After seeing hundreds of great instructables on the site around USB keys, USB hubs, old school game controller reworkings, etc - I also decided to join in and have a go at converting my all time favourite controller from the NES into a useful device that I could use at both home and work for many different purposes and tasks, and all without drawing too many 'odd bod' stares...
Step 1: Items Needed for This Instructable...
No need for masses of pictures with regards this step - this is just a simple list of the items needed to complete the instructable (which aren't numerous):
1). Suitable controller - by this, I mean a controller that will have the correct internal dimensions to support the following parts based on what you are able to purchase and want to fit within it. For my instructable, I chose the NES controller which, when opened and gutted to some degree provided enough (sensible square/box like) dimensions to ensure my USB hub could be located within its footprint.
2). The USB hub - many of these are available currently on eBay and from various electrical stores. For my build I used a Technika USB 2.0 hub as it is a very small, slimline 4 port unit with external power supply provided which fitted well within the halves of the controller I offered it up to.
3). USB keys - depending on the controller chosen and the hub implemented, you can now utilised as many, few or as diverse keys as you wish to provide the kind of utility you wish from your device. Originally I planned on incorporating my Bluetooth dongle within the unit, but after finding I needed it elsewhere more regularly - I chose to install two standard USB keys instead for application installation and data storage purposes only. The first was a standard 4Gb Sandisk key which I would use for my applications storage, whilst the other, an 8Gb Sandisk Cruzer Micro key would provide the necessary space for data, etc.
4). USB Power Lead - came as standard with the original hub purchase.
The image attached shows the hub, minus both side of its cover to reduce its overall thickness so as to fit readily within the controller, and the two keys occupying one side of the hub, as I decided to only use two ports - mainly because of my wish to retain certain aspects of the case, such that it remain authentic looking and not too 'hacked', therefore all sides apart from the power socket remain untouched.
5). Plasticised card - mainly to fill out the space within the controller and used directly to cushion the hub in place to remove jolting and rattling from the unit. One sheet of A4 is more than sufficient and as it can be rolled and safely folded, can be used in a multitude of ways.
6). Craft knife and junior saw - both useful for trimming down internal parts from the controller to save space and also to enlarge the original cord hole for expansion so that the USB power cord can be used. The saw is particularly useful in separating the movement dial and the craft knife is essential for removing three of the screw columns (locking pins) within the controller.
7). Screwdriver - you will also need a small Philips screwdriver to take apart and reassemble the unit once done.
8). OPTIONAL - Superglue (depending on how well the build goes, and how you do with retaining the screws and columns to locate them within, this may or may not become a necessity - if you go slow and careful - this might not be required ;-)
Step 2: Trim the Controller Case to Make Space for the Hub...
In this step we prepare the controller casing, for the mounting of the hub.
One side of the controller will hold all the retaining pins for both the internal parts and the other half of the controller, whilst the other will have mounting points for the X/Y paddle and mounts for the buttons within the device.
Here we carefully work out where we plan to locate the hub, and where possible see if we can avoid the need to use superglue by retaining a sensible number of screw and mounting points to make sure that the device can be easily assembled and disassembled when required. If your hub is too large, or you wish to utilise more keys in the config, all of the pins can be removed and superglue can be used to 'weld' the parts together, but of course this removes a lot of the durability and usability of the device should you later want to re-spec it's internal parts, different function keys, larger capacity drives, etc.
Step 3: Pack and Pad the Device (bottom Part of Controller)...
By cutting simple template shapes from the plasticised foam/card you should be able to comfortably pack out the remainder of the case, once the hub is located within the base of the controller (bottom half), so that the top half can be held in position and no rattling can be heard or worst still, movement encountered.
The key here is to ensure the fit is snug - not too tight that the unit overheats as remember the hub is without its plastic shielding, but also to ensure that looseness within the unit a). doesn't make the item sound cheap, but also b). the constant movement does not damage the internal workings or slowly loosen the USB keys when locked in place.
Step 4: Outfit the Controller (top Half) and Ensure All Buttons and Controls Still 'work'...
This next bit is as important the previous one, but with a slightly different take - whilst the aim is still to pad the unit and ensure robustness and quality of build (no rattles) it is also paramount, as my aim was to ensure that the buttons and controls from the original unit still 'felt' right and were present, even if they played no part in the actual device or its function.
To this end, I spent time working out the depths and gaps between the controls and the hub, etc and packed these out where necessary to ensure the old A and B buttons still depressed and raised nicely. This took sometime and required differing amounts of padding, but even after a year - the buttons still feel just right. I also took the time to ensure the Start and Select buttons had the same treatment. And although these are a softer sponger (rubber) button when compared to the harder plastic of the A and B option buttons, the feeling is still 'right' even though they were both padded in exactly the same way.
One last touch, which couldn't be solved immediately with padding was the multi directional dial on the left of the unit - this has a number of parts below it (loose) which needed to be removed to ensure I could pad the area out - and some of it was required by the USB device within - but also the disc itself has a moulded underside which interfaced which the parts in the lower part of the console to give you the usual four way (or 8) directional movements. This disc also had to be removed, and ignoring my earlier point about item 8, superglue was required to affix the cross to an appropriate point within the unit.
The only way this could be fixed at the time was by carefully cutting (in actual fact sawing) the underneath of the disc away from the required top half - after safely doing that, you only have the cross for movement which can still be located in the top half of the controller unit and maintain a certain amount of movement upon the padding (attached with glue) - whilst it doesn't feel completely right, due to the minimal amount of hacking required to get it in place - to still have it there, and looking relatively untouched was a real bonus.
Note: where possible try to keep all the original screws and internal fittings from the unit as very often they can all still be used on top/within or in place of the padding to retain that particular button or feature to keep the controller 'intact'.
Step 5: Closing the Case and Testing Out the Kit...
With the USB hub mounted in place, and the two keys locked in and controller halves prep - all that remains was to piece the controller back together.
Of the original six mounting screws and columns that held the device together, only three remained.
These were strategically chosen to ensure that across the device one screw kept the overall area in place. These other three columns needed to be removed to allow the hub to occupy their space, therefore with no columns, the screws were not required and could be disposed off.
On reflection, superglue could have been reused to seal the entire unit and keep it dustfree and solid, but I still prefer the reuse of the three main screws and columns. The device has been in my work bag on numerous occasions and still survives and works today. Plus I'm happy as I know it will be relatively easy to unscrew and replace any part as and when I need to.
Included in the pictures attached to this step are the Windows XP devices screen showing my device attached with both E: later named Mario (the shorter, stumpier drive) ready for applications to be installed (currently holding Skype and OpenOffice) and F: later named Luigi (the taller, thinner drive) being ready for data storage only.
The final picture shows my device linked up to my wife's Acer Aspire One - ready for action.
I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did working on it - thanks for reading, Alan...