If the success of the Nintendo Game Boy proved anything, it’s that handheld video game consoles need three qualities: a great selection of games, to be comfortable to hold, and to be durable. Dave Darko’s freeform Skeleton ATtiny85 Handheld doesn’t possess any of those qualities, but it does look nifty as heck.
Darko created “the most minimal handheld [he] could think of” for Hackaday’s Circuit Sculpture Contest. The contest is for devices with freeform circuits, which don’t utilize PCBs. Instead, they’re “dead bug” circuits with visible wires running between the various components. The goal is to make a functional device that is simultaneously a piece of art. It’s a style that shows off the circuit instead of tucking it away out of sight.
Normally freeform circuits are meant to be looked at, but the Skeleton ATtiny85 Handheld pushes the boundaries and is meant to be held. As far as handheld consoles go, the circuit is very simple. There is an ATtiny85 in a DIP socket, which provides the logic. That’s connected to a small OLED screen for displaying the game graphics. Six buttons are charlieplexed — a technique that makes for a simple circuit, but wonky controls. And, finally, a small coin cell battery powers the whole contraption.
The Skeleton ATtiny85 Handheld obviously isn’t great for real gaming, but that’s hardly the point. The freeform circuit looks fantastic, and illustrates what the innards of a super-basic handheld video game console could look like.