Buried away in a stuffy drawer in a china closet at my parents' house is my old Game Boy Pocket. It's red, and occasionally rummaging across it always fills me with nostalgia. But the little guy tends to stay in that drawer because I don't have any use for it nowadays, with its unlit screen and the market for used Nintendo games being what it is. Fortunately, James of the Instagram account Inkdretro has given me the best idea with this Game Boy Color speedometer on a phone mount.
The Drive staff stumbled upon James' work in Facebook's Retro Future Community, a place where fans of old-school gaming and electronics gather to share their collections, which often happen to be modded as enthusiasts seek to breathe new life into obsolete tech. James' repurposed Game Boy Color certainly generated some discussion and has likely inspired at least several like-minded gamers to attempt similar projects. As for how it works, one commenter speculated that the lime green Game Boy shell could house a Raspberry Pi-type board connected directly to James' Ford EcoSport's ECU. In reality, the trick is much simpler than that.
"It's a GPS module housed inside the Game Boy, purely so it's completely wireless and can be used with any car, bike, etcetera," James told me over an Instagram DM. "It's powered by an internal [lithium polymer battery], but making an OBD version would be easy enough."
Because the handheld essentially houses a GPS, all it can really do is convey GPS speed, as well as the current time when stationary. However, James added that an OBD version "could tell you almost anything about the car while you drive," and he may very well give one a shot, considering the attention this first attempt's gotten.
James chalked up the inspiration to "about a 50/50 mix of boredom and 'what if?' I'd planned for it to be a longer project, but [it] was a lot more simple than I thought.
"I enjoy sleeper tech, modern guts inside retro bodies. I have a Google Home wired into an '80s boombox, everything just looked cooler in the '80 and '90s," he added. No disagreement here.
Before whipping up the Nintendo speedometer, James stuffed the guts of his Ford SUV's keyfob into an NES controller. At the moment, that's all he's done in the vein of repurposing old gaming hardware for automotive purposes, but it likely won't be the end.
"I honestly didn't expect those to get as much attention as they did," James said. "Both seemed silly to me but I wanted to see if I could make them. Not sure about [what's] next, either an OBD version of the Game Boy, or possibly a sat nav, once my DMs recover from this one."
Got tips? Send 'em to firstname.lastname@example.org