Nintendo’s latest device, Switch, has excited gaming fanatics all over the world. Yet what most people don’t realize is the Switch can be replicated in their own homes.
Tim Lindquist, a senior in electrical engineering at Iowa State University, has a long history of creating hardware and software projects in his spare time. Last spring, he decided to pursue creating a retro game console as his next undertaking.
“I needed a project to do, and I thought this would be pretty fun,” Tim said. “A lot of people make these game devices, but one thing I noticed with them is they aren’t physically appealing. I wanted to make something that was functional, looked good and also made up for the Switch’s lack of virtual console.”
Tim said he began 3-D printing the parts in the 2017 spring semester and titled the project, “Nintimdo,” as a play on his name. Because the device was longer than the printer’s capacity, parts needed to be printed in four pieces and assembled together. He designed it to easily access device internals by unscrewing the front and back plates to open into two halves.
The Nintimdo has a 7-inch touch screen with buttons on either side of the screen to control the device. It features a 5 LED indicator to display battery power, backlight and volume levels. The entire show is run on a 10,000 mAh battery, making the battery life of the Nintimdo double that of the Switch. There is even a home button to bring the user back to the main screen and an HDMI out port for TV screening.
Tim spent the majority of the summer working on the interface buttons and peripheral circuitry of the device. This includes the LED status bar, battery circuitry and code to register button presses. Inside the Nintimdo is a Raspberry Pi 3, a small computer, installed with Retropie and EmulationStation softwares to run the majority of video games. However, the device is unable to play Switch games because of lack of processing power and emulation capability. With a simple hotkey press, the user can swap over to a familiar desktop environment, and by using the two USB ports on top for mouse and keyboard, the device can transform into a laptop.
Tim said he spent about $350 creating the Nintimdo, not including the multiple hardware options he explored and the Raspberry Pi he broke trying to shave down size.
Tim has since posted his code, parts list and 3D models online for anyone to build and said, “It is a great project for people looking to learn about hardware and software integration.”
Before he worked on the Nintimdo, Tim pioneered projects with his roommate, Jakub Hladik, a senior in computer engineering. They have turned their apartment into a workshop for creating new gadgets in their free time. Some of their projects include a layout implementation of “SUBLEQ” processor and reinventing the RC controller with hand-tilt controls, which won them “Best Hardware Hack” at the HackISU competition and “Best Innovative Idea” at the ISU Entrepreneur Pitch Competition.