I know; the title is not really saying a lot. Who needs a DVD player in their NES? Well, nobody really. But it sure is fun to see what you can cram inside a NES case and make it still look as much like an authentic NES as possible. It was only after I completed this hack that I bothered to see if anyone had done something similar before. It turns out that somebody has, but in my totally biased opinion, not nearly as well.
Despite my pride in my creation and the "ultimate" in the article title (I like to exaggerate sometimes for dramatic effect), it doesn't mean that a NES DVD player design couldn't be improved. I am particularly proud of my unit's exterior — how the NES' look and feel was preserved without drastic interruption. However, the internals could have probably been pulled off with a lot more elegance if one had better tools, better materials, and more experience in doing this sort of thing. All that being said, here are some nice features of my particular NES DVD Player:
- NES Power Button turns DVD Power on/off.
- NES Reset Button ejects DVD tray.
- Fully functional remote control…control.
- Infrared receiver (for remote control) inconspicuously placed in first-player controller port area.
- Upon ejecting or retracting the DVD tray, the NES cartridge slot door opens/closes automatically.
- Stereo RCA audio left and right output jacks positioned on right side of unit where former NES composite video and mono audio RCA jacks were.
- RCA Composite video output jack positioned where former NES RF output was.
- Optional S-Video Output jack where NES channel 3-4 switch was.
- AC Power cord firmly attached where NES AC Power Adapter used to plug in.
- Yes, it really plays DVDs.
Now with all of that out of the way, sit down, relax, and I'll tell you the story of how I made this beast.
Prepare for lots of pictures after the break…
Prologue: Breakfast of Champions
Monday, February 27th, 2006 - 11:00 AM
It all started at the breakfast table. It seems like everybody is turning a NES into a something else these days, and I wanted to take a crack at it. I pulled out a NES, plopped it on the table and brainstormed. Like most of my best ideas these days…they come from my fiance.
Up to that point I was trying to figure out how to turn a "toaster" NES into a real toaster. Of course, putting Nichrome heating elements inside a plastic case with less than one inch of clearance on one side is not a particularly good idea. I then thought about doing it anyway — building a NES toaster that would toast bread only once, shortly before dramatically melting into a puddle of NES-colored goo. I would video tape the entire process, put it on the Net and become famous for being a complete retard.
So there I was, staring like a zombie at a NES, lost in worlds of fame unknown, when my fiance suggested that I turn it into a DVD player. "Wow, how simple," I thought, snapping out of my trance. I even had a cheap, crappy, small DVD player sitting around that I could use! So I grabbed the DVD player and an old, nicked-up NES that was already apart and got to work. I wouldn't see my significant other again until about 2 am the next morning — I had twelve straight hours of intense, exacting work ahead of me.
Most hacker stories start something like this: "I grabbed a bag of [popular junk food] (Cool Ranch Doritos) and a twelve-pack of [ super-caffeinated soft drink] (Mountain Dew) and got to work." But I grabbed nothing, for I would not be eating food that day. No; food is for pansies. I would be eating pure electrons.
Here is the original DVD player before it was skinned alive and put into another machine's body against its will. Ever seen Face/Off
? Well, this hack is kinda like that except there are thankfully no faces involved, or else I would be having crazy nightmares for the rest of my life.
All drama aside, this "CyberHome CH-DVD 300″ DVD player was purchased by myself at a local Target sometime last year for about $40 US (Thank you, China). Honestly, it's a pretty bad DVD player. It seems to have trouble playing certain discs, and yet many discs work perfectly. But somehow for $40 you can kinda forgive the ten year-old who designed it. The best thing about it (aside from cost) is that it's small. This feature made it an ideal choice for NESization.
It couldn't have been more simple: discrete modules separated by function with lots of cable length between each assembly — and there are only three of them. Perfect for hacking!
Here you can see the guts of the DVD player taken out of the case. The top board is the power supply that takes AC from the wall and turns it into yummy DC that the player can use. The upper right board is the button/control assembly with all the play/stop/eject buttons, the power LED, and the IR receiver for the remote control. And the thing on the bottom is the DVD drive assembly, which includes all audio and video output connectors mounted on a logic board for the drive, which, in turn, is mounted on the disc reading and tray assembly.
After removing the stinky entrails from the DVD player carcass, I came across the first problem. The DVD drive assembly was too long to fit in the NES unmodified by a couple inches. The first thing I did to shorten it was to de-solder the AV connectors that were mounted on the logic board. The same connectors would also come in handy later, as you'll see.
People come up to me on the street and ask, "RedWolf, you're so good at de-soldering things. What's your secret?" Well, little Timmy, I'll tell you. I have a special weapon in my things-that-burn-other-things arsenal that I bought at Radio Shack about three years ago. It's called a "de-soldering iron" and I highly recommend it to anyone who tinkers with electronics. Strangely enough, you'd be surprised at the number of seasoned electronic engineers who've never seen, heard of, or used one of these. Its operation is quite simple and effective: you plug it in, it heats up, you squeeze the bulb and hold it, then place the hot hollow heated point of the iron on the joint you want to de-solder. Wait a moment for all the solder in the joint to melt. Make sure you've got the joint hole covered up as much as possible, then release the bulb. This sucks up the solder. Then point it at
somebody you don't like and squeeze it again to burn them horribly with tiny bits of molten solder your desk, away from important stuff, and blow the solder out. Usually it can get the solder out cleanly so that the component you're de-soldering just falls out. If you can't get it all out in one suck, then add more solder (believe it or not) until you have a glob that definitely covers the gaps around the joint and the hollow de-soldering tip. Then suck it all up, spit it out, and you've got it. Now go brush your teeth.
A closeup of the drive logic board with the connectors removed. I've labeled the contacts for the connectors I'll be using again.
Here are the connectors I de-soldered. I saved the analog audio-out and the analog video-out connectors and gave the rest to my pet robot to play with.
Here's a big step I won't be covering in my overview — gutting the NES case. In this particular case (pun intended?), I had a NES that was already apart. In fact, it was the first NES I ever owned and also the first one I ever disassembled (back in 1992 or so). Somewhere along the line I lost the screws and, well, it stayed apart. The NES itself was a bit banged up, but it made the perfect guinea pig for a project that could have, for all I knew at the time, gone horribly wrong.
In this picture you'll notice that I've removed everything possible from the case, leaving only the top and the bottom. I did this because I intended to clean it thoroughly and also so I wouldn't mess up any other pieces while I was modifying the case.
Here you can see that I am working out where I will eventually put the AV connectors. I used some mounting putty to stick them in place temporarily to get a feel for it. As it turned out, the connectors that came with the DVD player were perfect for use in the NES.
By the way, I am required by law to begin every picture caption with the word "here."
Here's another view of the mocked-up connectors. Eventually, the S-Video out and the composite video out connector positions would be switched.
Somewhere after this step I washed the plastic case in my dishwasher (works great, by the way). The only casualty was the red print on the "audio" and "video" labels in the back. It washed off, but luckily white was left underneath so you can still read them. I suppose I could have covered them somehow, but I was in a hurry.
Those big "VintageComputing.com" watermarks on the images are annoying, aren't they? It's a shame the Net's come to this, but without them you'd find my images spread everywhere across the net, eventually somehow being integrated into porn. My next book title: The Internet: All Roads Lead to Porn.
After cleaning the NES case, I did some heavy modifications to the inside of the top part of the case. My tools of choice were a soldering iron with a bad tip installed that I use for melting plastics (or anything other than solder), a set of metal files (to flatten, smooth, and shape), a pair of light-gauge wire cutters to trim small pieces, and a small bolt cutter to clip thicker plastic parts with ease.
I'll spare you the safety disclaimers, except for this: if you melt any plastics, open a window and make sure you have adequate ventilation in your work area (I can hardly think of anything worse to breathe than vaporized plastic). We already have few enough hardware hackers as it is on this earth — no need to tempt fate and reduce the nerd count. Oh yeah, and while I'm at it, don't attempt to use a handgun to blast off bits of plastic from the case. Use a shotgun instead — it gets the job done quicker.
The NES case wasn't the only plastic that I had to melt and chop away. Here you can see the front of the drive assembly that I had to thin out, width-wise, to get it to fit into the widened NES cartridge slot.
Here you can see the full drive before I viciously chopped off the back of it.
The black burn mark to the left of the drive (the one that looks like some kind of Blair Witch symbol) is all that's left of a matchstick house gone horribly wrong. True story.
And here we have a naked picture of your mom holding a banana. Notice the intricate implied tension inherent in this image.
At last! Something interesting again. Here's the top of the case — you can see how I had to drastically widen the cartridge slot so that the front of the drive would fit through it. I did it carefully so that none of the chopped parts would be visible once everything was put back together (and it would look like regular, non-lobotomized NES).
Here's an underside view of the modified NES case top piece. Looks messy on the inside, but nobody will ever see it once it's all together. (Except, perhaps, Superman…) In the background you can see the dirty NES case lid anxiously awaiting its reunion with the rest of the case after ten long years of separation. I can't wait.
Ok, now back to the drive assembly. Even after shortening it a bit, it was still too long to fit in the NES case. So I had to chop off some useless plastic in the back. The only problem was that the logic board was mounted directly underneath that "useless" plastic section, and thus had to be moved and remounted elsewhere. I found a spot for the board about an inch toward the front of the assembly where the disc read-head ribbon cable could still reach any position it needed to go while reading a disc. There was no easy way to directly mount the board there, so I dug through my scrap box and pulled out a piece of Masonite
. I measured and cut the Masonite to fit between the board and the plastic drive frame, then drilled holes so I could screw the Masonite into the plastic frame, and in turn, screw the logic board into the Masonite.
Everybody's got a screw collection, right? One of the things I love to do with any hack or mod is to use whatever parts I already have available, most of which come from old junk that I took apart long ago. It can make for a pretty uneven project, but it ultimately seems more satisfying somehow. Here, I was finding the right screws to fit in the screw holes in the plastic drive frame so I could attach the Masonite mounting board. Obviously, I found some…the Masonite is screwed firmly in place.
Here's a closeup of my Masonite mounting board (explained above) attached to the plastic drive assembly frame. The black stuff on the Masonite is leftover adhesive and foam from its previous life as a partition in a Gamecube travel case. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
The chopping continues. With the Masonite attached and the logic board out of the way (and still off to the side as of this picture), I sawed off about an inch of plastic from the back of the drive assembly. It included superfluous plastic from both the drive frame and the disc tray. After this, I tested the drive and it still worked (including eject and loading), so on with the show!
By the way, if you try this at home, take care not to accidentally lick the focusing lens on the DVD drive's read head (I hear it can mess things up).
Sweet Victoly! I finally got the drive to fit in the spot I wanted in the case. I still had not remounted the drive's logic board, and you'll see why in a minute.
Before I remounted the logic board, I needed to do some soldering. More specifically, there was still the issue of the AV Connectors to take care of. I cut some lengths of wire, soldered them to the board where the connectors originally were, then carefully soldered the other ends of the wires to the tips of the connectors' leads (that originally were soldered directly in the board). I'd never tried this before, and let me tell you: it's a pain in the ass. But after soldering, the joints between the wire and the leads held up surprisingly well under stress. Still, one must be careful with joints such as this, as they are usually liable to break at any time if you so much as sneeze on them.
I completed extending both the audio and video connectors so they can be mounted elsewhere in the NES case. At this point I could have added about six extra wires from the logic board to the S-video section of the compound S-Video and RCA video connector in order to preserve S-Video output from the DVD player. But I didn't want to go completely insane in the middle of the project, and I only own one S-Video cable to my name, so I just stuck with the two-pin composite connection. Still, it's nice to know that the option for S-Video output is there if I am ever willing to risk complete insanity by attempting such a soldering feat.
Back to sawing! At this point I was attempting to figure out where I would put the remote control infrared (IR) receiver. I intended to de-solder it and extend it like I did the AV connectors, but it turned out to be unnecessary, as you will soon see. Anyway, I thought about sticking the IR receiver in one of the NES controller pin holes, hence the brutal sawing of the controller port connector. I decided that even if I did stick the IR receiver in there, the receiver's receptive ability at anything other than right-angles to the front of the unit would be severely hampered, if not eliminated.
I ultimately decided that I would skip all that bunk and just put the receiver behind a semi-opaque piece of plastic that would fill the "Player 1″ controller port. This modified port connector did come in handy though, eventually filling the area for controller port 2.
Before you lies a close-up picture of the control assembly. It's so simple that even electronics novices such as myself can understand its function and design, almost as if they designed this thing to some day be hacked and featured on Vintage Computing and Gaming
Soldered on this assembly are the two-color power indicator LED, the IR receiver, and six tiny buttons. The top left one is the eject button, and the bottom right one is the power button. Those were the only two buttons I would be needing to rewire, so I de-soldered them along with the LED, but left the IR receiver in place.
Here's the NES's original Power/Reset Switch and LED assembly close up. We'll be needing it soon.
This picture is relatively useless aside from the fact that it contains an image of the old plastic PC bezel that I chopped up, fit in the space where controller port 1 was, and used to cover the IR receiver. More recycling at work — that bezel once covered the "megahertz speed" LED readout (which usually read "16″) on my family's first ever 386 PC-compatible. I tossed its case a few years ago after it had been used with many different motherboards, but its bezel will now live on in a different form. Also pictured is the DVD player's remote control and a weird mini-Torx screwdriver that literally appeared in my toolbox one day when I wasn't looking.
This seemingly redundant picture contains a nugget of information vital to the successful completion of this project.
The NES power button is a "latching" push-button switch by default. That is, you push it in and it locks, completing the circuit as long as it's latched in the "in" position. You push it again and it pops back out, breaking the circuit. The DVD player power button uses a "momentary" push-button switch. That is, you push it in and the circuit is completed only while you hold it down, and when released it pops back out again, breaking the circuit. The "Reset" button on the NES is a momentary switch as well. To turn the NES Power switch into a momentary switch, I ripped off a small metal cover on the top of the switch and pulled out a tiny piece of metal that looks like a staple. That "staple" controlled the latching mechanism, and with it removed, it no longer latches and is now a momentary switch. This step must be done for the switch to work with the DVD player correctly.
In addition to the NES's front panel switches, I wired up the NES's power LED to work as well. I simply removed the old DVD player's two-color power LED (It showed red for off, green for on) and soldered an extension to the NES LED in its place. I used the pads for the "green" part of the LED on the control board so that the NES's LED would only turn on…when the unit was on.
Also, you can see that all the wiring for the switch/LED assembly is complete. It looks a little sloppy because I made a couple mistakes that I had to fix in the process, but it now works perfectly.
With the NES switch/LED assembly mounted back in its rightful position, I tested possible positions for the DVD control board.
Somewhere before this point I put everything back together (loose on the floor) and made sure it all still worked. Luckily, it did, so I set out fitting everything in the case.
In this picture the AV connectors are now mounted in the case (lower left corner). I drilled a small hole underneath each set of connector holes in the NES case that corresponded with built-in screw mount-holes in the DVD AV connectors themselves. I then screwed the connectors in place, and later secured them further with some hot-melt glue.
Also, in this picture the power supply board is now mounted in the case. In order to get the AC power cord through the hole for the NES AC adapter plug without breaking the case, I had to cut off the connector that originally attached it to the PS board. I also de-soldered the matching male connector from the board itself. Then I strung the AC cord through the hole, rewound it through the big ferrite bead, and soldered it directly to the PS board. I fastened the PS board to the case with two screws — one of the screw holes was already in the power supply board; the other, I had to drill myself in an unoccupied part of the board. It worked out really well, though.
The next step, after putting the semi-opaque IR window in the control port area, was to secure the DVD control board in place so that the IR receiver on the board would be properly behind the window (lower-right corner of case). You'll soon see how I did this up close…
Here's a close up of the DVD control board mounted to the NES case. Because of its weird vertical positioning, I used a combination of hot-melt glue and a cable tie (strung through a screw hole on the board and also through an adhesive cable-tie mount, stuck onto the front inside of the case) to mount the control board in place.
And now for the trickiest part: mounting the DVD drive in place. Because of its positioning, the drive assembly had to be mounted somehow to the top of the NES case. But there are no fasteners or mount points on this part of the case. What to do?
My first attempt at a solution is pictured above, with a series of cable ties and a few adhesive cable-tie mounts that were shored up with hot-melt glue. Unfortunately, one of the cable tie mounts didn't want to stick to the flat plastic surface of the case while under pressure (even when reinforced with glue). I ultimately resorted to using some pieces of double-sticky tape to affix the top of the drive assembly to the case, but I forgot to take a picture of the final inside guts after I did this. Still, this picture is close enough. After chopping off one more plastic screw post on the bottom of the NES case, it was finally time to close it all up!
I found some new case screws to replace the original ones I lost long ago, and put them in place. With the unit back together, I tested it and it worked as planned. In fact, it worked even better than planned, with the cartridge slot lid opening and closing perfectly in concert with the ejecting and loading the disc tray. All that was left was to get rid of the annoying, dirty-looking sticker residue (remnants from overzealous childhood sticker application) from the NES cartridge slot lid, and I'd be done. A little naphtha did the trick, as usual, and I was finished. Holy sweet mother of circuits, it took me twelve hours, but I actually pulled it off!
Epilogue: The Dull Roar of Success
Friday, March 3rd, 2006 - 3:56 PM
Well, that's it. I am now the proud owner of a DVD player that is shaped like a Nintendo Entertainment System, and you are the proud owner of scads of new technical knowledge of a dubious nature. Now go back the the beginning of the article and watch the video again, gaining new appreciation of the NES DVD Player's precision Swiss-timing operation. If you build one yourself, let me know! By the way, does anybody want to hack up a NES control pad and turn it into a DVD remote for this thing? Maybe that should be my next project — we'll see. Thanks for reading my ramblings, and have fun hacking.
(Update - 06/25/2006: The NES DVD player featured in this article is now for sale on eBay.)
(Update - 07/05/2006: The NES DVD player auction is over. The final price was US $282.73. Kinda makes you want to build your own, doesn't it?)