Peter Misenko's RetroVGA Is a Compact Raspberry Pi Pico-Powered Retro Emulation Marvel

Designed to use a bare minimum of components, this compact creation packs a keyboard, joystick input, microSD slot, and a VGA output.

Gareth Halfacree
6 months agoRetroTech / Gaming

Compact computer enthusiast Peter "bobricius" Misenko has put together an attractive design for a portable emulation station — built around the Raspberry Pi Pico and intended for use with Jean-Marc Harvengt's MCUME.

Building on his earlier work with the Raspberry Pi PICOmputer, itself building on the earlier Armachat project, Misenko's RetroVGA is designed as a host for Jean-Marc Harvengt's MCUME — the Multi Computer Machine Emulator, designed to emulate classic computers and video game consoles on a variety of microcontrollers — including the RP2040 at the heart of the Raspberry Pi Pico.

Misenko's sandwich-like dual-PCB RetroVGA requires a minimum of components to work: A Raspberry Pi Pico microcontroller board, which can be attached via surface-mount or through-hole soldering, a nine-pin joystick connector, a VGA connector, and 37 tactile switches to act as a keyboard — plus nine resistors surface-mount resistors.

An optional side switch provides the ability to power the device on and off, while a microSD slot adds storage from which software can be loaded - but not, with the present capabilities of MCUME, for saved games — and a piezoelectric buzzer some sound.

Designed primarily for retrogaming, the RetroVGA requires very few components. (📹: Peter Misenko)

Using Harvengt's MCUME, the compact computer can load software originally designed for the Sinclair ZX81/Timex 1000, ZX Spectrum, Atari 800, and Commodore 64, as well as games for the Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Colecovision, Magnavision Odyssey, and Philips Videopac. The RetroVGA is also compatible with Miroslav Nemecek's PicoVGA, giving additional flexibility.

Misenko is selling the RetroVGA via his Tindie store at $4.99 for a bare PCB with no front-panel PCB or components, rising to $88 for a fully-assembled unit with both PCBs and all components already fitted. The first person willing to write an assembly tutorial and publish it on Instructables, meanwhile, can apply for a refund on their kit.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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