RaspberryPi Zero in a classic Xbox controller

Here’s a smaller project I completed in an evening or 2. I had intended to put a RaspberryPi Zero into a repro USB NES controller but, after finding I’d bought something that was completely unplayable (it kept pressing up alongside left or right), I ended up reading a blog by Terence Eden (@edent on Twitter) and modding a classic Xbox controller to do the job properly. Before the retro police turn up at my door I want to stress the original controller cable was broken and missing the end adapter!

USB modded controller containing the RaspberryPi

RetroPie handles all the emulation and loading ROMs via USB turns out to be pretty easy. I only loaded a handful of NES and classic arcade games as I’m not a huge gamer but do like a quick fix now and again.

I used a cheap dremal to cut a slit in the memory card slot so the pie could slot in and stay in without a large gaping hole. It also helps to keep the pie away from all the internal electrical components of the controller.

A snug fit!


The minor caveat to all this is that I tried to internalise the controller’s USB cable by hard wiring it directly to the pie’s data USB port but my soldering let me down and I pulled up the contact pad. I abandoned that more elegant solution but the upshot is that the Xbox controller will continue to work with other systems, such as a PC / Mac running MAME, and the data port on the pie will continue to work so I can add more ROMs.

Pros:

  • Easy to make project
  • Fast loading system
  • HDMI output is great for most modern TVs
  • Easy to add more games
  • Snug fit for the pie
  • Handles most old games

Cons:

  • Too many cables coming in /out (power, controller data, HDMI)
  • Restricted movement (tugging sideways pulls out HDMI)
  • No audio jack so sound must go via HDMI

In summary

I’m really pleased with it but am not really sure what I’ll do with it in the long-term. It was a nice project to work on but now it’s probably going to sit on a shelf. Maybe I’ll give it away or send it to The Centre for Computing History in Cambridge to have as an interactive example of what a pie can do for their programming classroom.

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