I see lots of posts around the ‘net about the power of the Raspberry Pi. People who have turned it into a TV turner, remote control for a 100 different things, powered robots, tons of things out there. If you don’t know what a Raspberry Pi is, it’s basically a little tiny computer. It has the power of a high-end IBM AT, maybe a little further than that, but you can add just about anything to it. And it’s tiny, runs on batteries, so it’s the perfect toy for someone who wants to design a DIY device at home. Robotics and/or hardware courses in tech colleges often use them for early coursework by students to go crazy on their own inventions.
One thing that pops up frequently is someone who has used it to run an emulator program for old game console games — Nintendo, in particular, is the popular one with games from the original NES, Nintendo Cube, N64, and the whole series of Game Boy versions. The emulator software basically runs what used to be loaded on hardware in the console systems, and thus you can “load” game modules (called ROMs) into the emulator and it’s as if you popped the hardware cartridge into the original console. A software emulator of the console + the software of the game cartridge = brand new form of retro-style gaming.
Emulators have been around for years, and over time they started to “merge” into some key versions. Some died out just with the original designer losing interest, other times it’s because someone came along with a better version. However, one of the big developments in retro gaming was the ability to create a “governance” emulator that loads sub-emulators — which meant you could have ONE software program (like Emulation Station, shown in the video, or RetroArch, another popular one) and once you load it, you can add a bunch of sub-emulators for all the different systems. It’s still a bit tech heavy, i.e. the novice user might have a challenge, but there are walk-through videos and tip guides to tell you how to configure it all. Most people run the emulators on PC desktops, but there are versions that run on other gaming systems, some that run on Raspberry Pi, Android, iOS; you name it, there’s an emulator version.
This guy? He put it all together into a retro-style Game Boy, upgrading and tweaking as he went:
- Raspberry Pi;
- Original Game Boy box;
- 3.5″ composite display;
- Added two extra NES buttons (for X&Y functions — later games needed more buttons to differentiate commands);
- Original headphone jack which still disables external speaker when plugged in;
- USB port for keyboad, mouse, whatever, because why not, really?;
- Micro-USB for charging;
- Mini-HDMI to go out to the TV;
- Added two small buttons on the back to handle Left-Right sub-toggles (again for the later games);
- Kept battery compartment;
- 2000 mAH lithium polymer battery;
- USB hub inside had two ports, and he was only using one, so he added Bluetooth; and,
- Screen buttons for contrast.
Now that’s pretty impressive, all on its own, and then he went to the genius level. He took an old Nintendo Game Boy cartridge that used to slide into the back for the games, broke it apart, adapted and modified it, and now it works with an SD to MicroSD card adapter! Which of course meant he had to then modify the cartridge reader in the Game Boy itself to read the SD card too.
Now he has a cartridge that goes in the Game Boy with the ability to load anything he wants off an micro SD card. In this case, Retro Pi, Emulation Station, and a bunch of emulators under the Emulation Station system. Voila, instant portable gaming system loaded with hundreds of retro games across multiple platforms.
If it wasn’t for the fact that ROMs exist in a semi-grey zone for legality, this guy could be rocking Kickstarter. He’s freakin’ brilliant. Lots of people are doing pieces of this, but he pulled it all together and rocked the house with awesome quality and design.