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home brew hardware

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I could've sworn I asked this here before, with no replies, but I can't find it in this forum, so I suppose I will ask it again. I've been toying around with idea making some peripherals for my computer and was wondering how I would go about doing it. I don't have anything specific in mind right now, but if I had an idea hit me, I'd at least like to know where to start [smile]. I'm sure it's probably a pretty involved process, but any pointers or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks. -AJ

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There are a few ways to go.

These days, there are some enthusiast USB I/O attachments that give you some digital and analog I/Os, sometimes a timer and counter on the device. Then you write software to some simple API they provide to twiddle those bits. Expect to pay <$200 to start.

Before that, there were some libraries for the parallel port, and various devices that would plug into parallel or serial ports. Expect to pay <$200 to start.

Another option is to get a PCI I/O card, which will be similar to the USB mentioned above, but a little more cumbersome, and perhaps slightly more expensive. Expect to pay ~$200 to start.

Last, there are various microcontrollers with USB built-in, where the manufacturers have kits with a microcontroller EEPROM programmer, sample code, sample controllers, and often even an I/O board for the controller in question. Expect to pay ~$500.

If you had a better idea of what you want to do, better suggestions could be made :-)

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With the whole Guitar Hero thing going on (I think it is still at least a fairly popular game), I was thinking of doing something similar, but with other instruments. Then I guess I could toy around with building my own versions of stanard input devices (mice, keyboards, etc.) just for the fun and experience. I'm sure if I actually sat down and did a real brainstorm, I could up with other, more unique ideas, but your statement:

Quote:

If you had a better idea of what you want to do, better suggestions could be made :-)


got the wheels turning a little. Once I know where to start, though, I'm sure it will be fairly easy to find the resources to do other projects. Thanks for the info to get me started.

-AJ

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How much electronics experience do you have? A guitar hero type controller could be made pretty easily using a cheap microcontroller which has either USB support or coupled with the FT245R which is a chip that gives gives you an easily programmable FIFO interface over USB (so you have two FIFO buffers, one for input, one for output and you can read and write the buffers over USB). They supply a royalty free driver so you don't need to mess around with writing drivers. Though if you want your homebrew controller to work as a game controller (rather than just working with your game) you'd need to write a driver. Of course electronics are only part of what needs to be done, you'd need to produce a casing and buttons.

Quote:
Last, there are various microcontrollers with USB built-in, where the manufacturers have kits with a microcontroller EEPROM programmer, sample code, sample controllers, and often even an I/O board for the controller in question. Expect to pay ~$500.


While a full set of professional dev tools, programmer, debugger, printed manuals etc can easily cost $500 or over, you can use something like a PIC with a simple homebrew programmer and freely available tools. There are also cheap unofficial programmers/debuggers which will do the job nicely. So you can do things with microcontrollers and spend well under $500.

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