Mon, 09 May 2011
So, no update on this for a while; real life has been keeping me busy. Nonetheless, I have found some time recently to get another tranche of work done on the cart design, to the point of having a couple of working prototypes now in testing.
What is it? I’m building a new Gameboy cartridge. Not GBA, not DS, original Gameboy. Why? Because a lot of people still use them, in particular for creating music with software like Johan Kotlinski’s LSDj. And to do this, you need a flashable cartridge.
Why? Currently available carts need custom drivers to talk to a computer, and for many types, a cart reader device. This limits their compatibility, and the drivers tend to be poorly maintained after release, too.
Another issue is that all current carts use battery-backed RAM to save user data to – read: music that artists have spent many hours on. These batteries can last ten years in a well-designed system – from the date of manufacture, putting a lifespan on the cartridge and leading to scary reliability issues as they age.
24MBit (3MByte) flash ROM
1MBit (128KByte) Ferroelectric RAM
Instead of battery-backed SRAM, the cart uses F-RAM, which maintains its contents in the absence of power, and has a data retention span on the order of a hundred years.
USB mass storage emulation
The cart appears similar to a thumb drive, allowing ROM and RAM contents to be copied via drag and drop. No drivers are required, and supports all USB-capable platforms.