PS2 Gets The Ginger Portable Treatment

The first thing we notice about this portable PS2 is that the plastic looks like a consumer-grade shell, not a 3D printed case. It comes from [GingerOfOz], who has lots of portable conversions under his belt, so we are not surprised this looks like a genuine Sony device. When you are as experienced as he, details like plastic texture, and button selection, are solved problems, but shouldn’t be taken for granted by us mortals.

Of course, this isn’t just pretty, and if it weren’t functional, we wouldn’t be talking about it. The system plays nearly all PS2 titles from USB memory. The notable exceptions are the ones that refuse to load without a Dualshock controller. Rude. If you’re wondering if it plays games at full speed, yes. It achieves authentic speed because it uses a PS2 slim motherboard which gets cut down by a Dremel. Custom PCBs provide the rest of the hardware, like volume buttons and battery charging. There is no optical drive since they are power hogs, so your cinematic cut scenes may lag, and load times are a little longer.

Modern mobile phones are one of the most powerful gaming systems ever built, but there is something about purpose-built portable gaming hardware that just feels right. You know?

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Guitar Hero Robot Actually Shreds

Once a popular craze, most of the public has sold or stashed away their plastic video game instruments and forgotten the likes of Guitar Hero and Rockband. Having never been quite satisfied with his scores, [Nick O’Hara] set out to create a robot that could play a Guitar Hero controller. It would be easy enough to use transistors to actuate the buttons or even just a Teensy to emulate a controller and have it play the perfect game, but [Nick] wanted to replicate what it was really like to play. So after burning out a fair number of solenoids (driving them over spec) and learning on his feet, [Nick] slowly began to dial in his robot, Jon Bot Jovi.

The brains of the bot are a Raspberry Pi running some OpenCV-based code that identifies blobs of different colors. The video feed comes from a PS2 via an HDMI capture card. Solenoids are driven via an 8 channel driver board, controlled by the Pi. While it missed a few notes here and there, we loved seeing the strumming solenoid whammy rapidly on the strummer. All in all, it’s a great project, and we love the design of the robot. Whether played by a robot, turned into a synthesizer, or recreated from toy pianos and mechanical keyboards, Guitar Hero controllers offer many hacking opportunities.

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Diving Into The Details Of Keyboard Interfaces At The Gate-Level

Never doubt the value of a good teacher. Even if you know — or think you know — the material being presented, a good teacher can open your eyes to new ways of looking at things that will pay dividends you never expected.

That’s the feeling we got while watching [Ben Eater]’s latest video on building a keyboard interface (embedded below) for his breadboard 6502 computer. On the face of it, getting a keyboard to talk to a computer should be a simple job. [Ben] had previously looked at the serial protocol used by the old PS/2 keyboard and even built a wildly complex circuit out of discrete shift register chips to visualize the data being sent by the keyboard. The video below continues that work, this time concentrating on using the keyboard with his 6502 breadboard computer.

After some instructive preliminaries on interrupt programming, [Ben] dives into the logic-level details of teasing useful signals from the keyboard. His signal processing starts with some inverters and an RC network to turn multiple clock pulses into one logic level transition. Walking through this circuit step by step was the really interesting bit; even if you know that the answer is eventually going to be “Schmitt trigger,” getting to that point was really instructive.

Of course, what [Ben]’s videos mainly accomplish is making us want to follow along with him and build a breadboard computer of our own. From a low-rez VGA card to a reliable UART, following along with his discrete chip builds is always educational.

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PS2 Gets Integrated HDMI

It might be difficult to imagine in our modern HDMI Utopia, but there was a time when game consoles required proprietary cables to connect up to your TV. We’re not just talking about early machines like the NES either, turn of the millennium consoles like the PlayStation 2, Gamecube, and the original Xbox all had weirdo A/V ports on the back that were useless without the proper adapter.

But thanks to the efforts of [Taylor Burley], you can now upgrade your Slim PS2 with integrated HDMI capability. It’s not even a terribly difficult modification, as these things go. Sure there’s a lot of soldering involved to run from the console’s A/V connector to the commercially-made HDMI dongle he’s hidden inside the case, but at least it’s straightforward work.

Tapping into the console’s A/V connector.

As [Taylor] shows in the video after the break, all you have to do is remove the proprietary connector from the HDMI adapter dongle, and wire it directly into the console’s A/V port with a bit of ribbon cable. There are only 8 pins in the connector that you need to worry about, and the spacing is generous enough that there’s no problem getting in there with your iron and some standard jumper wires. You’ve also got to pull 5 V from the board to power the adapter, but that’s easy enough thanks to the system’s nearby USB ports.

There’s a perfect spot to mount the adapter board next to the console’s Ethernet connector, and once that’s tacked down with a bit of adhesive, the only thing left to do is cut a hole in the back of the enclosure for the HDMI port and snip away a bit of the metal RF shield. Presumably the same modification could be done on the original “fat” PS2, though you’ll be on your own for finding a suitable place to mount the board.

While modern game consoles can easily emulate their earlier peers, providing enhanced graphical fidelity and introducing modern conveniences like wireless controllers in the process, there’s still something to be said for playing classic games on the original hardware. Even if these projects are fueled by little more than youthful nostalgia, it’s a safe bet we’ll continue to see folks keeping these older machines running far into the future.

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Portable PS2 With A Side Of Pi

Home games consoles have occupied a special space in the marketplace over the last 3 decades. The crowning jewels of their respective companies, they inspired legions of diehard fans and bitter enmities against followers of alternative hardware. For some, a mere handheld is a watered down experience that simply won’t do. Nay, the console itself must become portable!

It’s this line of thinking that may have inspired [Darkwing Mod] to produce this elegant portable PlayStation 2. Started at the end of 2013, it’s the product of six years of on-and-off work, a situation familiar to many a hacker. It packs an original PS2 motherboard inside a slick black-and-blue case, expertly crafted with plastic and putty for a smooth finish. A Raspberry Pi 2 also lives inside, serving up games over a Samba share. This method was chosen for its short load times and robustness for the portable form factor, versus trying to squeeze a full DVD drive inside. It’s used in combination with Free MCBoot to load the games.

The worklog is extensive, detailing the long road to completion. It’s clear that this was a labor of love, and we hope it sees many hours of use now that it’s up and running. It’s not the first portable PS2 we’ve seen, and it likely won’t be the last. Video after the break.

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Even The PlayStation 2 Can’t Escape Java

Love it or hate it, you can’t deny that Java has a pretty impressive track record in terms of supported platforms. Available on everything from flip phones to DVD players, not to mention computers, Oracle once famously claimed that Java runs on three billion devices. An estimate that, in truth, is probably on the low side at this point. Especially when [Michael Kohn] keeps figuring out how to run it on increasingly esoteric devices.

[Michael] writes in to tell us that he’s added support for the PlayStation 2 console to Java Grinder, his software for taking Java code and turning it into a native binary for a variety of unexpected platforms. His previous conquests have included the TRS-80 and Atari 2600, so by comparison the PS2 is an almost tame addition to the list.

Let’s be honest, you probably don’t have any desire to run a Java program on Sony’s nearly two decade old game system. But that’s OK. The documentation [Michael] has written up is fascinating anyway, covering specifics of the PS2’s rather unique hardware and quirks he ran into when developing on an emulator and deploying on real hardware. Even if you’ll never put the findings to practical use, it’s absolutely worth a read.

In the video after the break you can see the demo [Michael] came up with booting on a real PS2 to prove the software works. To really put his mark on it, he mentions he wrote and performed the demo’s songs and even drew some of the artwork on paper and scanned it into his computer.

We’ve previously covered his work getting Java running on the Sega Genesis, as well as the venerable 6502 CPU. Oh, and one time he encoded data onto a pancake. We like this guy’s style.

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Amiga Gets A PS/2 Keyboard Port

Name any retrocomputer — Apple II, Sinclair, even TRS-80s — and you’ll find a community that’s deeply committed to keeping it alive and kicking. It’s hard to say which platform has the most rabid fans, but we’d guess Commodore is right up there, and the Amiga aficionados seem particularly devoted. Which is where this Amiga PS/2 mouse port comes from.

The Amiga was a machine that was so far ahead of its time that people just didn’t get it. It was a true multimedia machine before multimedia was even a thing, capable of sound and graphics that hold up pretty well to this day. From the looks of [jtsiomb]’s workstation, he’s still putting his Amiga to good use, albeit with an inconvenient amount of cable-swapping each time he needs to use it. The remedy this, [jtsiomb] put together an emulator that translates scancodes from an external PS/2 keyboard into Amiga keyboard signals. Embedded inside the Amiga case where it can intercept the internal keyboard connector, the emulator is an ATmega168 that does a brute-force translation by way of lookup tables. A switch on the back allows him to choose the internal keyboard or his PS/2 keyboard via a KVM switch.

Are Amigas really still relevant? As of two years ago, one was still running an HVAC system for a school. We’re not sure that’s a testament to the machine or more a case of bureaucratic inertia, but it’s pretty impressive either way.

[via r/electronics]