Nintendo Famicom AV mod

Category : Retro · No Comments · by Mar 8th, 2015

The original Nintendo Famicom launched in Japan in 1983. At the time the best way to get video from the console to the TV was RF (and in Japan they used different RF frequencies to EU and US). This leaves people picking up a Famicom these days (especially those in the UK like myself) in a bit of an awkward spot – not only is RF a horrible way to get a picture on a modern TV, it also likely won’t work on a non-Japanese TV anyway.

There are quite a few mods floating round the internet which guide you through teasing your Famicom to output something a little more modern. The conclusion I drew pretty rapidly was that RGB output is out of the window unless you’re going to spend a lot of money, lower your expectations to composite and don’t expect a perfect picture. Given the age of the machine I’m pretty impressed that it still works, especially as mine appears to be a second revision motherboard – how many Playstation 3’s are still working that have a second revision board, I strongly suspect they won’t be after 30 years!

Anyway, on to the mod!

I chose to do this mod from “80sFREAK”, it seemed to be the best documented out there but I still found it pretty difficult to follow, partly because the Famicom board shown doesn’t match mine exactly – some of the PCB traces and components are positioned differently. Luckily there’s a few people out there who have also tried this mod which was enough for me to piece together where everything connects, of particular help was this blog postthis post and this other guide (particularly for labelling of pin numbers on the PPU) so thanks to both of the authors!

Important notes

  • This mod disables the RF output
  • You will need to shoe horn in two phono connectors somehow
  • You will only get mono sound (which is all the Famicom and NES were capable of anyway)
  • If you break it it’s your fault

Shopping list

  • 100r Cr25 0.25w Cf Resistor

  • 150r Cr25 0.25w Cf Resistor

  • 33uf 16v 2.5mm Tantalum Bead Capacitor

  • 220uf 10v 105deg Nrsz Electro Capacitor

  • Yellow Phono Socket

  • Red or Black Phono Socket

Modification

Step 1

Take apart the Famicom, there’s a good walkthrough on IFIXIT

Step 2

On the board there’s a transistor labelled ECB, carefully desolder it and keep it handy. It gets reused in this mod.

ecbLocation

The transistor has a notch in it, use this to keep track of which pins are which when it has been removed.

ecbNotch

Step 3

The original guide will tell you at this step to isolate pin 21 of the PPU (the Picture Processing Unit, the largest chip next to the ECB transistor). I tried this mod without isolating it and then went back and isolated it and saw very little difference, your mileage may vary.

If you want to do this step there are two recommended methods in the original tutorial, either lift the chip leg or cut the PCB trace. I cut the trace but, as mentioned earlier, my PCB differs from the one shown in the guide.

This picture shows pin 21 (red square) on the reverse of the PCB and shows the trace which I cut (orange line):

cutTrace

Step 4

Build the circuit shown in step 3 of the original guide, I’ve borrowed 80sFREAK’s images here (@80sFREAK – if this is a problem just contact me and i’ll remove them).

circuit2

 

circuit

Though the advise is to keep wires as short as possible I chose to do this on a board as it separated it nicely from the PCB and left me with no fears of it shorting!

IMG_1186

This is the numbering for the PPU legs on the component side of the board:

PPUlegs

 Step 5

That’s the video output done, now to add audio. Follow the circuit diagram and solder to pin 46 of the cartridge connector (again these are 80sFREAK’s images)

cartconnector soundcircuit

For this one I soldered to the back of the PCB as the pins are much more accessible (and there’s enough wires now trailing off the front!)

soundsolder

Step 6

With everything wired up this is a good chance to stop and check whether it works before you go drilling holes in the case!

IMG_1182

Assuming it’s all working pick somewhere on the case that your mod can reach and that’s convenient for AV connectors and make some holes! I personally went for the front right as there’s a fair amount of free space on either side at the front.

cuttingholes

 Step 7

Cram it all into the case and screw it back together!

IMG_1188

Hopefully it all works and you’ve got a reasonable quality picture, mine occasionally jumps a little and has pretty visible “jailbars” but overall it’s pretty good for a console from 1983.

IMG_1193

Phoenix and Pleiades Cocktail Arcade Cabinet

Category : Phoenix/Pleiades Cocktail Cabinet · No Comments · by Jun 11th, 2012

The best antiques shop find ever happened last week – we finally found an arcade machine to complete (well… fill up) our house!20120611-214740.jpg

I can’t find any information about this exact cabinet on the web, the original Phoenix cocktail cabinets look quite different. Plus this contains two original game boards: Phoenix and Pleiades.

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It’s a bit tatty but it’s mostly working – the game boards both work (though the left and right buttons stopped working on the Phoenix game until i cleaned the board with some contact cleaner this evening!), the monitor works and both sets of controls work. The coin slots aren’t connected, the cash door keeps falling off, there’s various dents and scratches and the artwork sucks (unfortunately it always sucked – the original cabinet was very plain!).

On the plus side there were a couple of very old 10p coins in the cash drawer! I expect the coin slots are somehow calibrated to accept these, not sure if they can be adjusted to accept other coins!? (though I’m quite happy using the old 10p!)

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The plan is to keep all the parts in tact, clean up the cabinet and add a MAME PC which can be swapped with the original boards. As there’s basically no information on the web about this machine I’ll whack everything I remember to on here so it can be found in future!

Windows Media Center TV Pack

Category : Media Center · No Comments · by Nov 24th, 2008

I recently gave this a go, works alright but it prevents you changing the MPEG decoder to one which makes use of the hardware in the machine. This results in poor upscaling on both TV and DVD playback and stuttering when bringing up menus during playback or changing channels. So it had to go!

Arcade Stick Episode 6 – It works!

Category : Playstation 3 · (4) Comments · by Sep 18th, 2008

After pulling apart a spare Sixaxis I spent hours soldering and was amazed to find it worked first time!

Check the piccies:

As you can see the mess needs tidying inside the controller but at 2am I was just too excited to have it working so just shoved the guts in like a medic on a battlefield 😉

I also need to work out a better way to charge it than having to unscrew the perspex base (and have guts fall out) to connect the USB cable to the PCB.

Arcade Stick Episode 5

Category : Playstation 3 · (5) Comments · by Sep 7th, 2008

Painting, sanding, painting, sanding, painting, painting, painting…

Arcade Stick Episode 4

Category : Playstation 3 · (2) Comments · by Aug 23rd, 2008

Sanded down the plastic wood and mounted the two MDF layers with countersunk screws (I’m hoping the perspex will be held in place by the tight fit and the screw in buttons). I couldn’t resist putting the parts in place…

Arcade Stick Episode 3

Category : Playstation 3 · No Comments · by Aug 22nd, 2008

2 days off work has given me 2 days of Final Fantasy 12 (I’ll finish it one day, it’s only been 18 months and 70 hours so far!) and building the arcade stick.

An incident involving my jigsaw flying to pieces has ended up with me cutting the front and back pieces (again) by hand and sanding to fit! It didn’t take nearly as much extra time as I thought it would to be fair.

Having now got all of the main parts cut it seemed like the perfect time to order the arcade parts, a few days and a phone call chasing the order up and all the bits arrived along with some freebies 😉 (what i’m going to do with 4 extra buttons is yet to be decided but the bubble top is pretty cool)

After scouring all the tool shops in Malvern for a 30mm hole saw to cut the button holes i finally found one on ebay. I also picked up a few other bits like a plastic wood and a coping saw so that I can cut sections out of the middle now the panels now the jigsaw has been annihilated.

Some gluing and filling in with plastic wood later and the base was coming along nicely.

While that was all setting I drilled the holes for the buttons in the top 3 layers, unfortunately being an arcade stick some of the buttons are very close together and perspex being perspex it decided to crack in a couple of places… Remember I said cutting perspex was a pain in the backside? Guess what. It still is. But this time I did manage it better and ended up with a top layer which fits much more snugly than the previous one. Having learnt from the previous drilling experience I clamped the perspex between the two other (wood/MDF) layers and drilled it again this time ending up with a pristine set of button holes.

Then finished cutting out all the sections with the coping saw…

And put it all (loosely) together (in one blurry photo – a much better one is coming soon).

Arcade Stick Episode 2

Category : Playstation 3 · No Comments · by Aug 6th, 2008

Following on from the previous post (only a couple of hours ago i know but i meant to write it days ago) I’ve actually started the build (on Sunday!). I bought a couple of different thicknesses of MDF and some perspex and after several issues with initally poor jigsawing (i don’t think i’d used a jigsaw before and i assumed it would be easier than it was!) I’ve cut our the two top sections and the left and right side. Though I still have the front and back to cut out. I’ve also managed to cut out the perspex which was a huge PITA! If anyone has a better method for getting a clean cut on perspex than scoring repeatedly with a stanley knife and then hitting it please let me know 😉

Here’s some pictures:

Here’s the button layout I’ve chosen:

The reason for having two layers of MDF at the top of the stick (of different thicknesses) is that the arcade buttons have a screw thread which will only accept a thickness of around a centimetre (possibly one and a half at a push) and the joystick has a metal plate, the top of which needs to be as close to the top perspex layer as possible. The idea is that the buttons will screw into the top layer and the joystick will screw into the bottom layer. Here’s a sizing of the top plate of one of the possible choices of joystick so you can kind of make out what i mean:

While scouring the net I found an utterly fantastic resource for all this stuff, pretty much answers every question about it all.

Custom MiniITX case

Category : MiniITX · (5) Comments · by Aug 6th, 2008

I’ve been on the lookout for a server case for the MiniITX motherboard a few months but nothing of a suitable size came up, we happened to visit Ikea to pick up some stuff for the living room and I found a box that would do as a case!

I’ve not taken any pictures of the build as it’s just me drilling and sawing but it’s all finished and so here are the pics of the finished item…

Arcade Stick Episode 1

Category : Playstation 3 · No Comments · by Aug 6th, 2008

Ok so i had this crazy idea to make a MAME based arcade machine years ago and as it turned out a million other people had the same thought. Unfortunately I just don’t have the space in our current home but the next house will have such a machine built for it!

The recent release of Soul Calibur 4 (and the ever nearing release of Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo High Definition Remix – to use it’s full title) reminded me of this desire to build my own arcade machine. So as I can’t make a full size unit i decided the next best thing would be to be able to play these games on the PS3 with proper arcade controls, the way they were meant to be played!

As before it turns out a zillion other people have had the same idea, which is handy really as it means someone else has already solved a few major problems for me – such as how to wire a Playstation 3 controller to use other buttons. I intend to update the blog as the build progresses so that I can keep a record of what not to do when I build the full arcade machine 🙂