The past lives again!

I found a GameBoy Camera for my GBC and thought it'd be a good idea to extract the photos from eons ago and bring them to the era of the internet.

The past lives again!

Around 1996, when I was 16 my parents, on a whim, bought my brother, sister and I a GameBoy pocket. It's something I'd always wanted as a few friends at school had one, and my best mate had an original GameBoy for a few years before. I only had two games, Desert Strike, and Super Mario World but I definitely enjoyed playing them. I often 'borrowed' my sisters game (she scored Tetris) and my brothers game was I think some Tennis game. I was always a PC guy and as I got older I eventually put it away in its case and never played it much after that. A few years ago I pulled it out and started playing it again; I have built up quite a hefty collection of games and even scored a GameBoy camera, albeit without the printer. The thing that let it down a lot for me (especially considering how spoilt we are now with our Ultra-High-Definition displays, is just how bad the contrast is on the black and white LCD display.

While perusing a store in my area that sells retro gaming stuff, I saw they had a GameBoy Color for sale in great condition for 50 bucks! I nabbed it right away. I had seen on a YouTube channel called 8-Bit Keys that some bright sparks had created a modkit for the GBC that allows you to replace the LCD with a beautiful and bright Active Matrix backlit full colour panel. It was on backorder for months but I was finally able to get my hands on one. The mod was surprisingly simple and once completed, the unit looked breathtaking!

With the GameBoy Camera I managed to grab on eBay, it actually came with some photos of whom I presume is the previous owner, and considering the nostalgia factor of those photos, I wanted to extract and store them before I delete them (you can only store about 20 photos on the camera before you have to delete some). The only extraction method Nintendo made was the ability to print them using a thermal printer, but they are rare as hens teeth. There are mods you can get which aren't too expensive which allow you to drive a standard Serial docket printer (Which looks way better anyway), but the docket printer I do have I am pretty sure is well beyond serviceable life. And ideally I want to store the photos digitally.

With that in mind, and especially after doing some digging I found some software that can convert the raw bitstream of the printed photos back into an image you can view on a computer, I took to work designing a simple USB interface for the GameBoy.

The interface, powered by an ATMega8U2

The design was simple; an ATmega8U2 Microcontroller doing all of the bitstream translation and buffering, as well as providing the USB interface, a MicroUSB interface which provides power to the unit as well as the USB data interface, and then the glorious GameBoy Link connector (GBLink). That's all there is to it. The magic is in the software.  I had always planned on putting this unit inside a small jiffy box, so considering I had ample panel area, I added a GPIO port to take advantage of the spare IO pins on the micro, along with the ICSP header. There's also power LEDs for the GBLink and USB interface, and an LED for data transfer. Nice and easy.

I am still working through finalising the board layout and after much hassle, managed to eliminate almost ALL of the top side traces (except for a few of those around the pin headers). I wanted to keep to front panel as clean as possible to make this unit presentable. I even opted for reverse-mounted LEDs so that the only soldering that will occur on the front of the panel will be the GBLink connector. Unfortunately they never made a SMD version of that connector.

Once I get this board completed and sent to fab, I will get to work on writing the translation software for the interface. I cannot wait to pull off the photos from the GBCamera and see if I am able to track down the original owner of them. They may not want them at all, but the challenge has been set.

Stay tuned.