This is the project that got me hooked on game console repair and modification. And it all started with Gameboy and… music?
About a year and a half ago, I discovered the quirky world of chiptune. This is a form of music that uses only sounds produced by classic game systems or other other old sound chips. I wanted to try my hand at messing with chiptune songs, but I was missing something rather important, a Gameboy! But I didn’t want just any gameboy, I needed that original classic fat quad-battery sexy grey brick of a machine.
I remembered that my younger brother had one back in the day, but it had been lost years ago. Through some detective work, I managed to track it down! Unfortunately, this thing was in awful shape. The battery cover was broken, the battery contacts were corroded, there were dead pixels, dirt in every crevice, and for some reason the back was completely covered in scotch tape. Upon tearing it down, it looked as though some bugs had even made it their home at some point.
BTW, these pictures that I took were mainly for my reference, as I had no idea I would be posting these on a blog someday. So, sorry for the somewhat fuzzy images. At least I didn’t instagram the heck out of ’em.
The first thing to do was see if I could fix the dead columns of pixels. I read on the internet (where everything is true and perfect) that re-heating the glue on the ribbon under the screen would sometimes bring them back to life. I figured it was worth a shot. If it fixed it great, if it didn’t then I lost and gained nothing (except an already broken Gameboy).
Once I got all the pixels working, I knew this Gameboy would work just fine for the project. I then took the system completely apart, removed the heapings of scotch tape, and cleaned and scrubbed all the plastic parts.
After all the plastics dried, I broke out my black and white cans of Krylon Fusion to paint this sucker! Now I haven’t had much luck with spraypaint in the past, but I heard this stuff was designed for plastics. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, it turns out lots can go wrong. It looked nice… at first…
After it dried for 2 days, I reassembled it. It looked gorgeous, and ran just fine! In fact I popped Pokemon Silver in there and play on original hardware for the first time in 10 years!
Unfortunately, after 10 minutes of playing, that’s when I realized something was wrong. The buttons were getting sticky, and black paint was rubbing off on to my fingers. I discovered that as the paint got warm, it would rub off. I even sanded and put a fresh thin coat on, but even after 2 days, same problem.
So I gave up on the paint and ordered a replacement case from Kitsch Bent, and buttons from ASM Retro! But in the meantime, I had the crown jewel of the project to work on. A “sapphire” backlight kit from Nonfinite Electronics (link goes to the newer version than what I used).
Seeing as how this Gameboy was designed for Chiptune, I decided to try the Prosound Mod. The idea behind the mod is to bypass the sub-par Gameboy headphone amp entirely. So my plan was to add a port to the Gameboy that goes straight to the sound chip.
However there is one slight problem with the Prosound mod. If you plug headphones or speakers into the prosound port, it does not mute the speakers, like it would with the built in headphone jack. I decided to fix that! I added a switch to the top of the Gameboy that would mute the speaker (but not the prosound port).
I wanted to add a way to know that the speaker was muted (say, if I had headphones on), so I added an LED that was supposed to light up the clear Start/Select buttons. However, the LED showed through the white plastic too much. Instead, I just decided to use that to my advantage and make the center of the Gameboy glow blue when the speaker was muted.
Due to the higher power draw of the backlight, I decided to go with rechargeable batteries. I did some research, and I ended up going with Panasonic Eneloops for all my systems, due to the fact they can be drained and charged many times.
In the end, it turned out to be a great system, and it was at this point my addiction started. Sure chiptune was awesome, but I also had a couple other partially broken game systems that I now felt like I could do something to. Well, a year and a half later, I have done something to those systems, and more! This Gameboy is just the beginning!
So, these pictures are over a year old right. So how does it look now? Take a look!
I know what you’re thinking. Wait, what museum? Gameboy shelf? That’s right, this Gameboy was the start of a MUCH bigger project, and the museum is one of the main reasons for this blog!
In the meantime, I leave you with a song that I arranged for Gameboy using a chiptune program called LSDJ. This song was recorded straight out of the prosound port on this Gameboy. Enjoy!