Sunday, May 29, 2011

Alive! It's Alive!

If there's any excuse for not posting very much in the last few months, here it is. Those that know me in meat-space and the hundreds of loyal listeners of the now-dormant cult podcast, All Your Basecast, know that I've been working on a Very Special Project these past few months. But I've not blogged about it before because it's really not my project. I'm just a volunteer - an extra pair of hands when the need arises.

The Project: dismantle a Nintendo GameCube and turn it into a usable, handheld portable. Essentially, the goal is to create a GameBoy out of a GameCube - the GameCube Portable or 'GCp' for short. For this project, the GameCube will be stuffed inside the case from an old toy. It will be mated with an old PSOne screen, some batteries, and a few other doodads to make it a handheld gaming device (we hope).

The Owner: my son - aka JediBoy aka The Quiet Legend. A number of months back, he encountered a cabal of hobbyists on the Innertubes who make it their goal to transform all manner of video-game consoles into portable devices. It's one of those endeavours that One does 'just because'. JediBoy has spent hours working on this project - it's all his. My role (other than bragging) is to help with design ideas and lend a hand when things seem to be going the wrong way.

I won't go on (too much) about the audacity of it all. Taking on a GCp project requires all sorts of skills that JediBoy and I don't really have in large supply. But with a LOT of patience, a decent soldering iron, some Bondo, and a very patient Internet community of helpful geeks, we've made some progress.

The GCp effort really has 2 parts: the case and the mechanism. Each part has it's own difficulties, but we decided to tackle the mechanism first. That is, we have built up all the circuitry, the screen, the controls, etc. as one big mess laid out on a workbench to prove that the GCp would, at least, 'work'. With a working GCp, the next step would be to stuff it all inside an attractive and functional case.

We've had our share of false starts and failures, which I'll share in a later post. But today I want to unveil what I think is a significant milestone on what has been (and will yet be) a long road. We have 90% of the mechanism completed and working! While we still need to install the batteries and associated circuitry, we've at least proven that our GCp is functional!

Follow the pictures and prepare to be surprised (I know I was).

The whole mess laid out on a table and waiting for lightening to strike.

Mainboard wih heat-sink. To the left is a bundle
of wires that lead to the controller mechanisms.

Wiring to the dissambled controller. Pieces of the original
controller casing will (hopefully) be integrated into the 
GCp case for a comfortable gaming experience.

GameCube disk player and daughterboard. The ribbon cables on
each side of the player were extended (originals are quite short) 
in order to give us flexibility in where the player is placed inside
the GCp case (likely to be on the underside of the GCp).

The screen: a re-purposed PSOne screen with integrated
speakers. This will also give us a screen brightness control, 
speaker volume control, and headphone jack wiring.

But now for the best part so far - The Test.