The BitByte Is a Teensy 4.1-Powered Handheld Console with a Beginner-Friendly "Micro VM" Environment

Designed primarily for game development, though with easily-accessible GPIO capabilities, the BitByte starts crowdfunding soon.

Gareth Halfacree
2 months ago โ€ข Games / HW101

Programmer Dawson Anatole Pate is heading to crowdfunding for a do-it-yourself Teensy 4.1-powered handheld console, the BitByte, which offers beginner-friendly games developing using a custom scripting language dubbed Micro VM.

"BitByte is a gaming console designed to make it easier to learn how to program and a platform made for creating and sharing games and programs for breadboards," Pate explains of his creation. "Utilizing a custom scripting language that loads your programs and games off an external SD Card, BitByte doesn't require an IDE [Integrated Development Environment], special drivers, or code compilation and re-flash to make and update changes. Just pop open a text editor of your choice and have fun!"

The BitByte aims to deliver a flexible friend for game development and more, using a custom "Micro VM" scripting language. (๐Ÿ“น: Dawson Anatole Pate)

The heart of the BitByte is a Teensy 4.1 microcontroller board, built around an NXP i.MXRT1062 system-on-chip. There's also a secondary Espressif ESP32-S3 microcontroller that handles the networking stack, offering wireless device-to-device multiplayer using Espressif's ESP-NOW protocol. The front of the board is dominated by a 2.8" 320ร—240 color LCD display, an analog thumbstick, four fire buttons, home, start, and select buttons, two shoulder buttons, and two piezoelectric buzzers to deliver game audio.

Games for the console are written in Micro VM, a scripting language that runs in a virtual machine and which offers a selection of features to make game development easier including tile mapping, a ray-casting engine, and texture mapping support. When connected to a host machine over USB, the SD Card storage is mounted automatically โ€” making it easy to modify the script files in any text editor.

The console is also programmable in the Arduino IDE, while hardware expansion is possible through 18 general-purpose input/output (GPIO) pins, which offer SPI, I2C, and UART buses as well as three analog-to-digital converter (ADC) pins and three pulse-width modulation (PWM) pins.

"A year ago I started this journey just wanting to learn how MCUs [Microcontroller Units] work and a dream of making a console I want to program on and call my own," Pate recalls. "For the past year BitByte has been a side hobby of mine while I learned the world of embedded design during whatever free time I could muster. With your help I can finish the console according to what I envision and share it with the rest of the world."

To reach that goal, Pate is preparing to launch a crowdfunding campaign, which will see the BitByte priced at $80 for early bird backers rising to $130 after the initial stocks are depleted. Interested parties can sign up to be notified when the campaign goes live on Kickstarter.

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