Meet MAKERbuino: a handheld retro game console that you can build yourself.
Forget modern gadgets, like the iPhone 7 or the Oculus Rift; this neat little gadget is all about being retro cool! With a low-res screen and only 2kB of RAM, it’s about as unashamedly hipster as a game console can be.
As of the time of writing, MAKERbuino has raised almost $24k on Kickstarter, so we wanted to review the product and see what’s getting people so excited.
Assemble the kit at home
When you purchase a MAKERbuino, it arrives as an assembly kit. In other words, you receive a box with all the electronic components necessary to build your own DIY game console.
A helpful build guide will show you what steps to take and in which order. The guide is written in a simple format, such that an 11-year-old could easily follow the instructions and assemble their own MAKERbuino in 5 hours — perhaps with a bit of help from a parent when it comes to soldering. Of course, experienced makers will be much faster.
To assemble a MAKERbuino, you’ll need the following equipment:
- Soldering iron
- Diagonal cutter pliers
- Regular screwdriver
- Desoldering vacuum pump (optional)
If you’re reading this and panicking because you don’t have these tools at home, MAKERbuino offers an upgraded package that comes with all the tools you’ll need.
Every MAKERbuino kit comes with an SD card preloaded with numerous games so you can try out your game console as soon as you’ve assembled it. Additional games for the SD card can be downloaded from the online MAKERbuino games gallery.
The pin headers on the MAKERbuino board allow users to connect hardware add-ons of their choice. This means that you can customize the external features of your MAKERbuino to suit your unique needs. Want LEDs, a custom case, switches or expansion modules? The MAKERbuino system makes it easy. You can even add more complicated modules like accelerometers or gyroscopes.
MAKERbuino can communicate with sensors and other microcontrollers using a protocol called i2c. Since i2c is serial, you can chain up to 128 MAKERbuinos together using link cables. Could be a nice opportunity to make a retro version of Warcraft, or other MMORPGs! Imagine how much fun you could have hosting a multiplayer gaming party on retro game consoles you built yourself.
MAKERbuino is programmed in Arduino IDE — a popular programming environment that is based on C/C++. As a result, it’s compatible with all the Arduino UNO software libraries available online, and will work with most Arduino modules with minimal or zero library code modifications.
MAKERbuino’s software is open-source and available to download. In other words, it was meant to be hacked. The MAKERbuino vision is less one of religiously using their product and more one of encouraging users to develop technical skills and explore new software solutions. Theoretically, one could make a MAKERbuino clone on a breadboard using these schematics.
Since all the games in the MAKERbuino gallery are also open-source, it’s possible to look at the code of each one, learn something from it, and implement that knowledge in your own game project.
Unlike a regular Arduino UNO board, MAKERbuino can have multiple games and programs saved on the SD card in the form of .HEX files, which can then be loaded using MAKERbuino’s FLASH memory. Since these .HEX files are small compared to the size of an SD card; it’s possible to store hundreds of games in this way.
As someone who grew up emulating Pokemon games, I personally also appreciated that MAKERbuino’s software allows you to emulate games on your PC if you so choose.
Educational for kids
As well as a console, MAKERbuino is also an educational device, designed to teach children how to code and solder in a fun, accessible way.
MAKERbuino is available at prices starting from $35. That means that for the same price as a regular video game, you can motivate your child to learn something new while they play.
Here are some of the things you could learn using MAKERbuino:
- How to solder
- Functions of basic electronic components
- How to program microcontrollers in C/C++
- How to 3D print a case
- How to add expansion modules
Who is behind MAKERbuino?
MAKERbuino was designed and built by Albert Gajšak, an 18-year-old electronics enthusiast from Zagreb, Croatia. It’s a family company run by Albert, his brother Emil and father Zoran. They build all the products by hand themselves.
What do you think of MAKERbuino? I’d love to read your comments.