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Game.com

Been working on another site, http://retrogame.cyberphreak.com/ which follows my latest hobby, retrofitting old video game systems with Raspberry Pi computers.  I will be mirroring my posts on this page.  Now, the Tiger Game.com:

 

game_com_front

Game.com

Ah, the Game.com, pronounced game com, no dot. It was a handheld system from 1997, made by Tiger Electronics. This was their second cartridge based system. The reviews for it are pure comedy on Youtube. The screen is totally terrible, but, look at that case design. My younger brother was impressed with my Atari Lynx retrofit, so he came up of the idea of making a system out of the technical abortion of the Game.com. The button layout is perfect, and the screen is a 3.5″ 4:3 screen, and, best of all, cheap on eBay.

Check out this and this video for more information.

From what I can tell, no one has attempted this modification, and I can’t even find a tear down of the system online. I believe less than 500,000 units were sold. This tear down and retrofit will be based on the original Game.com. There is a pocket version as well, but I don’t think it will have the space I need to work with.

Materials Needed:

Tiger Game.com, original, with two slots. Not much difference in price between working and not working. A working one with a good speaker is preferable.

Raspberry Pi 2 with up to a 32g microSD card for the operating system and games.

3.5″ LCD auto backup camera display, with composite input. I actually tried doing my previous mod with a SPI display for the Pi, and was very disappointed. There is a reason every mod you see online uses this display. If you have patience, you can get a screen for less than $15 from China. The specs say 6 to 32V input, but it runs just fine on 5V. All of my mods will use this screen.

USB gamepad. I went with a Buffalo Classic USB controller. Has all the buttons that I need, and I will use all of them.

The printed circuit board inside is pretty small and single sided, so easy to integrate. There are ways to plug directly into the Pi, but, this ends up costing a lot more than just hacking a USB game pad.

Wire. 26 AWG is fine. You can use single conductor or multi-conductor. Go with colors you can remember and make logical sense, like red for 5V line, black for ground, yellow for video, etc.

Tools needed: See this page.

The Tear Down:

The unit, as shipped from an honest seller from eBay, is in great cosmetic shape. There are no scuffs or scratches that I can see. The screen is basically shot, with many missing horizontal lines. However, the first thing I am removing and replacing is the screen. It looks very much like someone got this for a Christmas present and tossed it in a drawer 18 years ago. This thing is held together by more freaking screws than I have ever seen in such a small piece of electronics. In the end, I had to remove 38 (!) screws. As a comparison, my Lynx is held together with 4 screws. This is a sign that this unit was designed with cheap labor in mind. In addition, there are 4 circuit board inside as well. The motherboard, the joypad board, the control button board, and the LCD controller board. Again, the Lynx has only 1 board, with everything attached.

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As you can see, the back alone is held on by 9 screws. When those are out, you need to pop the snap connectors around the sides of the Game.com.  Once opened you are greeted by:

game_com_initial_open

Another 10 screws.  On the left, you can just see part of the motherboard.  From left to right, you can see the joypad board, then the LCD screen, and to the right, another board with the control button contacts.  Everything is pristine in this unit, indicating little or no use.  My well loved Lynx had a lot of dirt, wear, and DNA inside.

game_com_screen_pulled_back

Clipping two wires allows the LCD screen to be flipped out the the way, revealing several things:  5 more screws, some giant capacitors, and the crudely installed CPU and RAM chips.  The black stuff you see is a type of epoxy, you only usually see it with the cheapest of electronics.  It is messy to use and labor intensive.  The LCD interfaced via a pin header, the touch is through the flex cable.  Why there are giant capacitors is beyond me.  The screen must be electrically noisy, so they needed that for filtering?

gamecom_main_board

Here is the most of the main board revealed.  It does reveal a lot to someone with 10 years of being a manufacturing engineer for an electronics company:

The CPU and RAM are hand soldered in place.  There are 2 mysterious jumper wires (probably added when some trace failed).  There are signs of cold solder joints and too much heat applied on the joypad/power regulator board.  A lot more hand soldering than what is typical.  Again, my old Lynx DID have some last minute modifications, but most of the board (90% or so) was surface mount electronics, thus done with ‘pick and place’ machines.  A lot of this was done by hand…which is pretty typical of mid to late 90’s Chinese electronics.  Though, the gold plating on the joypad and control buttons is quite thick and shows no signs of wear.  The CPU must been clocked at 10Mhz, which is really pathetic on 8 bit processor from 1997.  This thing must of been a bear to program for.  A typical modem from this time period would probably have more computing power.  I have a feeling the LCD controller is also the graphics chip as well.

I’ll take better photos later, but here is the final result:

IMG_8505 IMG_8508 IMG_8509 IMG_8510 IMG_8503

In the end, I had to cut out the battery holder.  I replaced the contrast control with an on/off switch.  The 5V cell phone charger battery back is hot glued to the back.   They system works fine, but the ergonomics is just terrible and the d-pad is too mushy for practical use.  When I tear this unit apart for cannibalizing, I will take internal photos to show what I did, and why.  I am tempted to replace the d-pad with an analog stick, but the slab like construction of the game.com makes it too uncomfortable to hold for long term playing.  The guts will be reborn in a Retro Game Gear/Nomad conversion.

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Posted by on April 14, 2016 in Retro Gaming

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Retro Gaming

Been working on another site, http://retrogame.cyberphreak.com/ which follows my latest hobby, retrofitting old video game systems with Raspberry Pi computers.  I will be mirroring my posts on this page.  First off, my RetroGenesis!

 

Sega RetroGenesis

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The Genesis,or the Mega Drive everywhere else in the world, was the “Must Have” system of the early 1990’s. It was a 16bit system based on the Motorola 68000. This is not a history lesson, but a retrofit. I never had one of these bad boys, but I remember playing Revenge of Shinobi and Altered Beast at a friend’s house.

It is now 2016,and darnit, I want a Genesis. My younger brother donated a dead Genesis to be retrofitted with a RaspberryPi, running RetroPie. For this retrofit I wanted to use the original controllers. I went with Hyperkin 6 button controllers, which are an exact copy of the originals.

As you can see, the case was a little dirty and marked with a price. Remove 6 self tapping screws and the case opens easily. There are only 2 screws that hold the motherboard in place,they are located on the edges of the cartridge slot. Remove those two and the LED on the lid. A little warm, soapy water, a sponge and a toothbrush, and off comes the dirt and DNA. You can let this dry and get to work on the wiring.

power_block removed

First thing first, removals, with the joystick connectors at the lower right corner:
-power regulator at the upper left corner
-RF modulator, located just to the right of the power regulator.
-Cartridge slot. This was done with brute force and wire clippers.
-Optical Isolators located just north of the two db 9 joystick connectors.

Labeled_Guts

I mounted the raspberry pi in the upper left, where the power converter and RF modulator was located. I mounted the USB hub where the cartridge port was located.

power_switch

On the underside, I soldered wires to the power switch and the 2 DB-9 connectors.  At this point, I do not have a photo of the DB-9 connections.

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There is very little case modification needed.   Just make D shaped holes to allow for the AVI, HDMI, and USB power to protrude.    I hid the USB port under the cartridge doors, so the system looks very original when off.

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After all the components were placed, I took some WD-40 on a rag and shined up the unit and plugged in the new controllers.  It looks really legitimate, with the original power switch and power on indicator working and original (modern copy) controllers.  It is a practical and fun system to play and the original controllers have a great feel and ergonomics.  In total, you are looking at less than $100 in parts and about 1 to 2 hours of labor, depending on your skill.

Parts used:

How Genesis games were meant to be played:

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Posted by on April 14, 2016 in Retro Gaming

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Prairie Preserve

Below are photos of a small prairie preserve in Tinley Park, IL, close to my new job.

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Posted by on July 2, 2015 in Photos

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Updates are not always good

Tried to update my Choco theme, but for some reason, all the sidebars are just plain broken.  I hope they update it soon, I really liked that theme.  For now, switched themes.  What do you think?

 

Edit:

Fixed it.  If you use Choco theme, and your sidebars are not showing up, remove from sidebar.php:

<?php do_action( 'before_sidebar' ); ?>
<a href="#" class="close-sidebar"></a>
<div class="sidebar-nav">
<?php wp_nav_menu( array( 'container' => false, 'theme_location' => 'primary', 'menu_class' => 'menu clear-fix') ); ?>
</div><!-- /.sidebar-nav -->
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Posted by on December 19, 2014 in General Comments

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Retro-future charm

Retro-future charm

I decided to try something different, and I am not sure if anyone else has tried it. I wanted to take the best word processor that I could find (WordPerfect 6.0 for DOS) and make it compatible with ‘the cloud’. Well, I have found a way to make it work.

For the WordPerfect side of things, it is easy. Found a nice, working copy of 6.0 and installed it and use it via DosBOX. It is super stable, has an unobtrusive interface, and the best spell checker, even after 20 years.

Then, signed up for Dropbox and installed the client on all the computers that I use. Finally, I make sure DosBOX runs from the Dropbox folder. DOS is shockingly good on space, even with a bunch of games installed, and Windows 3.1, it only takes a small percentage of my Dropbox quota. So, now, when I fire up my WordPerfect for DOS, every thing I save to my “C:” drive is synchronized with my Dropbox storage. I can start a blog post on my netbook, and finish it on my home computer, right where I left off.

It is a little hokey, but it works really well and any changes I make, like install a new game, save my progress, etc. in a DOS application is automatically synchronized to all of my computers. Even using the small 2 gigs of space, that is more than enough for my needs. Anyone else doing something like this? Let me know in the comments below.

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Posted by on June 13, 2014 in Computers

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