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    element14's The Ben Heck Show

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    The N64 Portable has become the bane of Ben’s existence.  Not to worry, the team has been working on it behind the scenes!  In today’s episode, to the unrestrained shrieks of delight from Karen, the team is going to finish it off for good.  They had to make some major revisions to the case design and throw out a lot of the work that they’ve already done.



    Ben is united with former Ben Heck Forum members at the Midwest Gaming Classic 2017 in Milwaukee.  They've done a lot of work with the N64 in the past so leverages their expertise with wiring the jumper pack. N64 used a short-lived form of RAM called RAMBUS where chips sat in series and had a terminator at the end of the chain (kind of like SCSI)!


    The length of the wires affected how the RAM bus was terminated so they took the original jumper pack and carefully wired it directly to the motherboard with it lying flat. This gives Ben the low profile he needs to use the original jumper pack and give him the best chance to succeed. The N64 expansion pack is detected so he knows this is working. The old N64 had a pair of 2 megabyte RAM chips on it. You can remove those and install a couple of 4 megabyte RAM chips.  This basically gives you the expansion pack built in.


    Ben works on rewiring the cartridge as he did before.  He also plans on using chunks of copper to improve the heatsink. He’s going to need to measure to find the empty spots, measure the height of the chips, as well as the thermal pads. He can then CNC mill a custom copper heatsink to bolt onto the board for maximum heat dissipation.  He’s also got some really tiny fans to move some air around.  The RAM actually gets hotter than the CPU/GPU. It runs fast to make up for the narrow bus width (9 bits).


    Ben goes to work on desoldering and rewiring the cartridge slot. He’s getting closer to desoldering the cartridge slot, he’s removed the metal shielding so the only thing holding it in place are the data pins themselves. He uses tweezers to see if the pins can be moved. If they can be moved that means it’s been completely desoldered. He can then work on the transfer to the new board.  Once he gets it switched over he’ll make sure the cartridge still works.  He can then begin work on the heat sink.


    Ben rewires the previously assembled cartridge slot and check to make sure that the game still loads and the expansion pack is detected. Once that’s done, Ben goes to work on placing the heat sink.  He runs a 20 minute check to see if the heat sink is doing its job. The heat sink fins he’s added increase the surface area and gives air an opportunity to pull away heat.   He then goes to work on designing and assembling the fan mount.  Cooling requires someplace for the warm air to go, and a way for the cool air to come in.


    To assemble the battery board, he takes a PCB and makes marks on back of it to indicate where the 3D printed fan assembly is.  He uses the empty space to rebuild the power circuitry. He places four 3.7 volt cells on top of the unit.  He uses 18650 Li-Po batteries to power the unit. Having 7.4 volts in parallel will provide longer battery life.


    Ben goes with a 5” Playstation 1 LCD, ironically because of his history with the Nintendo Playstation Prototype!  Sony probably liked 7.4 V because they were an early adopter of Li-Ion which scales in multiples of 3.4 V.  The screen has an audio amplifier built into it. The unit is almost complete except for the speakers and the game controller.  He puts the finishing touches on the case redesign and the controllers.