Why Game Boy IPS Screens Flicker

The Nintendo Game Boy was a very popular handheld in its time, but its display technology has not aged gracefully. Ripping out the original screen and dropping in a modern IPS LCD is a popular mod, but that often comes with a weird flicker now and then. [makho] is here to explain why.

The problem was that the Game Boy didn’t have any way to do transparency in the original hardware. Instead, sprites that were supposed to be a little bit transparent were instead flickered on and off rapidly. The original LCD was so slow that this flicker would be largely hidden, with the sprites in question looking suitably transparent. However, switch to a modern IPS LCD with its faster refresh rate, and the flickering will be readily visible. So it’s not a bug — it’s something that was intentionally done by developers that were designing for the screen technology of the 1980s, not the 2020s.

IPS screens have become the must-have upgrade for modern Game Boy users. Most would tell you the improved image quality and rich color is worth a little flicker here and there.

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Ultimate Game And Watch Has Support For NES

We’ve talked about feature creep plenty of times around here, and it’s generally regarded as something to be avoided when designing a prototype. It might sound good to have a lot of features in a build, but this often results in more complexity and more difficulty when actually bringing a project to fruition. [Brendan] has had the opposite experience with this custom handheld originally designed for Game and Watch games, though, and he eventually added NES and Game Boy functionality as well.

As this build was originally intended just for Game and Watch games, the screen is about the size of these old games, and while it can easily mimic the monochrome LCD-style video that would have been present on these 80s handhelds, it also has support for color which means that it’s the perfect candidate for emulating other consoles as well. It’s based around a Raspberry Pi Zero 2W and the enclosure is custom printed and painted. Some workarounds for audio had to be figured out, though, since native analog output isn’t supported, but it still has almost every feature for all of these systems.

While we’ve seen plenty of custom portable builds from everything from retro consoles to more modern ones, the Game and Watch catalog is often overlooked. There are a few out there, but in this case we appreciate the feature creep that allowed this build to support Game Boy and NES games as well.

Play DOOM On Seven-Segment Displays

Getting DOOM to run on a computer it was never meant to run on is a fun trope in the world of esoteric retro computers. By now we’ve seen it run on everything from old NES systems to microwaves, treadmills, and basically anything with a computer inside of it. What we don’t often see are the displays themselves being set up specifically to run the classic shooter. This build might run the game itself on ordinary hardware, but the impressive part is that it’s able to be displayed on this seven-segment display.

This build makes extensive use of multiplexers to drive enough seven-segment displays to use as a passable screen. There are 1152 seven segment digits arranged in a 48 by 24 array, powered by a network of daisy-chained MAX7219 chips. A Python script running on a Raspberry Pi correlates actual image data with the digit to be displayed on each of the segments, and the Raspberry Pi sends all of that information out to the screen. The final result is a display that’s fast enough and accurate enough to play DOOM in a truly unique way.

There is much more information available about this project on their project page, and they have made everything open source for those who wish to follow along as well. The project includes more than just the ability to play DOOM, too. There’s a built-in video player and a few arcade programs programmed specifically to make use of this display. Perhaps one day we will also see something like this ported to sixteen-segment displays instead of the more common seven-segment.

A ’70s TV With ’20s Parts

Keeping older technology working becomes exponentially difficult with age. Most of us have experienced capacitor plague, disintegrating wire insulation, planned obsolescence, or even the original company failing and not offering parts or service anymore. To keep an antique running often requires plenty of spare parts, or in the case of [Aaron]’s vintage ’70s Sony television set, plenty of modern technology made to look like it belongs in a machine from half a century ago.

The original flyback transformer on this TV was the original cause for the failure of this machine, and getting a new one would require essentially destroying a working set, so this was a perfect candidate for a resto-mod without upsetting any purists. To start, [Aaron] ordered a LCD with controls (and a remote) that would nearly fit the existing bezel, and then set about integrating the modern controls with the old analog dials on the TV. This meant using plenty of rotary encoders and programming a microcontroller to do the translating.

There are plenty of other fine details in this build, including audio integration, adding modern video and audio inputs like HDMI, and adding LEDs to backlight the original (and now working) UHF and VHF channel indicators. In his ’70s-themed display wall, this TV set looks perfectly natural. If your own display wall spotlights an even older era, take a look at some restorations of old radios instead.

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Screenshot of the website, showing the sidebar with technology types on the left, and an entry about modifying LCD polarizers on the right, with a video showing an art piece using LCD polarizers

Alternative Display Technologies And Where To Find Them

[Blair Neal] has been working on an information database for artists and hackers – a collection of non-conventional display technologies available to us. We’ve covered this repository before, six years ago – since then, it’s moved to a more suitable platform, almost doubled in size, and currently covers over 40+ display technology types and related tricks. This database is something you should check out even if you’re not looking for a new way to display things right now, however, for its sheer educational and entertainment value alone.

[Blair] doesn’t just provide a list of links, like the “awesome-X” directories we see a lot of. Each entry is a small story that goes into detail on what makes the technology tick, its benefits and fundamental limitations, linking to illustrative videos where appropriate. It’s as if this guide is meant to give you an extensive learning course on all the ways you can visualize things on your creative journey. All of these categories have quite a few examples to draw from, highlighting individual artworks that have made use of any technology or trick in a particular way.

If you’re ever wondered about the current state of technology when it comes to flexible or transparent displays, or looked for good examples of volumetric projection done in a variety of ways, this is the place to go. It also talks about interesting experimental technologies, like drone displays, plasma combustion or scanning fiber optics. Overall, if you’re looking to spend about half an hour learning about all the ways there are to visualize something, this database is worth a read. And, if there’s a display technology the author might’ve missed and you know something about, contributions are welcome!

Someone setting out to compile information about an extensive topic is always appreciated, and helps many hackers on their path. We’ve seen that done with 3D printer resin settings and SMD part codes, to name just a few. What’s your favourite hacker-maintained database?

Modern Features In Classic Radio

As consumer electronics companies chase profits on tighter and tighter margins, it seems like quality is continually harder to find for most average consumer-grade products. Luckily, we don’t have to hunt through product reviews to find well-built merchandise since we have the benefit of survivorship bias to help us identify quality products from the past that have already withstood the test of time. [Tom] has forever been fond of this particular Sony TV/radio combo from the ’70s so he finally found one and set about modernizing it in a few key ways.

Among the modifications to this 1978 Sony FX-300 include the addition of a modern color display, Bluetooth, an upgraded FM radio, and a microphone. At the center of all of this new hardware is a Teensy 4 which [Tom] has found to be quite powerful and has enough capabilities to process the audio that’s being played in order to make visual representations of the sound on the screen. He also implemented a bitcrusher filter and integrated it into the controls on the original hardware. He’s using an optimized version of this library to cram all of that processing ability into such a small chip, and the integration of all this new hardware is so polished that it looks like it could be an original Sony stereo from the modern era.

While some may complain about restomod-type builds like this, we don’t really see any need to be arbitrarily or absolutely faithful to bygone eras even if the original hardware was working properly in the first place. What works is taking the proven technology of the past and augmenting it with modern features to enjoy the best of both worlds. Much like this hi-fi stereo which blends the styles and technology of the 90s with that of the 60s in an equally impressive way.

Greeking Out With Arduinos

Learning a new language is hard work, but they say that the best way to learn something is to teach it. [Angeliki Beyko] is learning Greek, and what better way to teach than to build a vocabulary flash-card game from Arduinos, color screens, 1602 text screens, and arcade buttons? After the break, we have a video from the creator talking about how to play, the hardware she chose, and what to expect in the next version.

Pegboard holds most of the hardware except the color screens, which are finicky when it comes to their power source. The project is like someone raided our collective junk drawers and picked out the coolest bits to make a game. Around the perimeter are over one hundred NeoPixels to display the game progress and draw people like a midway game. Once invested, you select a category on the four colored arcade buttons by looking at the adjacent LCD screens’ titles. An onboard MP3 shield reads a pseudo-random Greek word and displays it on the top-right 1602 screen in English phonetics. After that, it is multiple choice with your options displaying in full-color on four TFT monitors. A correct choice awards you a point and moves to the next word, but any excuse to mash on arcade buttons is good enough for us.

[Angeliki] does something we see more often than before, she’s covering what she learned, struggled with, would do differently, and how she wants to improve. We think this is a vital sign that the hacker community is showcasing what we already knew; hackers love to share their knowledge and improve themselves.

Typing Greek with a modern keyboard will have you reaching for an alt-code table unless you make a shortcut keyboard, and if you learn Greek, maybe you can figure out what armor they wore to battle.

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