Collection of Raspberry Pi retro tech projects

During lockdown, Stuart (aka JamHamster) wanted to keep busy whilst between jobs, and ended up building a mini empire of rescued retro systems. Cassette tapes, Game Boys, and floppy disks were all among the treasures he reclaimed.

All up and running on my 'shelf of deceit' where nothing is what it seems
Stuart calls this the “shelf of deceit” – where nothing is what it appears to be

Cassette tape starter

Stuart got started by fitting a TZXDuino tape loader into a cassette tape shell. Remember those? This allows him to load software onto a ZX Spectrum by inserting a tape into the tape deck, just as Nature intended. He has since improved the design (check out V2 on YouTube) and carefully documented it on GitHub, so people can build their own.

Here’s how the cassette tape project went down


With that first project in the bag and getting attention on a Facebook group (Spectrum for Everyone), Stuart went forth and sourced more retro tech to revive with tiny pieces of new technology.

Twitter lit up for Stuart’s retrofit cassette tape


Enter Raspberry Pi

Then Stuart discovered our tiny computer and realised there was heaps of scope for hiding them inside older tech. Although we can’t quite officially endorse Stuart’s method of “carefully” removing a port on his Raspberry Pi – it’ll void your warranty – we will say that we like people who go about intentionally voiding their warranties. It’s a cool video.

Here's the collection so far and I'm really pleased with how they worked out
You can see all the modern devices labelled alongside the retro tech they’re encased in

He has since created loads of retrofit projects with Raspberry Pi. Let’s take a quick look at a few of them.

Raspberry Pi 3 Game Boy build

Another gem of a build video from JamHamster on YouTube

First up is a Game Boy build with a Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+. Stuart built an aluminium chassis from scrap, and this sandwiches the Raspberry Pi to hold it in place inside the Game Boy enclosure, as well as acting as a heatsink. There’s a grille in the cartridge and he also added four rear buttons. The hardest part of this build, apparently, was soldering the custom HDMI cable.

Better-than-real CRT screen

Stuart liked the look of an old-fashioned CRT (cathode-ray tube) screen for playing retro games on, but they chew through energy and aren’t that portable. So he had the idea to make a space-efficient LCD system that sits on a desktop and just looks like a retro TV.

Wait for the heroes in half-shells at the end

This project features a 3.5-inch screen of the type that’s usually found on a car dashboard to help the driver to reverse. Stuart converted it to 5V, and added a cut-down Raspberry Pi 3 and a custom-machined chassis. A custom-ground curved lens makes it look like a real CRT, and he added ports on the back for two Atari joysticks, as well as an external composite input and USB.

The Pi 'CRT' has two onboard Atari Joystick ports and plenty of connectors for other machines
This Raspberry Pi-powered “CRT” display has two onboard Atari joystick ports and plenty of connectors for other machines

The build process for this project is also documented on Github. Here are some extra pictures.

Sega Game Gear build

Stuart’s sister gave him her Game Gear to fix, but the batteries leaked and killed it so he converted it to a Raspberry Pi 3B portable gaming system. And because it was for his sister, he went all out, spending six weeks refining it.

He also ended up rewriting elements of the Arduino Joystick library for responsiveness and ease of configuration. Here’s the Github link for those interested in that part of the build.

Check out the carnage that Stuart rescued with Raspberry Pi 3B

RetroPie cassette

Stuart’s latest cassette build features a Raspberry Pi Zero running RetroPie. He wanted to make one with a transparent case, so he encased the Raspberry Pi in a heatsink sandwich to hide the wiring. He added a full-size USB port and a 3.5 mm media connector for sound and visuals. Here are some shots of the inside.

I'm really pleased with the 80s green
I love the 80s green

Try new things, expect failure, enjoy the process

There were far too many cracking retro builds for us to list here, so follow Stuart on Twitter @RealJamHamster and subscribe to JamHamster on YouTube to properly check everything out.

They need hefty heatsinks but I like working with metal and had fun with some of the designs
They need hefty heatsinks, but Stuart likes working with metal and had fun with some of the designs

Makers, tinkerers, and crafters don’t always have a practical reason for embarking on projects, and Stuart is no different. Here’s what he had to say about why projects like this make him happy:

“I will be happy to admit that I have no clue what I’m doing most of the time, and I am by no means an expert, but I believe everyone should try new things as you never know what you’ll be good at. 9 out of 10 of my ideas don’t work but that tenth one is generally pretty good. I’ve been between roles during lockdown so I am building these out of scrap metal and whatever I have lying around, which is an extra challenge. My philosophy is to try new things, expect failure, learn to enjoy the process and that it’ll be done when it’s done.”

6 comments
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I would love to have that in a pastel pink pastel yellow or pastel green. Love it

Reply to Phyllis H Warden

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Thanks! it’s funny you should say that, I was going to go with a 1950s mint green but settled on orange as it’s my favourite colour. :-)

Reply to JamHamster

Ashley Whittaker

I mean… mint green sounds laaaavely. You have time to make another one, right?

Reply to Ashley Whittaker

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It’s very tempting!
I’d go for a 1950s car dashboard pastel green with white accents. The colour is dictated by the vinyl round the shell so swapping it with another colour would be easy. Orange is my Jam tho. :-)

Reply to JamHamster

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This is some great stuff. I love it. i Especially like the “Better-than-real CRT screen” creation. All of them are great though.

Reply to John Sandlin

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Really consider making my own handheld with Recalbox right now. Having a spare raspberry pi 4…. Maybe print an case by myself?

Reply to Marco Griep

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