Bacteria's N64/GBA combined portable - Nintendo 64 Advance

Includes but not limited to: SNES, Genesis, Sega CD, PlayStation 1, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, Game Gear and I guess the Virtual Boy.

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bacteria
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Post by bacteria » Wed Jul 04, 2007 9:45 am

Ok, third attempt! Pretty sure all wires are soldered nicely, and all are soldered to the right pins this time!! :wink: I have just ordered 3 standard memory cards from e-bay (if I fry one again, I have more to play with!). When they arrive in the next days, I can plug one in and try it out. As I said before, I am happy to share my mishaps as well as successes; it is all part of the project after all.

Actually, there isn't really an issue with the height of the wires, now the wires aren't laying at criss-cross! I need to add more wires anyway to connect to the buttons - this is how I tend to work (as I did on the BigBoy Advance project).

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I will solder wires to the buttons on the controller, thought I may probably use tact switches for the A, B, Z, left shoulder, right shoulder and "C" buttons. I will use a NES D-pad.

I got two sizes of tact switches, 6mm and 12mm, from e-bay, came this morning. I will probably use the small ones for the volume controls and screen brightness controls (I will relocate them from the PSone screen), probably to the top of the console; and the large ones for the controller buttons (as per last paragraph). This will make mounting them in the case far easier and I can adjust where the buttons are on the case, rather than "making do". I will put some short buttons on the top of the tact switches to make them look pretty.

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This is quite a big project, great fun; I am trying to make my guide/blog as comprehensive as I can. It would be nice to think that some of you might reference my work in the future.
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Post by Life of Brian » Wed Jul 04, 2007 10:57 am

What is the size of those larger tact switches? I know it sounds silly, but I never even considered using larger tact switches for the buttons. I had previously just decided that I didn't like tact switches for the buttons and thus have simply hacked up old controllers, but if those larger ones are less "clicky" then I might give them a go. How do they feel compared to the smaller ones?

Perhaps you could post a picture of one next to your thumb or a quarter? Pretty please?
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Post by bacteria » Thu Jul 05, 2007 2:10 am

Sure, no problem:

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I have some US coins and some bills from a holiday to New York years ago; so, as requested, the pic shows the small (6mm) and large (12mm) tact switches next to a Quarter, Dime and a UK 1p coin. The tact switches I got are for surface mounting on circuit boards (more ideal for mods as the legs are positioned in better places - other option is right-angled ones if you prefer.

Search on e-bay under "12mm midi pushbutton switches", or "tact switches".

Their click is very similar to that of the small ones, the buttons are low (just under 1mm on both sizes), feel very positive. Because the press area on the buttons are large, there is plenty of surface area to simply stick a button on top as the diameter of the larger tact switch is 7mm. Personally, I find it a little reassuring when pressing a button for it to "click"; proves it worked! The GBA SP does this, works well. Rubber membrane buttons are nice, but rather fiddly to re-attach in a mod, and if you don't get it right, you aren't always happy with the result. In my BigBoy Advance project I used normal electrical buttons, which require a bit more force to press down, not ideal, but it was my first project! When I update this project in the future, I will make the end result about half the depth, less wide and less high, and use 12mm tact switches. I didn't have the skills then that I do now. :roll:

On a different note, we all know that many N64 games have their game saves on their own cartridges, which is a great system, however the list of games which need to save to a memory card are quite large. Marshallh posted a link ages ago to this site which shows which games save to which method:
http://n64.icequake.net/mirror/www.elit ... _list.html

One question, don't know if anyone knows the answer to this: the memory cards are 256k each (you can get ones up to 1mb). How much memory does a save save take up? This would help me to work out how many cartridges can save their game saves onto a standard 256mb card, and decide if I need a 1mb one or not.
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Post by bacteria » Thu Jul 05, 2007 3:34 am

Ok, next part! As per usual, I do work on different parts as the mood takes me. At the moment, I thought I would get on with removing the old controller ports, which of course is still relevant to the controller as this is what the controller connects to.

I only intend to play my N64p as single player, so there is no point having the controller plugs on the N64 mobo. The controller wires can be soldered directly to the connections for the "player 1" port.

The pins on the connections are solid, you could desolder them if you like, then connect wires, etc; or the brutal method, which I prefer:

Cut away enough plastic from the top of both sides so you can get to the pins easily with your dremel.

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Using the side cutter tool on the dremel (this is an absolute godsend!), slice through all the wires:

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Pry the metal bit at the back off (you might need to encourage it to come off with a screwdriver), then simply snap the plastic plug off the mobo.

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The bit of metal in the centre of the wires can be snapped off, not useful. You can shorten the wires down as far as you like.

Do the same for the other side. Operation is very quick, only a couple of minutes.
Last edited by bacteria on Thu Jul 05, 2007 4:07 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by bacteria » Thu Jul 05, 2007 3:50 am

I did the above firstly on my dead N64 mobo, it is handy having a dead board to test on! Now I know how easy this method is, I will do it on my main mobo...


On the dead mobo, I decided to desolder the pins to the on/off switch. It will be nice to use it on my case, a bit of authenticity!

Desoldering braid used to remove the solder (underside of mobo).

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I had to use a screwdriver to pry off the switch. I didn't have to be too careful, it was being removed from a dead mobo after all.

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If I don't need to remove the on/off switch from the working N64 mobo, I won't, I will just keep the switch off and connect the wires to the other on/off switch to complete the circuit. No point doing any desoldering on the main mobo if not needed, it can only increase the chance of frying after all!


Incidentally, after dremelling metal, it is of course important to remove any particles from your mobo before powering up. This is an easy way otherwise to cause a short, and fry your mobo. I find a good method, before powering up the system, is to spray the mobo, and the surface it is on, with compressed air. Great stuff, just make sure you get air out of the can and not liquid air (otherwise you have to wait for hours until it completely evaporates, or again, fried board).
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Post by bacteria » Thu Jul 05, 2007 5:24 am

Removed the ports off my main mobo now. I think it looks quite neat!

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I cut down the wires in the controller as they are too long, and connected them as per Skyone's pic (great pic, BTW). The pic relevant is the one at the bottom therefore. Get this wrong and your N64 fries!

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I could easily solder to the pins or under the mobo doesn't matter which; thought I would wire to the pins however to keep the number of wires under the mobo less:

NOTE - Kept text below for continuity - as a note - problem sorted (see next post) fortunately

OUCH

Connected it together, powered on. FRIED. ouch! Through all my previous care, I made a stupid newbie error - I didn't electrical tape the three wires on the connector which I just did, and the three wires were touching each other. Of course, I turned on the N64 and fry time! Stupid error. That makes 2 fried N64's now - both by stupid mistakes. Onto number 3 now!

Right, I plugged in a spare N64 (unmodded) into my television, tested it with a normal controller, all ok. I then tested it with my (now properly taped) modded controller, all ok, which proves the modded controller is ok.

I now have to start again! Oh well, I know what I am doing now, so won't take too long. I will rig everything up as before, but not relocate the cart slot until I know everything else is ok up to this point.

Back soon! Hopefully, the new N64 will work with the Expansion Pak, which the other refused to. Will keep you posted.

EDIT - no problem - see post below -
Last edited by bacteria on Thu Jul 05, 2007 6:17 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by bacteria » Thu Jul 05, 2007 6:12 am

HA, HA - typical!

Wasn't as per my previous post - I just spent the last 25 minutes opening a new N64, taking out all the screws, broke off the video input jack, put on the heatsinks, and in process of removing the old video wires and resoldering to the new mobo; then I noticed something; the composite wire was missing! 2 minutes later and I would have powered up the new N64 and discarded the old one!!

All that probably happened was the wire came off when I moved the mobo about a bit; I didn't fry the board - all I lost was the signal as the composite cable detached!

The situation now is though is that I have an N64 mobo I am modding, and a half modded mobo which I can't put back in its case anymore (snapped off the video connector)! Anyway, I could always use it to make a second one later!

Controller works! Just tested it. Pic below of system so far:

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To summarise so far:

Completed tasks:

* Removed the mobo from the PSone and prepared the wires.
* Removed N64 mobo.
* Powered the 12v and 3.3v lines with a PSone power supply, the 3.3v line being converted via a car adapter.
* Connected the unit to a PSone via RGB lines.
* Fitted heatsinks.
* Fitted a fan.
* Relocated the controller port and removed the expansion port.
* Modded a controller, extended joystick wires and modded the joystick.
* Removed the controller ports and connected modded controller to it.

To do:

* Relocate the on/off button (ready).
* Relocate the PSone contrast and volume buttons (easy).
* Test the memory pack for the controller when it arrives in the post.
* Attach tact switches to each button on the controller (easy).
* Work out diagram for case design and build case (this will take some work, preparation and time!) (harder).


Happy so far! :D
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Post by bacteria » Thu Jul 05, 2007 7:01 am

Small thing worth mentioning:

One of my games, Fifa 64, didn't work, I thought the cartridge was dead, but turned out that a wire from the cart slot (wire 4, top right) I relocated a while back came free.

Using a craft knife, I cut out the portion of the hot glue I had sealed that wire under, removed the glue section with pliers, resoldered the wire and applied a blob of hot glue to the patch. Simple repair. Tested its connection with multimeter, rebooted, game fine.

Not all games use all the pins, as someone posted ages ago, if however a game needs a specific cart pin to work and your wire breaks loose, then the game won't run. All my games work at the moment, apart from Duke Nukem 64, which is one of the many games I got off e-bay, think the cart is dead; I suppose that happens sometimes. It was only £2.99 inc postage, so not a problem, just one of those things.

Hot glue is fantastic at securing wires to a soldered joint, stops the wire moving and therefore detaching. I haven't done this with the video line joints yet because I haven't soldered in the speakers yet (hence the composite wire became detached earlier).

Learning curve!

Another thing, the heatsinks are on well, but were easy to remove (when I thought my mobo was fried), so I will have to secure them down, as marshallh suggested before. I will do it with unstripped wires, hot glued to mobo. Then they can't dislodge.
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Post by bacteria » Thu Jul 05, 2007 7:27 am

Finishing project for today, back tomorrow!

My thoughts on the case so far (likely to change):

layer 1: PSone screen and mobo
layer 2: two halves: 1st half the cartridge, in a slim box I will make. 2nd half the controller board. Lots of wires to house, but plenty of space to have them!
layer 3: the N64 mobo.
layer 4: the fan, directly on top of the heatsinks (similar to pic in previous posts).

I only need a slim area (height as I decide is right) for the controller buttons, speakers, joystick and D-pad; probably only about 23mm, which is also easy to hold. The centre of the case will be bigger, of course, about 60-70mm at thickest. I might compromise with the fan - I might have the choice of nearly 70mm high with quiet fan, or just under 60mm with a noisier fan (32dB); when I have the speakers working, I can decide if the thinner fan (noisier) is an issue or not (expect it will be, in which case I stay with my ultra quiet, but 25mm high, one).

There will be some airflow under the N64 mobo as my intention is to suck the air out of the case via the fan and have the air-in holes near the cart slot - so air has to run over the PSone mobo, under the N64 mobo, then over it, over the N64 board and towards the heatsinks and out of the fan. Seems efficient, good for cooling. Keeping the cart slot under the N64 mobo won't increase the height of my build by anything, but will save having masses of wires on the N64 mobo and restricting airflow to the processors.

Process will work, I have worked it out in my head, in the next few days or so I will put it into action.
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Post by Life of Brian » Thu Jul 05, 2007 9:22 am

I've panicked pretty bad before when I just had to make "one more adjustment" to a fully working and completed portable and powered the system back on and surprise! It's not working! It's almost always a wire that came loose, so I know to check for that first and THEN panic when it's still not working 8)
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Post by bacteria » Thu Jul 05, 2007 10:11 am

joedog86 wrote:I've panicked pretty bad before when I just had to make "one more adjustment" to a fully working and completed portable and powered the system back on and surprise! It's not working! It's almost always a wire that came loose, so I know to check for that first and THEN panic when it's still not working 8)
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Post by bacteria » Thu Jul 05, 2007 5:39 pm

Couldn't sleep, so got up and did a bit more on the project.

I was thinking about attaching the cartridge slot onto the reverse of the N64 mobo. I need airflow, but I also need something firm to mount the cartridge holder onto and a way to secure the cart port onto to take the cartridge, in a way that is strong enough for a lot of use.

I came up with the idea, the metal heatsink piece which was underneath the N64 mobo when in the N64 original case. It is metal, conductive (so can't come in contact with anything but the grounds it contacts on the N64 mobo). It is also raised from the mobo by about 3mm or so (ideal for airflow). I can solder onto the metal, hot glue, etc - great!

Got out my trusty dremel again. Good thing I have plenty of spare side cutting blades, they don't last forever!

The dremel is capable of cutting through the metal no problem, however if you cut through half of it (score line) you can bend the metal back and forth a couple of times to break it off. I removed the sides, so the metal plate doesn't extend any further than the N64 mobo, and removed the part on the extension port (not needed).

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This metal sheet can be secured to the N64 mobo via the screw holes, using small nuts and bolts (same holes as went through the N64 mobo originally).
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Post by bacteria » Fri Jul 06, 2007 7:43 am

I had problems with the controller. I managed to get it to be wired up ok for the memory pack (they arrived this morning), great I thought, hot glued the controller part, great, still works; carefully hot glued the other part, initially ok, finished hot gluing and then I got an error from the memory pack. Of course, hot glue in place, you can't see what the issue is and resolve it. In removing the hot glue I yanked off a couple of contacts from the controller board, so gave up with it out of frustration!

I then got to think - originally I planned to have the joystick on top of the N64 mobo, so I had to relocate the memory card slot for this purpose, as otherwise the overall height of the console would be too high. As the controller will be UNDER the N64 mobo now, there is extra to play with. The height of an N64 cart is 18mm, the height of the N64 underside metal sheet is 4mm, case for the N64 cart will be about an extra 4mm, the height of the N64 mobo up to the fan is 38mm. This gives me a maximum of 64mm to play with. The controller board, memory slot and memory card is 50mm. This means there is no benefit anymore of relocating the memory card (and much better airflow to without all those wires). Quite pleased about this, because although I got the previous controller to work fine, the joystick isn't as good as this one; also the joystick has a flat top so I don't have to hack away at it as I did with the last one (I want the top flat); and the buttons are all the same height, which is better.

If this guide gets onto the Wiki (hope it does), I will remove my previous postings about the old controller and relocating the wires for it, as it isn't relevant to my mod anymore.

Anyway, here is a pic of the controller:

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And opened, notice the joystick, it is quite large, operating height is about 32mm; a bit higher than the other one, but is better, so will use this one now. Had to get rid of some of the hot glue the manufacturer's put in the case so I could get the mobo out.

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Here is the other side of the board, nice and easy to connect button contacts onto!

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Because of the butchered controllers I have hacked to this date, I have several button contacts like the one below. This means I have the choice of either using tact switches, or the rubber contacts, which I can locate anywhere I want to on my case. I will probably still use tact switches though as easier to work with (I will experiment).

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Below is a rough WIP plan for the case's insides (ignoring wires and controls). Only rough! Plenty of airflow (not shown very well on pic, but will basically start via airholes by the cart slot, air will run over all three mobos, over N64 board and out above the heatsinks.

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It would have been nice to have had the console flatter, may still be able to. Can't find a dead quiet fan under 25mm deep, 15mm would be ideal but they are not quiet enough. This adds to total height unfortunately. Visiting shops tomorrow to see if I get lucky and find one. Lots of planning and experimentation to do yet. :wink: Pity the joystick is so tall. I might see if I can get a third party suitable joystick (eg GameCube) use that instead, and decrease the sides from about 34-36mm high to more like 20mm deep, however, c. 34mm quite a comfortable height for adult hands...

I anticipate the width of the case will be about 25cm and the width about 14cm; keeps it quite small, in the circumstances.
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Post by bacteria » Fri Jul 06, 2007 9:49 am

Small snippit - I had been spending lots of time stripping ribbon IDE cables into single strands...then I noticed I had a couple of these (didn't know they existed like this). Lots of multi-coloured cables, already in separate strands! This is great when you connect remote buttons and need to colour coordinate them so you know what wire goes where! It is also handy when you want to relocate a cart slot, or whatever, so you can easily route wires later.

I could have saved myself a fair bit of time before if I had remembered I had these!

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Post by bacteria » Sat Jul 07, 2007 12:36 pm

Found a better fan.

Rather than using the standard type fan, I got a "mini system exhaust blower" from Maplins. Basically, it is designed to go into a PCI slot on a computer, suck in the air from a heat producing area (eg modern graphics card) and suck out the air outside the computer. I use one of these on my main computer (I have a few) as it gives greater stability to my system.

This fan works fine on 7.5v (tested it on batteries), blows out lots of air, is only 85mm x 75mm x 11mm. Yes, 11mm deep, overall size is fine; yet the fan is very quiet in operation. No rating of the fan is mentioned on the packaging, it is probably somewhere like 14-17dB ish. This will reduce the overall height of my system by about 1cm (quite a bit) and also, more importantly, enable me to make a case with a flat back (the rear of this fan is solid), with a vent for the air exhaust in a discreet position. This will look nice on the final case, and also be far more practical and assist in keeping the height down!

Very pleased with this. cost me £4.99 only. I won't be using the other fan now, this one is ideal.

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On a different note, now I have some decent cable (see last post), which is very thin indeed and very flexible; I may well try the memory card / rumble pack extension again.
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