Building your own hand held gaming console Part 1

WP_20151111_23_02_12_RichSince getting involved with Arduino and other Microcontrollers, I have designed and built several ‘consoles’ with the most involved one, the HalfByte Console Computer having its own PC Board designed and fabricated.  That was a fun project, well, they all have been, but this one was special: it was my first PC board design that was ‘produced’.   I also managed to design another console, but this was a game rig that went in an old Gameboy case.  This was only partially my design, as the 328 was actually an Arduino Mini Pro.  I added a sound amp, the screen and controller circuitry. So, it wasn’t entirely my design and it was a bit less satisfying. So…

I designed my own hand held from the ground up. This one, currently, lacks sound, and has a simpler controller: three buttons which translate into an action button, a left/up and right/down set of buttons. There is also a reset switch.

This design is very simple: it is a minimalist Arduino 328 compatible with four switches and a Nokia 5110 LCD screen.

WP_20151103_22_17_58_Rich_LIThe whole thing is on a perf board (in this case, it was a freebie board from Bay Area Circuits, go to their website and request the free boards, there Is a link for the request. These are very nice boards and a cool blue color.)

I started out by placing the parts on the board to see if I had room.  I did.

Be sure to photograph the board with the parts located where you wish to place them, this way you have a record of where you put them.

WP_20151103_23_11_54_Rich (2)

My initial design had only left and right buttons, no third button. I added that and the reset button to give me a bit more flexibility.

And, one lesson learned: socket the screen.  On the 5110, the thicker part of the bezel is the TOP, not the bottom.

For this project, you will need:


Part Name



Ceramic Capacitor



16MHZ Crystal




220 ohm


AtMega 328P



28 DIP Socket

28 pin


Momentary Push Buttons



Red, LED




150 ohm


Four pin header



5110 LCD


Parts placement is up to you, but I put the crystal and two caps under the screen, but you can put them where ever you want.

HalfByteHandheld2_schemI would start by placing the 28 pin socket and header on the board first. Solder them in place, use ample solder because you will have to solder wire to the socket and header. Use tape to hold them on the board while you solder them in place.

The LED is the only part that could be soldered in wrong because the key is hard to see. It is the flat side of the LED that is soldered to the resistor.

WP_20151109_22_44_49_Rich_LIOnce everything is soldered in place, insert your 328 controller chip and apply power.  If the 328 contains the standard Arduino boot loader, the pin 13 LED should blink.  If it does, congratulations! You now have a fully functional computer in your hand.

Some things I plan to add are sound and, perhaps, two more buttons.  I may add a video out option, but this is meant to be a handheld, so the video may not happen.

Stay tuned for part two, the software.



Short Video


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