In this instructable, I would like to show you how to create this custom case for a Raspberry Pi Zero powered Retropie gaming system. It features a four port USB hub, power switch, LED indicator light and all the retro look of an Atari 2600 cartridge.
Step 1: Supply List
For this project, you will need the following:
Raspberry Pi Zero (any version) $5 and up
An Atari 2600 cartridge $1 at a local Disc Traders
A 4 port USB hub $10 from Adafruit.com
Power switch $6 on Amazon
LED diode (any color) Less than $1
Micro HDMI adapter $2 on Ebay
Heat gun or hair dryer
Hot glue gun
A broken USB cable, about 6 inches long
Wax paper (for the Atari stickers)
Step 2: Disassembly/ Case Modification
Even though these cases are almost 40 years old, the labels come off surprisingly easy. With your heat gun, gently heat up the sticker on the front and top of the cartridge. Use a low setting or hold the heat further back. Once the sticker is warm, try to carefully lift a corner with a flat tool and slowly peel it off, taking care not to damage it, then stick the label to the wax paper. I put a book on it to keep everything flat while working on the case.
Next, remove the screw in the center. Then, with either your fingers or a flat tool, press on the seam on the bottom side of the cartridge at the front, while gently lifting up to release the clips holding everything together, there are 3 clips on each side. Once opened up, remove the guts, including the plastic partitions, to make room for the next step.
Do keep the piece on the mouth of the case, this is what the USB hub will be mounted in
Step 3: Modify the USB Hub and Power Switch
I you are using the official Zero4u hub, you will have to de-solder the POGO pins (the brass rods sticking up from the board) and re solder a length of wire to the leads, otherwise just use a micro USB adapter. I de-soldered the pins and soldered the wires one at a time to make sure that everything lined up correctly, then put a dab of hot glue to relieve stress on the joints.
Next, open the case for the power switch and solder the LED diode to the downstream side of the cable, making sure to insulate the exposed leads on the LED. I left a bout 1.5 inches of wire on the LED for better placement on the case.
Step 4: Mount the Hub
On the mouth piece, there are 2 tabs that can be removed. Next, open up the slots to make room for the hub, taking care not to remove too much material. You want to just see the metal around the ports when looking in. I put a cardboard spacer under the hub to support it, then secured everything with a few dabs of hot glue.
Step 5: Almost There!
Now you can start figuring out the layout for the Zero. Set the hub in place, securing it in place with tape for now. The HDMI adapter and Zero should lay flat in the case, so I removed some of the rubber coating on the adapter with a knife, then positioned the adapter at the back of the case, as well as plugging in the power switch to see where they would live. With an Xacto knife, carefully cut the case to match the plugs, then secure them in place with hot glue. Next, put a dab of hot glue through the mounting holes on the Zero board and secure the hub in place as well.
Now for the switch and LED.
Figure out where these will fit best and start making a hole for them. Watch out for the tabs on the top part of the case, as i had to cut one off and remove some more material to make room for the switch. Once you are happy with the switch location, secure it with hot glue.
Now, route the excess wire around the case and again use hot glue to hold everything in place.
Step 6: Software Setup
Getting Started for the first time
I am using the popular emulator software known as RetroPie, you will need to download it to your computer from the Retropie website. Once it is downloaded use Etcher to flash it to the SD card. Once the installation is complete you can remove the SD card and put it into your Raspberry Pi. Setup Once you have inserted your SD card into the Raspberry Pi connect the Pi to your controller, monitor and power. When it powers up go through the input configuration process. To add ROMs (game files), you will have to shut it down for the next step.
Adding Game ROMs
You have to own the original game in order to use a game ROM on your Pi. There are several ways to add game ROMs to your Pi. I will describe a simple method using a USB drive.
PLEASE NOTE: While I cannot 'technically' say where to get ROM files from, because it is 'technically' illegal unless you own the games, you can do a quick Google search and find many places to download from. Download what you want, but make sure you keep track of what consoles each game is for, creating a separate file for each console.
Next, plug in a USB stick in your PC and create a folder called "retropie" in the root folder.
Now plug the USB stick in your Pi and wait until it boots up - This will automatically create a folder structure on your stick with all supported consoles. Take out the stick and copy your gaming ROM's from PC in the corresponding folder. Plug the stick back in the Pi and boot. The games should automatically show upon the front screen. You will notice that Retropie only shows the consoles for the games that have been loaded. That is normal, because this will keep unused consoles hidden. If you want another consoles' games, just download ROMs for that console, repeat this process and they will show up.
Playing games on me, you are
When launching games, there will be a brief pause, saying something like 'Launching This Game (U). Press a button to configure'. Normally you would leave this alone and keep playing. Click the A button if you are having problems, like slow game speed or controls not responding. You can change emulators for either the specific ROM you are using, or for the entire console. You can also adjust the video mode, which will change the aspect ratio and refresh rates.
Once you have the Zero up and running, go ahead and close up the case.
If you have a USB port on the back of you TV or monitor, you can plug the USB power cord into that as your power source, rather than using a separate source, for a much cleaner appearance. Then just power it on, change channels, and keep gaming!
And there you have it! A custom built game system inside of a game cartridge. I hope you enjoyed this instructable, and hope to hear from you and I would love to see what you can come up with! Have a great day.