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NES & SNES controller modding circuit board (iCade-like)

View Poll Results: How much would you be prepared to pay for a NES modding circuit board?
Not interested 0 0%
<15$ 1 100.00%
$15-20 0 0%
$20+ 0 0%
Voters: 1. You may not vote on this poll
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02-14-2012, 12:08 PM
Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 17
NES & SNES controller modding circuit board (iCade-like)

Hey everyone,

with the recent news items on the front page it seems like it'd be a good time to talk about a weekend project I was working on last summer... a circuit board that can be used to mod a NES or SNES controller for use with an iPad.

Unlike the 8-bitty it uses a USB cable to connect to the iPad (using the camera connection kit, there are now cheap clones of that on ebay). This has the advantages of quick response time, easy connection (no pairing necessary), infinite battery life and lower cost (somewhat), with the obvious disadvantage of having a wire and not being supported on the iPhone.

(BTW for anyone thinking of taking the circuit board from the 8-bitty and using it for modding a NES controller I don't believe that will work for 2 reasons, one that the Bluetooth pairing requires 10+ buttons and the NES only has 8, the other that the chip in the NES controller requires 5V and the iCade bluetooth module is likely to only supply 3.3V or less. Modern knock-off SNES controllers do seem to work at 3.3V but the one I bought on eBay was pretty cruddy )
BTW it is very fun to play iPad games with a NES controller, I'm sure the same will be true with the 8-bitty and the price is hard to beat

Basically it involves opening up the original controller, cutting the ends of the connector cable, soldering them to my PCB, and soldering a USB cable to the other end of the PCB. The final assembly looks like this:

Everything is done using low-profile components (the reset button is particularly cute) so no modification to the plastic casing of the NES controller is required. Other boards than my design could be used (like one of the many USB-compatible Arduino variants) but those would either require cutting some of the plastic standoffs inside or an external case.

Soldering the wires onto it is obviously very easy, soldering the surface mount components probably isn't for everyone but the whole thing is pretty cheap to get manufactured in China (I've got factory quotes for that... practical from 100 units but gets a lot cheaper for 1000).

I'm thinking of releasing the design under an Open Hardware license (and the firmware), but am also considering getting some made if there is interest.

I'd be curiously if anyone would be interested in buying something like this to see whether a Kickstarter-like project (no Kickstarter in Europe but there are some alternatives...) would make sense. I also have a small number of original NES controllers I bought for modding and may be able to do that for anyone interested in a completed unit (if anyone at TA is interested in a review unit let me know ).