In the beginning, there was hot glue. Plus some tape, and a not inconsiderable amount of Bondo. In general, building custom portable game consoles a decade or so in the past was just a bit…messier than it is today. But with all the incredible tools and techniques the individual hardware hacker now has at their disposal, modern examples are pushing the boundaries of DIY.
This Zelda: Ocarina of Time themed portable N64 by [Chris Downing] is a perfect example. While the device is using a legitimate N64 motherboard, nearly every other component has been designed and manufactured specifically for this application. The case has been FDM 3D printed on a Prusa i3, the highly-detailed buttons were printed in resin on a Form 3, and several support PCBs and interface components made the leap from digital designs to physical objects thanks to the services of OSH Park.
Today, those details are becoming increasingly commonplace in the projects we see. But that’s sort of the point. In the video after the break, [Chris] breaks down the evolution of his portable consoles from hacked and glued together monstrosities (we mean that in the nicest way possible) to the sleek and professional examples like his latest N64 commission. But this isn’t a story of one maker’s personal journey through the ranks, it’s about the sort of techniques that have become available to the individual over the last decade.
Case in point, custom flexible flat cables (FFC). As [Chris] explains, when you wanted to relocate the cartridge slot on a portable console in the past, it usually involved tedious point-to-point wiring. Now, with the low-volume production capabilities offered by companies like OSH Park, you can have your own flexible cables made that are neater, faster to install, and far more reliable.
Projects like this one, along with other incredible creations from leaders in the community such as [GMan] are changing our perceptions of what a dedicated individual is capable of. There’s no way to be sure what the state-of-the-art will look like in another 5 or 10 years, but we’re certainly excited to find out.
From the Downing’s Basement blog:
I wish I could say that it hasn’t been two years since this project was commissioned…I also wish I could say this wasn’t the second time the job was completed…but if I didn’t have too, this beauty would have never existed. Kinda funny how that works.
But that said, after two years since the original agreement and a total remake of the original failure, Project 15 has come to light in the most beautiful portable console I’ve ever made. But not only has this been a technical achievement for me in many respects, but I’m very proud of the video I’ve made to accompany it.
You don’t have to scroll down very far in past posts to see what prompted this rebuild but at this point I can honestly say I’m glad it happened!
And on the subject of reliability, low volume FFC PCB’s have become available through services like OSH Park which have allowed some very time and space saving options that do wonders for the assembly.
From Bryan Cockfield on the Hackaday log:
With its backlit color screen and Master System compatibility, the Game Gear was years ahead of its main competition. The major downside was that it tore through alkaline batteries quickly, and for that reason the cheaper but less equipped Game Boy was still able to compete. Since we live in the future, however, the Game Gear has received new life with many modifications that address its shortcomings, including this latest one that adds an HDMI output.
Very early prototype using my GBA HDMI board to get a 1280x720p output from the Game Gear.
The custom PCB uses a Spartan6 FPGA to convert the Game Gear’s 160×144 12-bit RGB video into a 1280x720p HDMI output using a 4x integer scale. HDMI video is generated directly from the FPGA, audio is taken from the Game Gear’s headphone jack.
It has some pixel glitches, but it could be due to the wiring as it’s very sensitive to positioning. The Game Gear was bought as a “broken” unit and is in need of a cap replacement, that could also be causing issues.
Bob Baddeley writes on Hackaday:
[BrownDogGadgets] built a giant NES controller out of LEGO. The controller is designed in LEGO Digital Designer, which lets you create a virtual model, then get a full list of parts which can be ordered online.
The electronics are based on a Teensy LC programmed to appear as a USB keyboard, and the buttons are standard push buttons. The insides are wired together with nylon conductive tape. LEGO was an appropriate choice because the Teensy and switches are built on top of LEGO compatible PCBs, so components are just snapped in place. The system is called Crazy Circuits and is a pretty neat way to turn electronics into a universal and reusable system.
Here is the controller in action:
Design files and source code for Crazy Circuits modules and projects are available on GitHub:
Find out more in our previous blog post: