DIY

Modding an NES – PAL-E console controller support hack

Posted by admin on June 05, 2021
DIY, General / No Comments

A little known fact about the NES is that there are versions of the console that do not support all the controllers out there. The PAL version that came with controllers that have the NES-004E engraved on the back ONLY support controllers with this engraving and nothing else. Controllers from the NTSC version will not work and nor will any knock-off controllers from China.

I recently replaced my controller’s insides with the excellent DIY kit from 8BitDo that turns the original controller into a wireless version that works just as well.

I am using this with the also excellent NES retro receiver and works flawlessly. Since I am using the original chassis and buttons, the feeling is almost identical to the original controller sans the cable. The system worked fine on my PAL NES-E console as well.

But all that changed when I bought a couple of (admittedly very nicely built) knock-off controllers from China. I plugged both on either port on my NES and nothing seemed to work. It would be a huge coincidence for both the controllers to be faulty (I knew the console and both ports worked) so I investigated further.

It turns out that my console only supported NES-004E controllers (the 8bitdo receiver obviously is handling the issue fine). By disassembling the console, I noticed that each controller port was connected to some kind of board which in turn was connected to the main board. These boards had several diodes that obviously prevented other versions of the NES controller to work.

The solution turned out to be surprisingly easy. All one needs to do is bridge all the diodes (essentially bypassing them). You could also remove the whole board and connect the cables directly on the port but I felt this solution was easier to do and more elegant.

This modification is only useful if your NES has this board between each controller port and the main board and you have controllers you want to use that are not recognized. It can also be done in the same way on both ports. Doing this mod does not have any drawbacks, the original controller work just fine. But now, your NES is controller-region-free!

Modding an NES – blue LED

Posted by admin on June 04, 2021
DIY, General / No Comments

This is the first of a series of old consoles modding posts, some to add functionality and some purely cosmetic. I will start with the simplest of them all, changing the power LED of a Nintendo Entertainment System.

When the NES came out in 1985, electronic power LEDs used colors that were available at the time, red or green ones. Blue LEDs were not around at the time. They were invented relatively recent and they gave their inventors Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura, the Nobel prize in 2014.

Changing the NES power LED to blue, in my opinion gives the 80s device a more 21st century feel and it’s super easy to do. All you have to do is unscrew the NES, remove the mainboard and get to the POWER and RESET board on the left. Use a soldering iron to remove the existing LED, while bending it a bit to the back to remove it from the plastic clear channel.

At this point you are ready to put the new LED in. Just be careful with polarity. LEDs, as the D in their name suggests are diodes, which means there is a correct way and a wrong way to put them in the circuit.

What Is LED? - Definition, Working Principle, Types, Uses

The LED symbol shows you the way. The Anode is where you need to use the long leg of the LED (positive) and the Cathode where you use the short one (negative). If you mess it up, it doesn’t hurt anything, but it will not light up, which is the whole point of a LED.

Solder the two legs at the bottom and bend the LED back in the clear channel like in the picture below.

If you get everything correctly and try to power up the NES, you will be greeted with a beautiful LED light. Put back everything and you should be done. Enjoy the 21st century light show!

Paper computers

Posted by admin on April 22, 2020
DIY / No Comments

Since we are all stuck inside for a while, it was inevitable that some projects we would never do, just happen to be a good idea. One of them was making an Amiga 500, my first Amiga model I owned back in the day, out of paper.

The link to the file I used is https://www.docdroid.net/PE7D4vg/amiga-500-ver1-pdf if you feel like making one for yourself. There are also a few different screens of games to put on the screen instead of the Workbench image if you prefer. A mousepad is also included.
By the way, I used a simple white elastic band for the mouse cord. I think it looks great.
The guy who makes these has also made paper models of MANY MANY other things, including 80s and 90s PCs and game consoles. You can find his excellent work here: http://rockybergen.com/

Here are some pictures of the end result, some on top of my keyboard and some on top of a real Amiga 1200.

The perfect GameBoy – The Sequel

Posted by karios on October 30, 2019
DIY, Games / No Comments

Every time I decide what the perfect Game Boy is, something happens and I reconsider. The same can be said for many retro systems, because there seems to be an endless stream of hacks, addons and mods for almost anything from the 80s, 90s and 00s nowadays.

Previously (see here), I had considered the GBA SP 101 with a new shell and fixed shoulder buttons to be the perfect Game Boy, since I love the form factor and the screen was lights ahead the GBA SP 001 and of course the original GBA non lit screen. Since then, I modded the original GBA with a very nice backlit screen that improved things dramatically and made it very playable in all lighting conditions, on par with the SP 101.

Now, it’s time to take my SP 001 and take it to another level by installing the best screen on the market, the Funnyplay v2 IPS Laminated display.

This display is hands down the best one yet. IPS colors, 5 brighness levels (and it gets REALLY bright on the highest one), 4x the pixels of the GBA resolution, resulting in no distance between pixels, very fluid (no tearing like previous Funnyplay displays), infinite viewing angles and the display is laminated to the glass, so no dust between the glass and the screen ever and the screen seems to pop. Oh, and the price is very competitive compared to backlit aftermarket displays.

I am really struggling to find anything bad about this mod, but if I had to I would say that it may use a bit more battery. And that’s about it.

The display came in a nice orange box that kept everything safe. In there you will find the display itself, a ribbon cable with a small circuit board and a very thin wire. Oh, and a square white foam that you have to put behind the screen.

If you plug the display on the ribbon cable and plug the ribbon cable where the old SP 001 (or SP 101, works there too) display was, it just works. So if you don’t care about the different brightness levels, you are done.

I modded my only SP 001, which looked like this before the mod:

Modding was relatively easy. The hardest parts was trimming the back cover of the display to allow it to fit and soldering the thin cable to enable the brightess button to switch between the 5 brightess levels.

You have to trim only one side as shown below, and don’t forget to put the foam behind the screen before closing.

For the easy soldering part, which you should do after you pass place the display, connect the ribbon cable and pass it through the opening, the thin cable must be soldered on:

a) the solder point on the ribbon cable itself, as shown here:

b) the solder point marked Q12B on the motherboard of the SP, as shown here:

The soldered wire should look like this (with better cable routing):

This is it. Close everything up and you are good to go.

Now all my GBAs have backlit screens. Funnily enough, the original 101 screen is the worst of them now (on the SP on the left), with the aftermarket backlit taking second place (on the GBA on the right) and of course the new Funnyplay IPS taking first place (on the center SP).

Here are some close ups of the 3 screens. See if you can spot the new IPS (hint: it has 4x the number of pixels, so it’s super sharp compared to the others with no visible gaps between the pixels).

Click for larger image

Micro Gotek replacement on my Amiga 1200

Posted by admin on March 16, 2019
DIY / No Comments

I’ve recently replaced my Gotek which I described in previous posts (http://www.karios.gr/?p=1029 and http://www.karios.gr/?p=1003) with a Micro Gotek (found here: https://www.sellmyretro.com/offer/details/32413). As a reminder, the Gotek and Micro Gotek are floppy emulators that replae the old-school floppy driver on the Amiga and can read and write on virtual floppies stored on USB sticks (called adf files).

The main difference between the two is the size that takes inside the case and convenience with the cabling. In the old Gotek, I needed to solder wires on the switches for example while the Micro has everything on normal headers, for buttons or a rotary encoder. I chose the latter, which is much more convenient for scrolling through lots of ADFs while still using the encoder as a button to load or eject virtual discs. Another big difference is that you can connect the USB outside of the case, which is very convenient if you want to change USB sticks often.

I chose the Micro Gotek version that goes directly on the motherboard to avoid using a floppy cable and the need for yet another 3d printed base to base the Micro Gotek on. I also printed a new version of the control box to accommodate the USB and the encoder. I shared the file here:

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3485091

This is a work in progress and I do already regret putting the USB and encoder on the same place, which I plan to change in later versions. If you push them enough though, they will fit.

I also printed the encoder cap found here:

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2832652

Having the Micro Gotek directly on the floppy connector on the motherboard also leaves few choices for getting the cable outside of the case of the A1200. One would be through the ventilation grills and another from the back side (e.g. the expansion port), using cable extensions.

The Micro Gotek uses the same FlashFloppy firmware which I used for my original Gotek and it updates just fine (I have it updated to version 1.0, which is the latest at the time of this writing, with no problems). It also works great.

The final result looks like this: