Christmas card with inbuilt retro video game for under $10

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Hello all and welcome to my second Christmas related project.

Have you ever received a really boring Christmas card? Have you ever sat there and thought to yourself "If only there were a little video game on this card that I could play..." Well ponder no more because that card is here!

This instructable will show you how to make your very own retro video game Christmas card which can be made for less than $10. All you need is some time, some soldering know how and roughly $10 in your wallet.

Please view this youtube video to get the main idea of this project:

There are essentially two main parts to building this project.

1. Soldering all the parts to the vero board (experimenters board)
2. Making the card itself (this is where you can get creative)

The game is titled "Santas Scramble" and is played within 64 pixels on an 8x8 LED matrix display. You play santa (a red dot) who is frantically flying around the world in order to get all of the presents delivered to the children in time for Christmas, the only problem is that he has flown into a dangerous maze. Your job is to steer santa up and down the screen in order to avoid the oncoming obsticles. Be careful, the further you get through the game, the faster it gets. If you crash then it is - GAME OVER -

There are two different designs below and I must apologise for my lack of arts and crafts ability. My strong point is the electronics side of things...

Anyway - lets get started shall we!

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Will this decoder work?
bradsprojects (author)  knexpert17001 year ago
Yes that one will be fine :)
belsey2 years ago
I've been wanting to try my hand at electronics. This instructable is so well explained and illustrated, and looks fairly simple and inexpensive, plus I love making cards, so I thought this would be a good place to start... However I'm already stumped at step two. The direction to "simply open the hex file in your programming software and burn it to the microcontroller" makes me draw a blank. What is programming software? How can it be burned to a microcontroller? What would be helpful would be a link to different programming software sites (maybe 2 links, one for PCs and one for Macs) so novices like me can go to download programming software, and learn the really basic basics.
Redsic belsey1 year ago
Do a quick google PIC programming

You will find guides like

You will find the manufacturers website, where you can download the software

And you will find
Compeitor compilers like
I am sorry your question was asked a year ago, and nobody responded, INST seems to have a sleeping community.
belsey Redsic1 year ago
Thank you!
READ ME!!! >:-O
Hi, I wanna know if this is the right micro controller: (just in case)
bradsprojects (author)  knexpert17001 year ago
Yep, that's the one : )
Zakkron2 years ago
Hi, I really don't know anything about microcontrollers. Does it matter if you have a
PIC16F648A-I/P, PIC16F648A-I/SO, or PIC16F648A-I/SS?
bradsprojects (author)  Zakkron2 years ago
Hi, these different part numbers are all the same chip, however just built into a different package. The one I used is the I/P which is the ones with the legs that go through the board and get soldered onto the other side. The other two are smaller surface mount chips which have legs that don't go through the board but are soldered on the same side as the chip.
hey i also have another question is there a way you can send me a preburned micro controller. i know how these work but i dont have the peice that will allow me to connect to my computer and burnit on to the controller.I will pay with my paypal/creditcard if needed. Cheers (im from america lol )
hey i was wondering how deep you cut these and also how do you know when you make these cuts well enough
bradsprojects (author)  vincentstockdale2 years ago
You just need to cut them so that the copper is removed, leaving just a channel of pcb.

To make sure, you can cut them with a stanley knife and then use a flat blade screwdriver (a small one) to make the channel a bit wider.
Oh wow!!! Incredible! I'll never be able to make this but oh well- I may try sometime :D
Oh and btw your accent is awesome ^-^
PJPEEJ2 years ago
and how do you solder so well?
PJPEEJ2 years ago
Hi thanks for the ible. I plan on making this, but i am a noob at soldering, but i do have some experience with electronics. I was wondering, where can i get the programming software for the hex file? I already downloaded it to see if i had it already but i dont. Also, I have a mac.

andy707073 years ago
This looks like a good project, but instead of using stripboard, I would like to make a PCB. Could you check my PCB design to make sure the pins are all connected correctly? Please note some of the resistors are simply wire links (R12-16). I am also having a lot of trouble programming the pic, I have the correct pic chip, but my pic programmer doesn't seem to like the hex file your provided. Would it be possible to send me a per-programmed pic (I can pay for the cost of the pic, the shipping, and your time), or I could send you my pic to program if it would be cheaper/easier.
LED Game.bmp
bradsprojects (author)  andy707072 years ago

have you got your pic in the circuit when you try and program it? What programmer are you using?

Also, why are you not using resistors with your LED's? If you don't use resistors, the internal resistance of the chips will need to drop the rest of the voltage (which increases the chips power consumption) which will most probably burn it out pretty quickly.

As for the PCB design, it looks very different from the schematic. Did you get the schematic from here:
I haven't made the circuit yet as I want to develop a PCB for it. My programmer doesn't like the hex file you provided, and it would be a lot easier for me if I could pay you could send me a pre-programmed pic. I did use your schematic as reference, but I had to put the LED display together myself from various datasheets as the pins on your schematic aren't labeled. Also, I do have 150 ohm resistors on pins 24, 21, 18, 15, 1, 4, 7, 10, and 11, but I am not sure whether they are in the right place or not, I was hoping you would check this for me.
Sorry, I didn't realize how small that image was. Here is is in a higher resolution.
led game.jpg
mr.noris3 years ago
were can i buy these supplys
bradsprojects (author)  mr.noris3 years ago
You can get basically all of these components from any decent electronics store. I mainly buy my components online through ebay. If you buy in bulk, you can get some fantastic bargains!
Makeman3 years ago
in the 5 picture where did the other 1 (150) ohm resistor and 2 (10k) resistor go
bradsprojects (author)  Makeman3 years ago
The circuit you see here is just to show you the basic theory behind drawing a graphic on an LED matrix. The other 150 ohm resistor is used to display 'Santa' on the screen. The two 10k resistors are for the two push buttons. For more info on how the push buttons and 10k resistors work (and why we need the resistors) you can check out tutorial 4 on my electronics website. then click on pic tutorials and then click on tutorial 4
Makeman3 years ago
I noticed that you added a small connector piece. is that required.Whats it for
bradsprojects (author)  Makeman3 years ago
That connector is where the pickit programmer plugs into in order to upload the code to the microcontroller. Some people have different programmers where you plug the microcontroller into the programmer to upload the code, before soldering it into the board.
pedronanez4 years ago
 how do you download the archive into the microcontroler ,but w
how do you connect it
bradsprojects (author)  pedronanez4 years ago
I have included 5 little pads on the circuit board so that you can connect the pickit2 programmer to it. then you just click 'program in the pickit2 software and it's done = )
a video wold be nice,cool project!
I will have a video uploaded today = )
cool :-)
 Zaphod's just this guy, you know?
Geekmandude4 years ago
There appears to be many kinds of 16f648a PICs, Do I want the 18 pin PIC16F648A-I/P or the 18 pin PIC16F648A-I/SO?
bradsprojects (author)  Geekmandude4 years ago
Just get the I/P

They are all the same chip, just different packaging (through hole DIP / Surface mount etc...)
andy707074 years ago
That hex file dosent seem to work with my programmer. It says it needs to be INH8XM format. It displays everything right except the last collumn of characters is replaced by random (non-hex) ones suggesting there is a problem with the file, and it shows up fine in notepad. So how can I convert it to INH8XM format or could you send me another version that is in that format? Thanks!
nolte9194 years ago
This is a really great Instructable.  Is there a reason you're reluctant to release the source code?  That would make it tons easier to adapt it to many different microcontrollers and alternative hardware.  It seems a shame to make such an awesome and detailed Instructable and leave out the source code.  If it's too much trouble to convert it to another microcontroller then let that be our problem.  We're not asking for a conversion, we're only asking for the original code.  It certainly wouldn't take anything away from your excellent Instructable and would, in my opinion, make it even better because we could more easily adapt it to our projects.

Would you mind posting the source code?

bradsprojects (author)  nolte9194 years ago
Hi, sorry for the late reply.

This game is actually just a copy of the great race (a game I came up with a few years ago)

you can check out all the details of that including source code on my electronics site:
Hey thanks!!  I can't believe you wrote it in assembly.  You're a mad man.  Great website too.

And by the way, responding to a comment in less than 72 hours is a pretty friggin' prompt response in my opinion.  Thanks again.

Oh, and might I suggest putting a link to your website in the body of the Instructable.  Maybe say something like "you can find this game and others like it at
brunoip4 years ago
you should use the last green line too ...
andy707074 years ago
This looks like a really good project, I just went out and bought all the components except the PIC and the 7442, and I couldnt find one, so would this one be ok? and if not, could you suggest an alternative or a link to somewhere I can buy one (preferably in the UK) Thanks!

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