Earlier this month, a programmer and hobbyist named Allison Parrish launched a compact hack from Nintendo 1996 Game Boy pocket portable game console. Taking inspiration from the latest Game Boy Advance SP, she made a custom plastic shell with a hinge so the old monochrome Game Boy could fold up. She calls it the Game Boy Pocket SP.
In Parrish’s detailed description of the mod, she explains that her hack started out as some sort of joke. The Game Boy modding community is popular at the moment, and a currently fashionable mod involves transplanting circuitry from a foldable Game Boy Advance SP (from 2003) into a custom non-folding case. So she thought, “If you can remove the hinge from an SP, why can’t I add a hinge to a Game Boy that never had one?”
Parrish, who is an assistant professor of arts at NYU, built her intricate folding module over the summer using tools from her university’s department. ITP/IMA shop and the NYU Makerspace. Its unique clamshell design is courtesy of a Game Boy Pocket motherboard that it cut in half, along with custom-designed flex circuit boards (printed circuit boards) that route signals between the two folding halves. To pull it all together, Parrish designed a 3D printed plastic shell using FreeCAD.
Additional parts, such as the backlit display, label, buttons, and rechargeable battery, were sourced from hobby shops.
The finished product is compact, backlit, USB rechargeable, and it plays original monochrome Game Boy games. The cartridges plug in just behind the screen, just like in the original Game Boy Pocket. After announcing a rough prototype of the mod in September, the Game Boy Pocket SP won first place in the “Technical” category of the r/gameboy modding contest on Reddit.
Currently, the Game Boy Pocket SP remains a one-of-a-kind device due to the intense effort required to manufacture it. “The research and development process was also very expensive,” Parrish writes. “In addition to the costs of materials and manufacturing, there is also the cost of my own labor.”