Version 3.0 is now done

Hello again. I have finished 3.0 of my handheld project. I added a SD card reader that functions as a ‘cartridge’ reader and made the left action button larger to give it a more distinct look. This project has no name and I want one. I will take any non-offensive name suggestion and might have a vote. If the most popular name wins, then that will be what I’ll call this handheld project.

New cartridge slot with satisfying click

Where can you download the new files?

You can find my handheld project files on Thingiverse:

The STL and .step files are open source, so you can use these files for your own projects. I don’t care what you do with the files.

Why SD cards?

Originally, I wanted to learn how to design circuit boards, and make edge connector cartridges with programmable eeprom chips, but I had no idea where to start, and couldn’t find any useful information. People suggested that I use SD cards and I went with that instead. I might try making ROM cartridges down the road for a future unrelated project, but for this project I’m using SD cards.

I could of just used SD cards and called it a day, but that would of been boring. I wanted these SD cards to look and feel like cartridges, so I made some 3D printable shells. I call these cartridges, Bulk Carts. The name was suggested by the Pico 8 community.

One of the reasons I designed these cartridges were because I wanted to give Pico 8 game devs a way to sell their own games on physical media. Also, I like the idea of using cartridges as that is what games used to be stored on.

SD cards are huge in comparison to a Pico 8 game, but people could throw in game manuals or other fun Easter-eggs if they want.

Prototype Bulk Cart 0.9 with smaller lettering

How do you get these cartridges to work?

I created a simple bash script in Linux that searches for a SD card and looks for a specific Pico 8 ROM file when you turn on the machine. This works, but requires people to rename their Pico 8 ROM files to run.p8.png. I’m unable to get multicart games to work this way, but I’ll see what I can do to get games like Poom to work. For more information, you can check the Pico 8 forums here:

How about labels?

Labels need to be 128x106px and adhesive sticker paper works great. I made some test labels and they look great, but I plan on using glossy paper.

Some of the cartridges I made

These labels look great, but I need to cut them a little more straight. I might try making the labels a few pixels larger so there is more room for error when cutting them.

The new and improved screen magnifier

I made some new changes for my screen magnifier. The front that holds onto the console was too flimsy and broke easily. Now, the magnifier wraps around the sides of the console.

Future plans?

I plan on using a Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W. I have one that should arrive soon in the mail. I will compare the performance between the Pi Zero W and Pi Zero 2 W running Pico 8. I want to iron out the issues in this project so it becomes perfect. The biggest issues I have with the handheld is that the left action button will sometimes get stuck, but that could be multiple reasons, but I have an idea what is causing it. I might shrink the left action button and it should fix that issue.

One of the other issues is that the screen will have slight ghosting, but that could be a driver issue. I might recompile the driver and see if I can reduce or remove all the ghosting. The final issue I have with this project is that the handheld takes roughly a minute to turn on and boot into a game on the cartridge. That is not fun. I used my phones stopwatch and it took 1 minute and 8 seconds to get into a game. If you boot without a cartridge, you can at least boot into splore and exit a game and return to splore to quickly choose another game. If you load Pico 8 with the -splore flag, exiting a game will take you back to splore. If you load a game via SD card, then exiting the game will exit Pico 8. I think it is the screen driver that is causing the long boot time, but it could be something else causing it. I will figure this out. Reducing the boot time will be my highest priority.

If anyone has a suggestion to drastically reduce boot times, please let me know.

The end!

I hope you have a great week and I will post again soon.

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