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Life's like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get.Forrest Gump
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Tuesday, March 11 2008, 12:02PM

Pokemon Mini

A few months ago (and I don't remember if this is because of Dark Fader's website or pouet.net) I came across a very cool little device made by Nintendo called the Pokemon Mini; the smallest handheld console in the world to be cartridge-based, have a black-and-white LCD display, rumble feature, shock-detection, include an infrared port for multiplayer and have the more common buttons you'd expect from a handheld (namely a D-pad and three input buttons; B, A and C).
Aside from that, the system has a 4 MHz proprietary CPU called the Nintendo Minx.

A picture of a Pokemon Mini
A picture of a Pokemon Mini

Why did I find it so exciting?  I mean, it's a Pokemon-related device to begin with..  Well, it has very severely been reverse engineered by the people over at Team Pokeme!

The reason I mentioned not being certain how I came across it is because I've been somewhat into the Nintendo DS homebrew scene (as a by-stander), from which I came to know of Dark Fader, but I've also been into the demo scene for about a year now (again, as by-stander so far :P) from which came one of the coolest scene demos, made by Team Pokeme (which won first prize in the wild compo at Breakpoint 2005), called: SHizZLE.
That prod really opened my eyes as to how cool a device such as the Pokemon Mini really is and what can be achieved on that architecture; needless to say, I wanted to play with it (i.e. program for it) myself, badly.

After reading about how to get started it became clear to me that I needed a flash cart to place a program on to be able to test on actual hardware (like the video of SHizZLE shows at the end), the only problem was, however, that flash carts stopped being made by Team Pokeme at around 2004, so I was shit out of luck (as it seemed at the time).
At around this time I decided to get onto IRC to the room where Team Pokeme housed themselves; #pmdev on EFNet.
I idled in the room for about a week to see what they were up to themselves (as I usually do when I enter a new scene) at which point I decided it was time to let my interest be known.

I talked to a guy called ph0x at the time, telling him (and the room) I wanted to get started sometime soon; invest time into PM development because I thought the device was just awesome.
After some time I asked (knowingly) if flash carts were still being made or sold, to which he replied that sadly, they were no longer being made nor sold.
I didn't want that to be the end of it, though, because I really wanted to do something with this, so I asked if the schematics for the PCB was available for me to have, so I could potentially build it myself.
Ph0x told me to contact a guy called pop or another guy called Lupin^, who happened to be idling in the room.
As I continued talking about my intentions Lupin^ rose from his idle state and asked me if I had any experience in soldering anything.
I told him I didn't but I was willing to learn it, at which point (after some discussion) he gave me all the information I could hope for; complete schematics of both the Flash Cart and the Linker PCB (as it needed a way to program the actual cart)!

Immediately after that I started gathering resources which could help me put the flash cart into realization.
Shortly after that, I was told by Lupin^ that he had a fully functioning linker and a flash cart which only needed to be soldered ready for me to buy from him!
This, of course, was perfect as it enabled me to get started a lot quicker, so I paid him 30 Euros for them (they used to go for 30 Euros each!) and the only thing left for me to do then was wait, buy the necessary parts and eventually solder the parts to the flash cart so I could get started.

During the time spent waiting I asked a teacher (who is a Computer Engineering teacher himself, which is why I approached him) if he would be able to help me with the soldering, as I've never soldered anything before (also expressing my love for embedded devices such as the Nintendo DS).
The teacher said he'd love to help me, picking up on my interest for his department, and referred me to another teacher that would be better suited to help on the actual soldering.

At this time I was told by Lupin^ that he would be able to solder it for me himself (perhaps out of empathy)!
I felt kind of bad for the teacher who was willing to help me (and for myself as I didn't get the chance to learn to do it myself now) but I accepted his offer because, as I mentioned before, it enabled me to start getting into this more quickly (remembering that I could always just make another flash cart based on the board schematics).

Before everything arrived I started getting ready myself by setting up a development environment (i.e. getting the assemblers, emulators and documentation needed ready to dive into it when the time came) and when it finally did arrived I was able to jump right into it.

So far I've toyed with some of the features of the Pokemon Mini (using Lupin's Pokemon Mini tutorial and the Pokemon Mini Hardware Reference) and already came across some oddities (such as the rumble feature not working unless the LCD is initialized).
Nevertheless, it's a very fun and awesome platform to work on, especially since everything is in Assembly. :D

To see my creations (thus far), visit: /files/PM

Many thanks to the PM dev scene and especially Lupin^ for all his help so far! :)


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