Earlier this month, a programmer and hobbyist named Allison Parrish debuted a compact hack of the 1996 Nintendo Game Boy Pocket handheld game console. Taking inspiration from the later Game Boy Advance SP, she fabricated a custom plastic shell with a hinge so the older monochrome Game Boy can fold shut. She calls it the Game Boy Pocket SP.
In Parrish’s extensive write-up of the mod, she explains that her hack began as something of a joke. The Game Boy modding community is popular right now, and one currently trending mod involves transplanting the circuitry of a folding Game Boy Advance SP (from 2003) into a non-folding custom shell. So she thought, “If y’all can take the hinge out of an SP, why can’t I add a hinge to a Game Boy that never had one?”
Parrish, who is an assistant arts professor at NYU, built her complex folding mod over the summer using tools at her university department’s ITP/IMA shop and the NYU Makerspace. Its unique clamshell design comes courtesy of a Game Boy Pocket motherboard she cut in half, along with custom-design flex PCBs (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 screen, label, buttons, and rechargeable battery, came from hobbyist shops.
The finished product is compact, backlit, rechargeable via USB, and it plays original monochrome Game Boy games. Cartridges plug in just behind the screen, 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 in r/gameboy’s modding contest on Reddit.
Currently, the Game Boy Pocket SP remains a one-of-a-kind device because of the intense effort involved in making it. “The research and development process was also very expensive,” Parrish writes. “In addition to the costs of materials and manufacturing, there’s also the cost of my own labor.”
Still, if you’d like to attempt to replicate her feat, Parrish has provided PCB and shell design files on GitHub and an almost step-by-step write-up of the build process on her website.