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A tale of two Pockets: 5v step-up regulator install by linklooklisten (Matt G) Dustin Hamilton - June 21 2019, 0 Comments

Matt G, better known as linklooklisten, is a modder based in New York City, New York and a prolific poster on Instagram and Twitter. We became aware of him via his Instagram feed by not only the designs and photography, but also the helpfulness of helping people learning and do things is a 'breath of fresh air' as it were. He's keenly interested in helping build up this hobby.

He decided to take our recent post about adding a 5v step-up regulator to the Game Boy Pocket when backlit and kindly made a pictorial guide out of it and a video to showcase the different.

Simply enough, thank you Matt!

===== ====== =====

Game Boy Pocket v5 step-up voltage regulator - linklooklisten - Hand Held Legend

Ever since I received this Extreme Green Gameboy Pocket in the mail back in December of 2016, I wanted it to be more…extreme… more… green. And what better way to do that than by adding a green backlight to it. I had already modded a bunch of original Gameboy systems at this point and became  familiar with AGS-101 screen mods for GBAs. This Extreme Green Pocket would be my first pocket to modify. I installed the backlight, slept that night, and installed the bivert module the next day using the V2 bivert which meant I had to run wires from the front of the motherboard to the speaker area where the bivert rested as well as a resistor to the backlight. It wasn’t easy since it was my first go at this, but I prevailed.

Now in 2019, much has changed in terms of boards and backlights. Biverts have shrunk, and resistors are built in to backlight ribbons. Since the times have changed, I figured to at least swap the older bivert for the new one and also add a 5v step-up regulator so that my first modded pocket can have a better 5v source to keep the backlight nice and bright. I’ve yet to install a V3 backlight because the V2 with a resistor gets the same results. Many flash carts like the El Cheapo and Everdrive can also cause the Pockets backlit screen to flicker when a rom is being written to it’s memory, contrast may be adjusted to undesired levels automatically or the screen could turn blank entirely. Installing the Pololu 5v Step-Up module fixes these issues as well.

Let’s begin!

What’s required:

  • Y1 and Phillips screwdriver
  • Soldering iron and supplies (a thin tip on the soldering iron is recommended)
  • Wire
  • A Pololu U1V10F5 (this is the 5v regulator, very small which is perfect for a Pocket)
  • Patience and time (don’t rush!)
  • Quick tip: always solder ground (GND) lines first!

First, open up the system. (I installed the drop-in bivert chip a few weeks ago.)

Game Boy Pocket v5 step-up voltage regulator - linklooklisten - Hand Held Legend

Focus on the lower right area on the board. We’re going to prep the 2 solder joints labeled 3 and 1. If you follow this to the front of the board, 3 connects to GND and 1 to VCC on the pockets DC regulator. Add some solder to both of these. I chose this spot instead of the speaker because the Pololu U1V10F5 is so small, it fits in this area with zero interference to wires, capacitors or the shell when attempting to close. Personally, I prefer to see little to no wires. Clean builds look better than spaghetti, but to each their own! If you dig wires, put more in there!

Game Boy Pocket v5 step-up voltage regulator - linklooklisten - Hand Held Legend

Next, prep the Pololu 5v regulator with some solder too.

Before: Game Boy Pocket v5 step-up voltage regulator - linklooklisten - Hand Held Legend - Pololu  After: Game Boy Pocket v5 step-up voltage regulator - linklooklisten - Hand Held Legend - Pololu

Next, I measured how short of a wire I’d need to cut to make VIN on this little board reach #1(VCC) on the back of the system board (VCC on the regulator), I did the same for GND on both the small 5v board to #3 (GND on the system regulator),

Connect GND on the 5v board to #3/GND on the system, then VIN on the small 5v board to #1/VCC on the system. Always solder ground first!

We’re good with this small board for now. Let’s shift gears to the backlight. Since this system was already modded, I had to remove the 2 wires on the backlight ribbon. I measured how long the new wires would need to be in order to reach GND and VOUT on the Pololu 5v board. Again, this is my preference. If you do not want exact measurements, cut longer wires. After measuring, I connected a blue wire to the - solder pad, and a red wire to the previously removed resistor, and connected the resistor to the + solder pad, with both wires facing to the left.

Game Boy Pocket v5 step-up voltage regulator - linklooklisten - Hand Held Legend

Slide the backlight back in to the display and carefully wrap the wires around to the front of the system board. Solder the other end of the blue wire to GND on the Pololu board and make sure the wire currently in GND stays in there.Then solder the red wire to VOUT. In the end, we have 2 really short wires connecting the Pololu 5v board to the Pocket system board, and the 2 backlight wires going to the Pololu board. I snuck in a piece of Kapton tape under the Pololu board as a safety precaution.

Game Boy Pocket v5 step-up voltage regulator - linklooklisten - Hand Held Legend - Pololu

The red and blue backlight wires should fit perfectly between the system board and shell. This is another reason why I prefer wires at the exact length. If they were any longer, they would have to get tucked in a bit further and be visible from the front of the system. I guess this is more of a non-issue if you have a solid colored Pocket, but I’ve found myself still cutting wires to their exact length even on non-transparent systems for practice. I want them to look good inside of the system whether you can see it or not.

Game Boy Pocket v5 step-up voltage regulator - linklooklisten - Hand Held Legend - Pololu

Upon closing the system, you’ll notice the back of the shell closes with no problems. Nothing gets stuck or is too snug. In this particular build, you can see the Pololu step-up board. If you want to, you can tape down the step-up board using a piece of double-sided tape, but the 2 wires being so short also means the board isn’t moving anywhere.

Game Boy Pocket v5 step-up voltage regulator - linklooklisten - Hand Held Legend - Pololu

Put in 2 AAA batteries to test it all out. The result should be a brightly lit screen.

Game Boy Pocket v5 step-up voltage regulator - linklooklisten - Hand Held Legend

I keep trying to perfect this particular Gameboy Pocket, which is why it’s been a work in progress over the past few years. I cannot stress this next part enough: the drop-in bivert option is totally worth it and makes a massive difference in the quality. The contrast pops and overall image quality looks much cleaner.

Game Boy Pocket v5 step-up voltage regulator - linklooklisten - Hand Held Legend

As an alternative, the Pololu board could be installed on the back of the speaker, just trace the wire length along the bottom of the system board. That should keep things looking clean as well. Also, using a V3 backlight means no need for a resistor.

As I mentioned earlier,the 5v step-up module fixes flash cart loading issues. This video shows what it's like trying to load an Everdrive on a modded Pocket both with and without the Pololu 5v board installed.

 

 

About linklooklisten

Matt G (linklooklisten) is a regularly shared modder on our social pages (Facebook, Instagram) and we're glad to have him join us in sharing some articles with you about modding. He has always loved portable gaming and got his first limited edition gold colored Game Boy Pocket as a child and started collecting Game Boy games. He began modding Playstation Portables (PSPs) back in 2005, later installing different colored shells, custom firmware, creating what was known as Pandora batteries and making recovery memory sticks for friends and forum goers. Fast forward to 2016 when he would backlight his first DMG Game Boy and the rest is history.

Profile: linklooklisten


Game Boy Pocket backlighting and 5v step-up regulators Dustin Hamilton - June 13 2019, 0 Comments

We want to address something that’s coming up frequently in the modding community… that the first impression of backlighting a Game Boy Pocket is disappointing. We get it. It doesn’t have to be, though, as the primary issue is brightness of the backlight - or sometimes the system simply behaving oddly or failing to stay powered-up.

Here’s the good news: this is an easily resolved problem… it may seem intimidating at first, but the solution is a 5v step-up (aka ‘boost’) voltage regulator. I’m going to cover not only the solution, but we’ll dive a bit into what’s happening and why the backlight is dim (or the system failing to work at all).

 

What’s going on here?

Simply enough the Pocket is awesome in that it’s very small, light, and is even powered by just 2 AAA batteries… and at the same time the issue is that, electrically speaking, it runs on very thin margins. Simply enough the main DC-DC convertor in the Pocket was designed to handle the system itself and using standard cartridges... there isn't enough margin for things like a hungry backlight and/or flash cartridge. While 2 AAA batteries add up to ~3.0v (alkaline), keep in mind that the system itself is using the bulk of that the batteries don't spend much time at the full 3.0v, either. The backlight is dim due to not getting sufficient voltage. Sometimes even, as mentioned, the system will behave oddly, visual anomalies, or even fail to stay powered-up at all… that depends on a number of factors, which I’ll skip for now to get at the solution.

 

Ok, so now what?

What’s needed is to boost the voltage supplied to the backlight, which is aptly named since the common name for the part is a 5v ‘boost’ [voltage] regulator… more formally known as a 5v step-up [voltage] regulator. These are rather small  PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards) but very important in function.

A 5v step-up regulator (I’ll call it a ‘boost’ going forward) does exactly what it says it does in that it takes voltage as low as 0.5v (per spec of our suggested boost) and ‘steps it up’ to a smooth and continuous 5v. The board I mention here is the Pololu U1V10F5 and measures only 0.35” wide x 0.45” tall (8.9mm x 11.5mm).

 

You can purchase the Polou U1V10F5 on their site currently for $4.49 USD (for 1) plus shipping: https://www.pololu.com/product/2115. You’ll need one to do this mod. Mind you this isn’t the only boost that will work, I simply find it to be the smallest and easiest to tuck away in consoles.

 

Installation

What’s we’re going to do is get the boost installed in a way that uses essentially straight battery power so that it does two things:

  1. Won’t strain the stock DC-DC regulator, which at 23 years old is likely showing its age.
  2. Providing the backlight its needed steady 5v power supply.

 

Required

  • Soldering iron and supplies
  • Multimeter
  • Wire (30 gauge suggested)
  • Game Boy Pocket prepped for backlighting
  • Backlight
  • Resistor (if the backlight doesn’t have one built-in) It's very important to ensure you have the right resistor for the color of backlight you're installing!

 

Installation (presumes console open, etc)

Note: We’ll be placing the boost on the back of the speaker, so be sure to give yourself enough wire to do that.

  1. Start by soldering VCC from the Pocket’s regulator (middle-left solder point) to VIN on the boost.
  2. Solder GND from the Pocket’s regulator (lower-left solder point) to GND on the boost.
  3. Game Boy Pocket 5v DC-DC regulator 
  4. Check for continuity, while the console is off - you want to ensure you have a good connection between VCC and VIN, and between GND and GND. You do not want continuity between VCC and GND… if your meter gives a positive continuity indication (usually a beep/tone), then you’ve got a solder bridge and need to correct that before proceeding.
  5. Power on the console, and use your multimeter to measure the output of the boost between GND and VOUT, looking for a steady 5v (I usually see ~5.15v). If that looks solid and steady, power down the console lets move on.
  6. If your backlight does not have a built-in resistor, you’ll need the correct resistor for your color of backlight - check with the vendor if you're unsure. Solder the backlight POS (+, red) wire to VOUT on the boost… wire-in the resistor if needed. Note: Our Hand Held Legend V3 backlights have the resistor built-in; no external resistor is needed.
  7. Solder the GND (-, black) wire from the backlight to GND on the boost… you might have to re-solder this to ensure that both GND from the Pocket and GND from the backlight are soldered to this same GND point on the boost.
  8. Check for continuity again - you want continuity between POS (+, red) on the backlight and VOUT on the boost. You’ll also want continuity between GND (-, black) on the backlight and GND on the boost. Be sure to test for continuity between GND and VOUT - if you get a positive indication, you’ll need to correct that (usually a solder bridge) before proceeding.
  9. Power on the console - the backlight will power-on at this point and be at it’s full brightness, with the console doing it’s normal power-on procedure.

You’re all set regarding the backlight… now where to put this stuff? As mentioned briefly ahead of the wiring instructions, we’re going to place the boost on the back of the speaker - there’s a bit of room there, and the step-up is small, so it works out well. If you’ve placed your bivert module there, you can pick up our Pocket Bivert (link below) or relocate the bivert or the 5v step-up to another location in the Pocket (something not covered here, for brevity and focus).

Game Boy Pocket - Speaker back

 

Suggested: Recap

Especially if your console had difficulty staying powered-up or had other odd behavior when you first had the backlight installed, and to ensure top performance, you’ll want to replace the capacitors in your pocket… there are only four of them, so it’s an easy procedure. We don’t carry capacitor kits at this time, so head to Console5 (link below) for one from them at $1.29 USD at the time of this writing. It’s also an easy process - and we’ll get into detail in a later article.

 

Ok…

Close up the console, now that we’ve tested everything and ensure it’s working, and you’re good-to-go!

Thank you once again, and keep those questions coming! We promise to do what we can to answer the most common questions to the best we’re able.

 

Product mentions

 

References and suggested viewing


Midwest Embedded GBC LCD Test by Jellybelly Customs Dustin Hamilton - May 30 2019, 0 Comments

Our friend Matt Whitehead over at Jellybelly Customs is at it again - this time taking the Midwest Embedded backlit LCD for the Game Boy Color, studying it, and plotting how it performs. This is an update to the prior write-up where he compared the BennVenn and McWill offerings, and of course Matt gets technical to explain what’s happening and why… not just testing, but also getting into the ‘why’ of things.

Lets take a look…

MW Embedded backlit GBC LCD

Another backlit Game Boy Color LCD on the market, mainly in the USA and the time of checking he doesn’t ship internationally which is a shame. However, I got my hands on one through a friend in the states

Overall it's similar to the McWill and also the BennVenn, it does require some trimming and some soldering to install it into the shell. Also, it would suit a custom glass screen lens but the LCD metal board has been coloured black from the factory so it doesn't stand out too much. A good thing about it is that with the soldering you can get brightness adjustment so the test was done at max brightness.

One thing that instantly jumps out at me about this mod is that the PCB seems to include its own power circuit for the chips and LCD. That is a good thing in as it won’t be demanding the power from the GBC just for the batteries. So the GBC can happily work as it is intended to.

So I put it under the same tests as the other but only under the powered on tests as we know now that the games just add more strain onto things so we can predict that from the previous tests.

Powered on

Volts

Milliamps

3.2

180

3.1

190

3

190

2.9

200

2.8

210

2.7

220

2.6

230

2.5

250

2.4

270

2.3

280

2.2

300

2.1

330

2

360

1.9

400

1.8

600

1.7

0

 

So what’s going on, well it’s also identical to the McWill in its consumption other than the fact the console will stay on longer all the way down to 1.9v which is good. Something is not quite right with it though. 

Towards the lower end of the voltage range strange things occur, the mod circuitry demands a huge spike, the LCD goes off but the console actually stays on. Why is this?

Hang on this might get a bit deep.

Behavior like this happens when the power circuitry inductors become over saturated with current, meaning that it can’t deal with anymore so the current just spikes fast and high. Luckily modern day IC chips just cut out when this happens and it’s also good that this power spike is only coming from the batteries, not the console itself so will not damage the console.

Overall it’s a nicely done thing and will run for around 4 hours ish and is on par with the Mcwill 5 hrs ish but BennVenns consumptions are still leaps above the rest.

Again this is still a great mod and nicely done and I’m sure it’s not the last we have seen for the GBC backlight world so when I find more I will stack them all up against each other.

 

The original posting of this article is on Jellybelly Customs’ website at: Midwest Embedded GBC LCD Test

About Jellybelly Customs and Matt Whitehead

Started by Matt Whitehead as a hobby in 2016, as a way to reconnect with the consoles of his childhood, he was frustrated at the lack of access to the parts and equipment needed. He spends his time doing custom consoles and creating many of the parts that he and others had limited access to - definitely a positive impact in the modding community.

Profile: Jellybelly Customs


Freckle Shack vs McWill by Jellybelly Customs Dustin Hamilton - May 24 2019, 0 Comments

Freckle Shack vs. McWill Game Boy Color LCD Battery Life Test

The modding community is a fairly small world in many ways, and being an active part of it we are glad to have made many friends along the way... each bringing their own skills and vantage point to the craft.

Jellybelly Customs, headed up by Matt Whitehead, is one of those friends and his latest focus has been the number of Game Boy Color backlit LCDs that have suddenly hit the market. Most notably, Matt is curious about the power consumption of the different offerings, and this is his write-up focused on BennVenn’s Freckleshack and McWill’s LCD... with the Midwest Embedded results to be posted soon.

Let’s get into it...

 

Freckleshack vs McWill by Jellybelly Customs’ Matt Whitehead

Consumption Test

It would now seem that we are in a new age of Game Boy Color modifications, with various new LCD’s out there that are far simpler to install than the AGS101 mod before it. No machining, little to no soldering. These both make it appeal to lots of people old and new to the modding world.

However, things are not always as good as they seem. The standard GBC was a workhorse, it ran off 2 AA batteries and lasted for what seems an eternity 20+ hours. The issue with modifying a console is you’re taking something that is designed as intended from Nintendo and asking it to run more than it possibly should do. The GBC nowadays is also known for having a rather poor DC converter to todays standards, suffers from old capacitors and failing sound problems.

The classic example of overpowering a console is the Game Boy Pocket as you really need to install a 5-volt buck-boost converter to power the backlight as the console simply cannot do it on its own reliably. The GBC is no different.

So what am I getting at…..

Well with these new LCD mods out there people have been quoting (or failing to quote) battery life estimates or tests results. With one product description quoting 3 hours and other quoting 20 hours under certain conditions which is right?

I wanted to find out the consumptions of the 2 LCD’s I could get my hands on, the Freckle Shack and the McWill.

So some information to begin with:

  • 2 AA batteries working range is around 3.2v to 1.8v so we will use this for the tests
  • The test will be carried out using the same motherboard revision a V5
  • The test will also be carried out with full volume

There will be 4 different conditions used:

  1. Powered on with a genuine Tetris cart in gameplay
  2. Powered on with an Everdrive X7 playing Tetris rom
  3. Powered on with an ElCheapoSD playing Tetris rom
  4. Powered on (boot up screen) no cartridge

So first up the Standard GBC console

Genuine Tetris

Everdrive X7

running tetris

ElCheapo

running tetris

Powered on

Volts

Milliamps

Volts

Milliamps

Volts

Milliamps

Volts

Milliamps

3.2

40

3.2

50

3.2

80

3.2

30

3.1

40

3.1

60

3.1

80

3.1

30

3

40

3

70

3

80

3

30

2.9

40

2.9

80

2.9

100

2.9

30

2.8

50

2.8

80

2.8

100

2.8

30

2.7

50

2.7

90

2.7

110

2.7

40

2.6

50

2.6

90

2.6

110

2.6

40

2.5

50

2.5

100

2.5

120

2.5

40

2.4

60

2.4

100

2.4

120

2.4

40

2.3

60

2.3

100

2.3

130

2.3

50

2.2

60

2.2

110

2.2

130

2.2

50

2.1

70

2.1

110

2.1

140

2.1

50

2

70

2

120

2

160

2

50

1.9

80

1.9

120

1.9

170

1.9

60

1.8

0

1.8

130

1.8

0

1.8

60

1.7

0

1.7

0

1.7

0

1.7

60

 

As you can see the standard console is an efficient thing drawing 60ma when powered and worst case using an ElCheapo at 170ma. Also uses the full range of the GBC from 3.2v to 1.8v.

Next up the McWill LCD modded console:

Genuine Tetris

Everdrive X7

running tetris

ElCheapo

running tetris

Powered on

volts

Milliamps

volts

Milliamps

volts

Milliamps

volts

Milliamps

3.2

210

3.2

210

3.2

300

3.2

190

3.1

230

3.1

230

3.1

310

3.1

200

3

240

3

240

3

320

3

210

2.9

280

2.9

250

2.9

330

2.9

220

2.8

300

2.8

260

2.8

340

2.8

230

2.7

310

2.7

270

2.7

350

2.7

240

2.6

320

2.6

280

2.6

360

2.6

250

2.5

330

2.5

300

2.5

370

2.5

270

2.4

350

2.4

320

2.4

380

2.4

280

2.3

0

2.3

360

2.3

0

2.3

300

2.2

0

2.2

380

2.2

0

2.2

330

2.1

0

2.1

0

2.1

0

2.1

0

2

0

2

0

2

0

2

0

1.9

0

1.9

0

1.9

0

1.9

0

1.8

0

1.8

0

1.8

0

1.8

0

1.7

0

1.7

0

1.7

0

1.7

0

 

As you might see in this the McWill LCD at best draws 190ma and at worst around 380ma but also because of the high current draw the console shuts off early at 2.2v - 2.4v.

Lastly the BennVenn FreckleShack

Genuine Tetris

Everdrive X7

running tetris

ElCheapo

running tetris

Powered on

Volts

Milliamps

Volts

Milliamps

Volts

Milliamps

Volts

Milliamps

3.2

100

3.2

130

3.2

160

3.2

80

3.1

100

3.1

130

3.1

160

3.1

90

3

110

3

150

3

160

3

90

2.9

110

2.9

150

2.9

170

2.9

90

2.8

110

2.8

160

2.8

170

2.8

100

2.7

120

2.7

170

2.7

180

2.7

100

2.6

120

2.6

180

2.6

190

2.6

110

2.5

130

2.5

190

2.5

200

2.5

120

2.4

140

2.4

190

2.4

210

2.4

120

2.3

140

2.3

190

2.3

220

2.3

130

2.2

150

2.2

200

2.2

230

2.2

140

2.1

160

2.1

210

2.1

250

2.1

150

2

170

2

220

2

260

2

160

1.9

180

1.9

230

1.9

270

1.9

160

1.8

190

1.8

240

1.8

0

1.8

0

1.7

0

1.7

0

1.7

0

1.7

0

 

What can we make of this then? Well the FS seems better overall and is comparable to the standard console. At best it draws 80ma and at worst 270ma using an ElCheapoSD and uses the full range of 3.2v to 1.8v

The next this is to compare the charts of all 3 of the console to see how the results compare to each other in under certain conditions:

 

Powered on tests

 

 

Genuine Tetris

 

 

Everdrive X7 tests playing Tetris

 

ElCheapoSD tests playing Tetris

 

If you’ve stuck around this long then we’re almost done.

In summary what I see from the tests is that the FS is similar to the standard console just a higher in consumptions due to the backlit LCD which is understandable, It seems to stay powered on for the full working range of the voltage tests and also doesn’t have huge spikes in milliamps over the range. With a minimum consumption of 80ma and a max of 270ma using the ElCheapoSD.

So what does this all mean, well you will use up every bit of power in the batteries you put in and get the maximum play time. If we take an average of all the FS consumption data we get 160ma usage which will mean roughly around 12hrs of play time on 2000mah batteries.

The Mcwill is a lot higher with consumption of 190ma at best and 380ma at worse on an El cheapo. From the data, we get an average consumption of 286ma which will give around 4.5hrs of play time partly cause by only being able to use around 70% of the power from the batteries.

So what’s best…!

It’s whatever you want from the mod, if you want a VGA output then your only choice is a McWill, if you don’t want to remortgage your house for batteries then a Freckle Shack is what you need.

I am very OCD (as you can tell) about things working as efficiently as possible so for me and until someone can show me a good reason I’ll be sticking to the Freckle Shack for my modded consoles as well as the AGS101 mod. To me, the McWill high amp level and early console cut out means that the GBC really cannot be too happy having to provide the extra power that the LCD mod is asking for and I don’t like it. The GBC DC converter becomes highly inefficient at the high current draw which shows in the charts, and with some GBC spec sheets out there showing it has a 500ma fuse inside the console the McWill and an Everdrive type cart is getting seriously close to this when it is reading and writing. Which is not ideal!

I also have zero interest in installing a VGA output, in all the GameGear LCD’s I’ve done over the years I’ve only once installed the VGA option so see it as a pointless thing to include. It’s a handheld console so keep it that way.

However, the Freckle Shack did have its downsides.

Early reports from customers are that there are issues with a few games like pokemon pinball, BennVenn goes into more detail over on his facebook page but a new firmware is being worked on that will rectify this. His LCD is also not quite as bright but is this related to the better consumption I don’t know. This was fix after BennVenn halted shipment to produce and new firmware so the problem is all resolved.

Both of these engineers have done an awesome job in bringing these to the market and both have their pros and cons so it’s up to you to decide what you’d like to install. This is not written to discourage you to buy either product both are good in their own way, so use this information with a pinch of salt and make your own decision! 

I also have an MD Enterprises LCD on the way so once I have this is will update everything.

QUICK DISCLAIMER...

I carried out the test as fairly as possible to compare the two produces on the market in real playing situations.

 

The original posting of this article is on Jellybelly Customs’ website at: Jellybelly Customs: Freckle Shack vs McWill 

About Jellybelly Customs and Matt Whitehead

Started by Matt Whitehead as a hobby in 2016, as a way to reconnect with the consoles of his childhood, he was frustrated at the lack of access to the parts and equipment needed. He spends his time doing custom consoles and creating many of the parts that he and others had limited access to - definitely a positive impact in the modding community.

Profile: Jellybelly Customs

 

 


Jealousy is at the Heart of this Game Boy Collection Kyle C. - February 22 2019, 0 Comments

These iconic console legends are rarely seen in such a pristine state. Thanks for keep the love for these legends alive!

Is the Game Boy a Computer? Colin (This Does Not Compute) - June 06 2016, 0 Comments

This is the first post in an occasional series by Colin from This Does Not Compute.

One of the things that has always interested me are devices that should be computers, but aren't really. We generally think of "computers" as multi-purpose systems, things that run an operating system and applications. But there are tons of devices out there that have processors and RAM but don't really run an operating system in the traditional sense. What is one very famous example of this that we are all familiar with? The Nintendo Game Boy series, specifically the original Game Boy, Game Boy Pocket, and Game Boy Color, sometimes referred to as the "DMG", "MGB" and "GBC" respectively.

I recently ran across the RealBoy emulator project (https://realboyemulator.wordpress.com). There are plenty of Game Boy emulators out there and this one isn't really any different... except for this excellent blog series that explains in depth how the original DMG works. It's meant as a primer in order to understand how the emulator's code works, but it's also an amazing look at the underlying hardware.

In short, the architecture of the Game Boy is pretty simple -- processor, RAM, and ROM. The first two reside in the console itself while the ROM (and some more RAM) is in the game cartridge. There's only a small amount of permanent code in the Game Boy hardware, basically just enough to get the device to perform an initial cartridge check. (The check is, in a way, a form of DRM; it makes sure that the game was licensed by Nintendo and not independently released).

The CPU is perhaps the most interesting part of the system. In the DMG, it's a Sharp LR35902. By all appearances it's a custom part, and in many ways it is, but designing an entire processor from the ground up just for a hand-held game system (or any game system at all really) isn't cost effective. So the Game Boy's CPU is actually based on the Zilog Z80, which was at that time -- and still is -- a common 8-bit processor. The Z80 itself was actually a binary-compatible version of the Intel 8080; not necessarily a clone, but capable of executing all the same instructions. There were some additions to the Z80 beyond that of the 8080, but the custom Sharp CPU wasn't just a rebadged Z80. It actually leveraged parts from both processor architectures, while omitting anything that wasn't relevant to a game console.

What to me at least, makes the Game Boy more of a device than a computer is that there was no traditional operating system layer, firmware, or anything standing in the way between the game and the hardware. After that initial check, the CPU simply ran any instructions presented to it by the game. Modern games are written using a high-level programming language like C, but older games were written in machine language telling the CPU exactly what to do and when. In some ways, the game itself was an operating system. (This is also partially why emulators aren't perfect -- you have to write high-level code that mimics how hardware works, whereas modern games, already written in a high-level language, can simply be ported to another platform)

You might be most surprised by the lineage of the Intel 8080. It was originally designed in 1974 (along with the Z80), and made its way into early PCs and even some arcade games like Space Invaders. But the 8080 also was the basis for subsequent Intel processors, like the 8086. The 8086 is where we get the common computer term "x86", as it spawned the 286, 386 and 486 CPUs. Those of course led to the Pentium series, and on to the modern processors we use in our computers today. It's crazy to think that in 1989 when it was released, the Game Boy actually shared some similarities with computers running Windows. It is in its own right, a computer... that also isn't.

This Does Not Compute is a YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/thisdoesnotcompute) about gaming, content creation and all things technology. Colin can be reached on Twitter @thisdoesnotcomp (https://www.twitter.com/thisdoesnotcomp) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/thisdoesnotcomp).


LOCA Tips | Bye Bye Bubbles Kyle Capel - August 01 2015, 6 Comments

Bubbles are any modders nightmare when installing your Game Boy Color frontlight with LOCA. They haunt you, remaining unseen when applying your front light, only to appear when you rig her up. There is a better way to install your frontlight with LOCA and can avoid 80% more of those nasty bubbles. Here's the tip.

Install your frontlight upside down in the front housing to ensure that it will align with your LCD panel. After applying your LOCA, remove any air bubble left with a fine screwdriver by simply scooping them out. When you are satisfied, slowly set the LCD on top of the LOCA instead of setting the front light on the LCD.  Place a weighted flat object on top of the frontlight (such as a large candle, paper weight... etc.) to help distribute the LOCA and create a thinner layer of glue. A thin layer of loca sets the LEDs closer to the LCD and helps to provide a brighter panel when lit. The frontlight will be held in place by the frame when you observe from underneath.

Turn your setup over and leave an object under the panel to support it from below. allow some of the LOCA to cure while the panel is in the housing in order to hold it in place. Afterwards remove the front casing and fully cure your glue. Be sure to remove the reflective tape on the back of the panel before application and after in order to cure the entire setup. Let the edges of the panel cure in the window after and you are almost set to go. 

No more bubbles for a professional install! I have also seen the option to autoclave your setup. Unless you have one of those, this is your next best option.


Update - Backlights - Game Gear - Buttons and Screens Kyle Capel - July 13 2015, 2 Comments

Here are a few updates for those of you who have been asking about when we will be restocked with various items. We will be away July 18th - 25th. Store will be open but orders won't go out until the 27th.

  • New Backlights Version 2.0: Completion date is set on the 24th of July. I hope to have them and available on August 1st. Sorry for the wati! Pushed back again...
  • Screens: Complete date was the 29th of June and is not the 27th of July...  hope to have them and available on August 1st. Sorry for the wati!
  • Buttons have been revised so the ETA here is August...
  • Game Gear/Lynx Backlights are back in stock
  • OSAKA LOCA order placed - and shipment is being prepared. Hope to start selling July 27th.
  • Clear GBC shells are on backorder. We hope to have a lot of them in by... (you guessed it) August... I HOPE

What other products would you like to see in the shop? Comment below.

 


New Backlight Sneak Peak Kyle Capel - July 07 2015, 3 Comments

Here are some photos of the new thinner backlight with a flat fcp cable. They look amazing! Colors even better in person, the pictures do not do it justice. Clocking in at 1.23mm, this is our thinnest backlight ever. No cutting required!!

 


Game Boy Color Frontlight Preview (Installation Video) Kyle Capel - May 12 2015, 0 Comments

Get a sneak peek at what our Game Boy Color Frontlight will look like and how to install. Coming Soon!

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