NES Controller Cellphone Mod
Relive the glory days with this NES Controller that has been modified into a cellphone. Everything is original - the buttons and casing. This modification uses a Nokia 3200 radio and electronics because it's so easy to get the casing off and get to the good stuff. This is probably the only phone I'd ever wear on one of those nerdy hip-holsters.
Read on for instructions on making your own NES Controller phone.
Last night I was contemplating other strange form-factors to use as cellphone handsets. We've already tackled wired retro handsets as well as bluetooth handsets, so I wanted to do something a bit different. It struck me that a Nintendo controller would make the ultimate handset.
As the night went on and the idea evolved, I thought to myself; "Self, why not make the controller into the actual phone?" Self thought this was a great idea and we set to work. My first idea was to use an actual GSM radio and build the other electronics and antenna. I ditched the idea when I remembered my old Nokia 3200 which I had sitting around.
The Nokia 3200 was advertised as the "American Idol" phone or some such nonsense. Because it has interchangeable face plates, the case was removable. In addition, each button actually has two digits on it, so there are half as many buttons as normal. These two facts make this the perfect phone for modifying - easy to get to electronics, and less buttons = less cutting.
I first grabbed the current faceplate out of my phone and used it as a stencil to guide my cuts. I would need to cut out the screen and each of the buttons (9 total). I put a lot of thought into where to put the phone - the orientation, and everything. The screen is opposite of the A and B buttons on the controller because that is the side that says "Nintendo" on it. I wanted that to be the visible part when I was making a call.
Also left out is a hole for the power button and a way to charge the phone. These would also be simple modifications but I will leave them for version 2.0.
So after tracing my buttons it was time to open up the controller. Everything was removed. All the mounts and female screw ports and everything were twisted off with a pair of pliers. For a few of them I had to use a dremel to get it completely flat. The idea here is that you want as much space inside the controller as possible to accept our fat phone without noticeable bulge.
Once this was accomplished I set to work with the dremel on the cuts for the buttons and screens. I drilled holes in each of the areas to be removed and worked with a sanding dremel tip to sand all the way to the edge of where I had marked. If you try this, remember the friction will produce molten plastic. Wear safety goggles if you value your eyes, and make small cuts to avoid burning the plastic and turning it black.
There was a little trial and error in getting the buttons exactly right, but after a second round of dremeling everything fits pretty good. The one complaint I had is that the top right button hits one of the controller's original screw holes, making it look like I did a worse job than I did. Also, the controller I used was actually cracked in the back which didn't help the overall looks, either.
Now for the moment of truth. I fitted the phone into the controller. The side tabs were left in the controller and actually help the phone fit tightly into place. Also, a but of plastic around the directional pad was left to form a little housing for the phone so it can't slide down in the controller.
Blast! My estimations on the thickness of the phone were a bit off. Turns out the phone is too thick for this project by maybe 0.5cm. No matter though, this is version 1.0 and will still get the desired reaction if we close the gap with a little electrical tape.
The buttons were a special challenge. Each button has to be dremeled down so it fits flush inside the controller case. This involves cutting the red buttons off at the tab, and cutting the entire back off the directional buttons (the biggest pain of the whole project). I used a dremel here as well.
The select and start buttons were easy, and I simply cut them into the shape I needed with a pair of scissors. The buttons can the be glued or taped into place. Just make sure they do not intrude into the inside space of the controller.
The last step is drilling a hole for the microphone and speaker. This is important how it is done. Both are designed to have sort of a funnel over them to direct the sound. I did it perfectly on the microphone but the earpiece needs some work - a lot of noise escapes and the caller sounds far away.
Again, the faceplate can be used to mark the hole for the speaker, but you'll have to eyeball the hole for the microphone. Once you get this done you can assemble the whole phone and you're ready to go. Don't forget to put your sim card in the new phone or you'll end up having to tape up the phone twice.
Here is a video of the final product.