My vision for this project was to make a unique looking Nintendo Entertainment System which mixed some of the cosmetic design elements of the original NTSC console with it's Japanese counterpart the famicom (family computer). The system needed to have a fairly low profile & the original front loading design eliminated to not only allow for the slim form factor but also offer a better 72 pin connection which would function 1st try upon inserting a cartridge. The following steps & pictures will show you precisely how I achieved this with the creation of the NES side loader.
Step 1: Finding a Suitable Housing & Disassembling for Trial Fitting of NES Components.
First step was to find a suitable housing which would accommodate the original NES motherboard. I wanted to keep the motherboard intact with all it's original components because frankly it's the best hardware for NES games even to this day. What I ended up using which fit the bill perfectly was a 1980's era answering machine. I knew cosmetically it was what I was looking for but would it be able to house the fairly large NES motherboard with it's large RF & AV / power module which protrudes quite a bit from the motherboard? It was very tight but luckily it fit.
Step 2: Desoldering the Game Genie Connector & Soldering It to the NES Motherboard.
Now that I had a suitable housing I needed to find a suitable 72 pin connector that would be reliable & simple to solder onto the NES motherboard. I had read about the game genie having a good quality connector & having used them myself with no issues I opted to go that route. I desoldered the connector which was quite time consuming but persistence paid off. Once the connector was free of it's board I removed any excess solder & begin straightening the pins so they would line up with the pins on the nes motherboard where the old pin connector slid off. I cleaned the motherboard connectors with metal polishing paste & soldered each of the 72 pins on the game genie connector to the motherboard. I then tested it with a super mario bros game board & was happy to see it worked flawlessly.
Step 3: Making a Famicom Adapter & Dust Cover.
With the side loader connector not being too recessed into the console housing I decided to go ahead and make a 60-72 pin famicom adapter. I used an old cartridge & a famicom adapter from an old gyromite nes game. I used the remainder of the cartridge housing to make a small dust cover which could be slide into the side loader's slot to keep inserted when system is not in use. I then sanded down the edges smooth and put a few coats of granite spray paint on both.
Step 4: Cutting Holes for Controller Ports & Power/reset Buttons & Lengthening Controller Wires.
I wanted the controller ports and the power & reset buttons toward the front of the console. I had to lengthen the controller port wires using a piece of IDE ribbon cable from old PC so they'd reach.Once I decided where I wanted the controller ports & power/reset buttons I used a dremel to cut out the holes. I also cut out the square hole in between the power/reset buttons for the original led. I cut the ide cable to proper length & cut the original controller port wires in half & twisted & soldered the connections. I then wrapped a small bit of electrical tape around each exposed wire.
Step 5: Desoldering Power/reset Buttons & Led & Rewiring for New Configuration. Added Resistor for Famicom Audio.
I wanted the power/reset buttons in between the controller ports & configured in a way that would better suit this console with the led in between. I desoldered them all from the original board & simply followed their on board traces to wire them so as they could be positioned however I needed along with the led which is also on the same board. I tested the switches as well as the controller ports making sure they worked. I also added a 47K resistor between pins 3 and 9 on the expansion slot pins while it was easily accessible in case I ever need to get famicom audio out of games like castlevania III.
Step 6: Making the Side Loader Tray.
To make the side loader tray I used the tray from the original nes mechanism. All I needed was the top portion & the depth needed was very small at probably 1.5 inches. Once I had all measurements I used my dremel to cut the tray to proper size. I then placed the motherboard in the proper location to figure out where the slot would have to be cut in the housing & used dremel to cut it out as well. I then used a piece of cardstock to make a template for the upper tray piece & then placed it over the bottom housing of a old SNES console and cut out the plastic. I inserted a couple of different games making sure where to super glue the upper plastic piece so as it would work as a guide for the carts without being too tight or lose.
Step 7: Painting the Housing.
I opted to go with a white upper & dark gray lower with a bit of black to give it that original NES feel. Also did dark gray around the power/reset button piece. After several coats and waiting a couple of days I sprayed on 3 thick coats of clear.
Step 8: JB Weld Over the Pin Connector Solder Points.
I initially hot glued over the solder points where the connector meets the motherboard but decided for extra strength to mix JB weld & apply it over them as well. I then tested it all again to confirm it was all working before mounting the motherboard inside the case.
Step 9: Cutting Hole for the Mechanical Hour Meter. Hooking All Wires Up Before Putting It All Together.
I decided I wanted to track hour much time this NES will accumulate during it's life & wanted a mechanical meter which is the closest thing to a play history for the NES. I chose to place it beside the power button because there was a perfect sized spot for it there. I then used my dremel to cut the hole. I installed it & got all the wires inside for all the components situated before putting it together. As you can see it's a pretty tight fit & you can see the size comparison between it and the original NES. The side loader is about half as tall.
Step 10: Finishing Touches & Testing Games and Slot Dust Cover.
After completing all the detail work I tested all the different things that would be in the side loader slot. All passed with flying colors.
Step 11: Finished, Ready to Stomp Some Goombas!
I hope you enjoyed seeing how I made the NES side loader. Thanks for looking. Below is a link to a youtube video of it in action & me beating 1st level of super mario bros using one hand lol.