Converting a Retro Portable TV into a Raspberry Pi Video Game Console the Easy Way

Computers & Mobile Raspberry Pi Technology
Converting a Retro Portable TV into a Raspberry Pi Video Game Console the Easy Way
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Many people see the incredible game systems built by people like Ben Heck, with custom formed plastics and complex electrical setups, and feel like they cannot build anything as awesome as that. I hope this project shows you that you can put together something cool with minimal skills and effort.

A Home for Pi

Like so many other people out there, I have got a Raspberry Pi fully loaded with retro gaming emulators. It sits in a drawer in our TV cabinet waiting for the rare opportunity that I, or one of my sons, feels the urge to play some old games. I do not have a case for it, so I have been casually keeping an eye out for something cool looking to cram it into. I was not very interested in the Raspberry Pi specific cases. I wanted an old piece of technology that I wouldn’t mind seeing sitting on a shelf or next to the TV.

While I initially only wanted to find housing for my Raspberry Pi, I ended up shifting my plans pretty drastically when I found a Sharp 3S-111W, a small and fully portable TV. The pedestal, which houses the AC adapter, is a separate piece, and you can pop out a handle from the TV to carry it around.

I saw this and instantly knew it would make a perfect retro gaming console. The size was ideal for being able to just store on a shelf somewhere and the idea of the whole unit, display and all, being fully enclosed was appealing. This way if anyone wanted to play some Metroid, they did not need to take over the television.

The Build

If you are hoping to see some kind of complex build, this is not it. I basically just ripped the TV open, gutted it, cut a hole in the front, and crammed all the parts inside with a little hot glue to hold it in place. Unless you are going to be really abusing this thing, this will be good enough for most people.

The only necessary major modification was cutting a hole for the screen. I happened to have one of these LCD displays sitting around. If you are going to reproduce this project, I’d recommend this one though. It is roughly the same price but provides higher resolution.

I started by simply making a paper template of the screen size, then cutting a hole based off of that. You can see that I wasn’t too worried about getting the lines perfectly straight or finely sanded. This entire front piece is covered in a tinted piece of plastic, which hides the cut really well. All I had to do is spray paint the cut areas black so that they would be dark enough to be hidden.

The tinted cover hides the rough cut well

After getting the hole for the display finished, and the pieces all hot glued in place, the rest was pretty much just plug-and-play. I ran a nice extension cord into the TV, and plugged the display and Raspberry Pi in. I could have done some fancy wiring, but why would I? I had the space, and this saved me time.

The only somewhat modified bit of wiring was the speaker. I cut the RCA display adapter cable coming from the Raspberry Pi and soldered in the speaker. Why did I do it this way? I was just impatient. I did not want to run to the store and buy a powered speaker. However, I will probably replace this soon with a powered speaker and external headphone jack since it is currently pretty quiet.

Here’s a tip for when you pull the guts out of electronics and you’re left with holes where switches and ports once were. Some fabric glued onto cardboard works really well to fill those holes. It looks pretty nice too. You could just use plain cardboard or anything else flat though.

Going Forward

I want to mount the Raspberry Pi so that I can access the USB ports without opening up the TV. It will make switching game pads easier. Like I said before, a headphone jack would really help deliver a better sound when playing games. I am thinking of installing a power button as well. That way, I do not have to plug and unplug the machine every single time I want to turn it on and off.

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I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity I see in makers. My favorite thing in the world is sharing a maker's story. find me at

View more articles by Caleb Kraft


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