being honest, for $135,000, it’s a little beyond the reach of a Hackaday scribe. The Tek 465 was a 100 MHz dual-trace model manufactured from 1972 to the early 1980s and, in its day, would have been a very desirable instrument indeed. This one is in pretty good condition with accompanying leads and manual and comes with a letter of authenticity and a hand-written annotation from [Al] himself on its underside. It can be seen up close in the video below the break.

As a ‘scope it’s an instrument many of us would still find useful today, but as the instrument which set in motion not one but two of the seminal moments of our craft, its historical importance can’t be overstated. We hope it will find its way into a museum or similar place where the story of those two developments can be told and that [Al] profits handsomely from its sale.

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Let Machine Learning Code An Infinite Variety Of Pong Games

In a very real way, Pong started the video game revolution. You wouldn’t have thought so at the time, with its simple gameplay, rudimentary controls, some very low-end sounds, and a cannibalized TV for a display, but the legendarily stuffed coinboxes tell the tale. Fast forward 50 years or so, and Pong has been largely reduced to a programmer’s exercise to see how few lines of code can stand in for what [Ted Dabney] and [Allan Alcorn] accomplished. But now even that’s too much, as OpenAI Codex can generate a playable Pong from just a few prompts, at least most of the time. Continue reading “Let Machine Learning Code An Infinite Variety Of Pong Games”

Resurrecting PONG, One Jumper Wire At A Time

Between 1976 and 1978, over one million Coleco Telstar video game consoles were sold. The Killer App that made them so desirable? PONG. Yep, those two paddles bouncing a ball around a blocky tennis court were all the rage and helped usher in a new era. And as [Dave] of Dave’s Garage shows us in the video below the break, the bringing the old console back to life proved simpler than expected!

Thankfully, the console is built around what [Dave] quite aptly calls “PONG on a chip”, the General Instrument AY-3-8500 which was designed to make mass production of consoles possible. The chip actually contains several games, although PONG was the only one in use on the Coleco.

After removing the CPU from the non-functional console, [Dave] breathed life into it by providing a 2 MHz clock signal that was generated by an Arduino, of all things. A typical 2N2222 amplifies the audio, and a quick power up showed that the chip was working and generating audio.

Video is smartly taken care of just as it was in the original design, by combining various signals with a 4072 OR gate. With various video elements and synchronization patterns combined into a composite video signal, [Dave] was able to see the game on screen, but then realized that he’d need to design some “paddles”. We’ll leave that up to you to watch in the video, but make sure to check the comments section for more information on the design.

Is a breadboarded PONG console not retro enough for you? Then check out this old school mechanical version that was found languishing in a thrift store.

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