"The Amazing nPod"


   Well of course I have to tell some sort of story with this "Making Of" so here goes. A few months ago I'm sitting around, probably soldering something, when a friend calls me up. Seems he's over at St. Vincent De Paul's (I guess some sort of thrift store) and there's a stash of NES on a chip joystick units there. Do I want one? Ten bucks? Sure! (I shoulda had him buy them all, oh well, maybe they're still there)

  So yippee, yet another NES on a chip unit to make into something. I rip the sucker apart and the motherboard sits on my desk for a few months. After a while I get sick of accidentally setting beers on it so I set about to build "The Latest NES Portable" (A C64-on-a-chip has now taken its place there on the desk)

   I then thought back to my NES on a chip portables of the past. The first one was pretty cool but a bit thick. The NES Micro from last fall was neat but... maybe too small? Shudder at the thought. Thus I felt a unit somewhat bigger than the Micro, and with a bigger screen, would be the way to go.

(Not suitable for template use)
The line-drawing version of this portable's design. I really dig line drawings.

  One nice thing about having designed God knows how many of these things is that I've got lots of "parts" already drawn up in Illustrator. It's getting to the point where I just kind of copy/paste these things together. Well, maybe not quite like that but having a library of drawings helps. So I knocked together this layout in a day or two and it seemed pretty reasonable. Main tricky part, as usual, was how to get at and install the batteries. More on that later.

This is the controller that comes with the Core PS3.
The control board.

  Above you see the controller section of the unit, what I like to call the "control board" The NES uses a serial shift register and some pull-up resistors to make a controller so here I've basically wired one by hand. It's not using a PCB rather a piece of engraving plastic that I laser cut (actually much cheaper than having a PCB made)

  The case of the unit itself was also done using a laser engraver. Made from pieces of .225" acrylic, it's stacked together and glued to form the shell of the portable.

benheck.com Brings You A Photo of a Black Blob.
The inside of the front of the case. Black acrylic is really, REALLY un-photogenic.

  The next step is to start stuffing things inside the case. Here you can see the screen (same model I used for my Atari Phoenixes last year) the speaker, control board and audio amp. Oh yes and the power switch.

All my wiring looks like something from the 1930's... Sigh.
It looks so simple, doesn't it?

  OK let's take a look at the rear of the unit for a bit. All it really consists of is the cartridge slot (rewired to the NES on a chip using old floppy drive cables) and the NES on a chip board itself. In the photo below I'm holding a complete NES. All that needs to be attached is power, ground, audio, video and the controller (which is 3 wires)

  I'm sick of typing NES on a chip. Henceforth "NOAC" Ah that feels better.

Screw the 'Virtual Console" - this is where it's at.
Note the single wire going across the contacts - this disables the crappy built-in ROMS.

   The NOAC is then attached to the piece of plastic between the two halves of the case - the part I like to call the "Match Plate" (Not to be confused with that new Woody Allen movie) And yes, I did use HOT GLUE to hold the board down. Seriously, hot glue is the stuff of dreams, ranks right up with sliced bread and the transistor as far as I'm concerned. The cartridge slot itself is screwed to the case since it takes the most abuse.

Remember, if you wire stuff like this enough you become numb to the process.

View from space
Here's how the front and back of the unit relates to each other. Note how few wires need to be connected to the NES (on the right)

  OK let's go back to the front of the unit. The bottom of it is reserved for the (4) AA batteries required to run the unit (Sorry, no solar cells or cold fusion yet)

Close-up of the rat's nest

  I used a standard battery holder (well, actually 2 of them connected) and then added a small header so when it's slid into the unit the power will connect.

Where's Waldo?
Highlighted view of the header connection between the battery pack and the nPod.

This reminds me a Colt 1911 for some reason. Actually, I guess it's obvious.
Front view of how the battery pack slides in. A piece then slides down to lock it in place.

  The unit is then screwed together and ready to play! Here's some more photos of it while you're here...

It must be THEEN!!!!
Side view. Total thickness: 1.6 inches / 41 mm

A look down the gullet.

This game rocks
Rear of unit, with the best game ever made containing the line "BARF!" Please excuse that thing on the wall in the background, I think it's some sort of phone plug.

Mario is thinking here: "WIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Top-down shot showing the unit's size relative to a cartridge.

  There you have it - my latest NES portable. This one has been sold already but if anyone else wants one like this model I can be convinced to build it pretty easily. (Money helps too) As for my future projects, a hint for one was in this article, and as for the other, well, you wouldn't believe me if I told you.

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