The time has come!

A couple months ago, I decided that I was going to teach myself basic electronics with the ultimate goal of one day creating my very own portable Nintendo system from scratch. A huge undertaking, considering I knew basically nothing about electronics going into it. I started watching YouTube videos on circuits, voltage, resistors, etc. and eventually I went to RadioShack and bought some starter kits and a book (Make: Electronics: Learn by Discovery) that helped me learn in a more hands-on way.

After that, I built my first “thing” from scratch (The Arctic Flashlight) and it worked!  Encouraged, I slowly acquired all the tools that I thought I would be needing and wound up making my own little workshop in the basement (I even hung up a cool 4-foot work light overhead).

I had no idea how to solder and didn’t want to just try it from watching videos so I asked my friend Woki to show me how to do it in person, which was super helpful.  He’s made some awesome custom arcade-style controllers, not to mention a sick homemade arcade cabinet in his basement so he was a huge motivator in getting my dream into motion.

My other major inspiration was the amazing HandyNES created by lovablechevy and once I saw that, there was no turning back… I decided to jump right in (bypassing the rest of my electronics book). I also bought Ben Heck’s book (Hacking Video Game Consoles), in which he outlines the entire process of taking retro consoles, breaking them down to parts and repurposing them into handheld systems. Incredible stuff.

I reached out to lovablechevy herself a couple of times and she was extremely helpful in starting me down my path. I’m also posting to the bitfix gaming forums now and getting my millions of questions answered by some awesome people.  It’s been a great experience already and I haven’t even really started!

So, I think I’ve gathered enough information to get going and I’m planning to document everything I do on here, for posterity. First things first, I need all of the parts!

Here are the things that I have already:

NES2
NES controller
PSOne screen
Wire
Resistors (I think)
Headphone jack (I think)

And here are the things that I’m missing (and just ordered online):

2x Polymer Li-Ion Cell: 3.7V 1500mAh batteries

1x Protection Circuit Module (PCB) for 7.4V Li-Ion Battery Pack

1x Smart Charger (1.2A) for 7.4V Li-ion/Polymer Rechargeable Battery Pack

1x Sony SCPH-113 7.5v A/C Adapter

10x 220uF 35V 105C Radial Electrolytic Capacitor 8x12mm (for the composite mod needed for the NES2)

So once all of that stuff arrives, I’m gonna jump in head first so stay tuned!

Glory, glory hallelujah!

Well, I found my case! My biggest concern going into this was finding the right case to make my first portable out of… I was having no luck online and then yesterday, out of nowhere, it was like the heavens opened up and dropped it in my lap. I still can’t believe it.

I was at the Northeast Comicon in Wilmington, MA yesterday and to my surprise, they had vendors there that were selling retro video games and consoles (it was my first con). I was going through a box of random old Atari stuff when I saw it… the Atari Trak-Ball. I picked it up in disbelief and looked it over and thought, “Oh my god, the dimensions are perfect!” There’s just enough room to fit the entire PSOne screen board, the NES2 board AND there’s even the perfect bump-out on the back to slip games into. Now, the screen and NES2 boards are sitting on my desk at work so I won’t be able to try fitting them in until tomorrow, but I’m pretty sure that they will.

Here are the pictures:

Photo Dec 05, 11 28 09 PM

Photo Dec 05, 11 28 44 PM

Photo Dec 05, 11 29 35b PM

Photo Dec 05, 11 41 37 PM

Photo Dec 05, 11 42 45 PM

Photo Dec 05, 11 45 38 PM

So I think I’m going to call it the TrakNES.  Really hoping I can figure out how to do case work and not screw this up but I think with the help of everyone over on the bitfix forums, I should be okay.  Cannot wait to get started!

Measurements

I finally got a chance to measure the inside of the case. Between the beveled edges of the front half, the flat surface is about 5 5/8″ wide by 5 3/16″ high. And it looks like I have exactly 1″ of space to work with depth-wise. I’m a little concerned about fitting the batteries and the wires into that tight of a space… but I guess we’ll find out.

Photo Dec 07, 8 39 40 AM

Photo Dec 07, 8 40 15 AM

Dremel and button positions

I finally got to use my dremel! I cut off the six support pieces from the inside of the front case so I could see how the PSOne screen and NES2 board would fit in. I haven’t had a chance to remove all of the unnecessary parts from the NES2 board yet so hopefully I can do that tonight to get a better idea of how much space I have to work with.

Here are some more pictures post-dremel and where I think the D-pad and buttons might go:

Photo Dec 07, 1 03 22 PM

Photo Dec 07, 1 03 40 PM

Photo Dec 07, 1 03 40 PMb

Photo Dec 07, 1 49 54 PM

Photo Dec 07, 1 50 04 PM

Photo Dec 07, 1 50 11 PM

Desoldering sucks

So this just happened:

Photo Dec 08, 2 23 22 PM

Photo Dec 08, 2 23 38 PM

I got everything desoldered from the NES2 board and left the cartridge slot for last.  I thought I had every pin desoldered enough so I tried removing it as carefully as I could.  Guess I missed a few…

I guess I’ll have to either buy another board now or maybe I can somehow find just the cartridge slot itself for sale.  That and I burned the same thumb twice in 5 minutes.

Update:  Apparently you can just slide these pins back in and it will all work again.  So I’m gonna try that and hope for the best!

Update 2:  I think I did it!  Hopefully it still works.

Photo Dec 08, 5 08 11 PM

Soldering

Worked for a couple of hours tonight cutting/tinning wire and then soldering it to the 600 contacts on the cartridge slot.  I finished the board half and then got pretty frustrated with the slot half.  I decided to desolder the few that I got connected to the slot pins and just tin all 68 contacts to set up another try tomorrow.  The last thing I want to do is solder all of them and find out later that the connections aren’t strong enough.

Photo Dec 09, 10 26 57 PM

Photo Dec 09, 11 31 36 PM

I just want to get over this hump so I can finally test it!  Gotta be patient though, I know that’s the name of this game.

Progress

Last night, lovablechevy clued me in to the fact that my wires were twice as long as they should be (thank god she did) so tonight, I cut them down from 10″ to 5″, retinned everything and even managed to get the entire cartridge slot wired up:

Photo Dec 10, 9 19 22 PM

Photo Dec 10, 9 19 34 PM

Photo Dec 10, 9 20 52 PM

So that feels good, hopefully all the connections are strong enough. Not sure if I’ll get to work on it more until next week but here’s hoping!