Original Post


As you know, we don’t have a link cable, or a suitable connector available for the VB. There’s several ways to make a cable that works, but in the end, it’s mostly ugly hacks for development/prototyping. I’ve been trying to come up with a way to make a quality cable that would just plug in… but so far have been unsuccessful.

So… it got me thinking… how about just making a proper cable? I contacted a custom part manufacturer (who I’ve used parts from in the past), and they said they could do it, but of course wouldn’t be “cheap”. I sort of based my design thoughts on the SNES A/V connector, which includes a plastic shell with crimp pins. So, I found some crimp pins which should work, but I didn’t have any way to make a 3D model of the plastic shell.

Well, of course I asked Hedgetrimmer (our resident 3D modeling expert), and he created a GREAT model of a plastic shell to house the pins. With that, I was able to verify with the MFG that it could be made, as well as get an estimate for price.

So, now here’s the question. They were right… it’s not cheap. A complete link cable would cost about $40, since the quantity would be so low. At this price, how many would be interested (and how many)? Would anyone want just the connector/pins?

There’d probably only be about 50 cables made, and this would probably be the only run, since I’m assuming the demand would be low. I don’t mind investing the money (and probably losing quite a bit on this project), since I think it’s a very worthwhile project… but, if I’m the only one that has any interest in it, there’s no point in even considering it further.

But, IMO this seems like a good time to pursue this, since homebrew is continually advancing, and I think linked homebrew has been held down by lack of link cable. Also, I assume some will be buying the new Flashboy, even though they already have an old Flashboy… so with two flash carts, why not have a cable to link the systems?

Of course, if there’s an unanticipated large interest in this, the price would come down… but we’re a pretty small community, and the homebrew crowd is really the only market for this.


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WaterWorld would be no sense multiplayer unless you had multiple boats destroying the smokers with co-op.

I guess I pictured it more as some players being the Smokers and others being the normal players- this would probably be a different game mode like 4 on 4.

Online play will be the ultimate goal for Virtual Boy. 🙂

Seriously, I can’t wait for something like that. It would be fun to bring my VB and laptop to a Starbucks to do online play from there. Maybe I’m just desperate for attention 🙂

count me in 😉

Isn’t it making things more expensive using the contacts of a female usb connector? If I’m not mistaking there are only 4 pins in 1 female USB connector. Which would mean that you need to distroy 2 USB plugs for 1 VB-link plug.

Or did you somehow find a resource for raw pins?

It may be cheaper to get finished connectors to steal the pins from than trying to get loose ones from a manufacturer.

For example a good price somewhere on a bunch of these:

From what I can read they aren’t 100% happy with the shell yet, it’s not just supposed to fit but hold up for multiple uses as well.

Dreammary wrote:
Online play will be the ultimate goal for Virtual Boy. 🙂

Hrm. VB connector on one end, USB on the other…

I’ll look into it. If we can reliably make VB-style connectors, this should absolutely be feasible.

Maybe with an FTDI chip in between and a server program on the PC like Kaillera and whatever they are called…

Being able to play a real VB over the net with other VB owners would be quite fantastic.

This is still on… I was really hoping to have something together by the end of last year (VB’s 20th), but it just didn’t happen. :/

Yes, regarding the pins… I purchased a large lot of complete USB connectors and just pull the pins from that. It comes out no more expensive than any standard pin (Molex, etc.) from Digikey.

Regarding the USB link… an FTDI circuit (FT2232C) is what I originally created many years ago, and then created a really crammed version (with the updated FT2232D) to actually fit in the VB link shell (I think I posted a pic of it earlier in the thread). I wasn’t particularly happy with how it turned out (difficult to manufacture, expensive, not enough room for an EEPROM, etc.), so I completely redesigned the USB link circuit to be simpler (and IMO, better). But getting the USB link just right is really the main reason for the whole delay. 🙁

I’d say the link connector shell itself is nearly perfect… I think one final revision will get it.


I am at a point in my life where I finally have a space for a retro game room. Part of this room is my virtual boy console from when I was a kid. Anyways I am getting ready to purchase my second VB and reading these posts about your commitment to the homebrew for VB is commendable. You sir deserve a well earned pat on the back. 😀

As soon as these cables are available I will be buying each and possibly sending one of my VB to my brother on the West coast to do some sweet online VB multiplayer gaming.

Respect Sir,

I seriously won’t be able to believe my eyes if I saw it possible to play VB with someone over the internet. I mean, has any classic game console gotten a homebrew online solution before? Seriously, kudos guys for even trying.

there are projects which have restored online functionality to consoles that supported something at one time or another. i also recall the hdmi nes project board that was going to have a high score leader board function. other than that, i can’t recall a retro console that was given online functionality as a brand new feature.

DogP wrote:
But getting the USB link just right is really the main reason for the whole delay.

Would it be easier/cheaper to make a RS-232 version (if the VB can even do one of the standard speeds) and have everyone buy their own adapter if needed? They’re quite cheap.

HorvatM wrote:
Would it be easier/cheaper to make a RS-232 version (if the VB can even do one of the standard speeds) and have everyone buy their own adapter if needed? They’re quite cheap.

The VB isn’t compatible with asynchronous serial like RS232… it requires a clocked serial port, similar to SPI. What I’m using now isn’t expensive… just requires some code that I just haven’t had time to tweak to get it just right.


@DogP: Have you seen this one?

Microchip MCP2221 USB-to-UART/I2C Bridge

It’s about $3 in single quantity on Ebay, and under $2 each for 100 from the usual places. It even comes in tiny TSSOP14 and ultra-tiny BGA16 (4x4x0.9mm) packages.

There’s some open-source software for it, too.

I don’t think that chip will work… it does I2C and UART, but not SPI (AFAICT).

I’ve already got the basic mode of transfer working… I’m working out the specific details for data direction, flow control, etc. I really want to do everything out of band, but sharing a single open collector pin makes things a bit more difficult, so I’m trying a few different ways to see what’s the least complex, most robust, etc.


DogP wrote:
I don’t think that chip will work… it does I2C and UART, but not SPI (AFAICT).

That’s true, but its four GPIO pins sound very capable, and I was thinking they could be used for the actual link port communication (which I probably should have mentioned in the first post…)

I mainly suggested it because of the prices and package sizes. I don’t know if it would be cheaper or smaller than FTDI or AVR options, though. But if you already have a sufficiently cheap/small solution, and the software is almost ready, there’s no reason to switch.

Ah… yeah. It’s plenty small and simple already.

Here’s a pic of it as it sits on my bench (I was working on it last week… got sidetracked this week). I still need to get the bootloader going too, so anyone can upgrade to newer and better firmware in the future… but that should be very straightforward.


I’m so grateful we have such expertise in this community, despite its size. I’d like to think we’re all enthusiasts here, and not just in passing. (-:


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