Nintendo DS-TV-Out Restoration Project


222 points | by max-m 6 days ago


  • jwitthuhn 6 days ago
    Reminds me of an interesting feature(?) of the old DS Phat. If you held it close enough, analog tv antennas could pick up the video signal going to the top screen.

    • qbasic_forever 6 days ago
      I'd bet this was a feature to support their in-store kiosks where people could play a DS and see the output on a TV. It'd be a lot cheaper and easier to pull some DS machines off the production line and reflash the firmware than to engineer entirely new units just for the kiosks.
      • jsheard 6 days ago
        I don't remember there being DS kiosks with TVs attached, but DS devkits did support external displays so maybe it's a remnant from those

        • qbasic_forever 6 days ago
          They were definitely out there, I remember playing some DS kiosks at Target. This circuitry is specifically for the later DS lite models that came out in the later days of the DS line:
          • Wowfunhappy 6 days ago
            The article says that the devkits used different circutry.
            • Lammy 6 days ago
              There was also a third-party USB video capture mod for original "phat" DS models (and amusingly not the DS Lite):

              The fun thing about the developer units is that the handheld part can be switched out. The photo above shows one with a phat DS controller, compare to one with a DS Lite attached:

              • Tijdreiziger 6 days ago
                The circuitry inside the 'handheld part' of the devkits is totally different from a retail unit, as indeed it doesn't contain any processing. So if you had, say, a 'phat' devkit, I don't think you'd be able to fit a Lite as the controller (unless you also had a Lite devkit and swapped the two controllers, I suppose).
                • Lammy 6 days ago
                  Yeah, the latter. The PSP kit is the same way.
              • jsheard 6 days ago
                That'll teach me for rushing to post a cool photo before reading the article :)
                • djmips 6 days ago
                  I enjoyed your photo despite this. ;-)
          • bogwog 6 days ago
            And to think Nintendo wants these to end up in a landfill.

            Imagine if jailbreaking video game consoles (that is, modifying hardware that you own however you want), were actually legal. Old consoles like these could continue to provide value to owners via competing app stores, free and open source apps/games, cool hardware features like the OP, etc. All of that could happen without infringing on Nintendo's rights, or requiring them to do anything in any way.

            But the DMCA doesn't allow it.

            • Wowfunhappy 6 days ago
              To that extent that Nintendo has any influence in this area, I'd say they're quite supportive of people using their old hardware. Many Nintendo games display discontinued devices prominently (WarioWare, Animal Crossing), and there are stories on Twitter of Nintendo phone reps helping troubleshoot NES and SNES hardware issues.

              Nintendo won't support people pirating their games, but as much as I think copyright lasts too long, this isn't exactly a surprising position from a game manufacturer.

              • bogwog 6 days ago
                > To that extent that Nintendo has any influence in this area, I'd say they're quite supportive of people using their old hardware.

                Nintendo is a member of the Entertainment Software Association (, which AFAIK is the main entity lobbying to keep console jailbreaking illegal.

                Not to mention the fact that Nintendo shuts down online services and digital stores for old consoles, which means that you can't even download games you've purchased anymore.

                Also, the issue isn't about whether Nintendo wants people to play old games on old hardware, it's that Nintendo doesn't want you to play new software on old hardware, and that they're actually able to enforce this through the DMCA's arbitrary special restrictions for video game consoles (by comparison, jailbreaking phones is perfectly legal under the DMCA)

                That both suppresses competition, directly hurts consumers, and is just wasteful.

                • Wowfunhappy 6 days ago
                  But I don't think a logical extension from that is "Nintendo wants these to end up in a landfill."
                  • bogwog 5 days ago
                    Why not?

                    * If these consoles have no more utility, people will throw them away, and they will end up in a landfill. When this happens, they will want to buy a new console to play new games, and Nintendo will sell it to them.

                    * With more consoles in the trash, there will be less circulating in the world, creating a shortage and inflating the value of old IP. They can profit off of this by re-releasing or re-mastering those old games on new consoles (until those too are deprecated and the cycle repeats)

                    * Nintendo is taking actions to deteriorate the utility of peoples' old consoles. They do this by halting development of new games for it, shutting down online services, and shutting down digital sales of games.

                    * Nintendo is funding a lobbyist group that is fighting to prevent consumers from modifying their hardware to extend its useful life

                    * If people are allowed to jailbreak their console, a "homebrew" software community may take off, which could lead to customers willing to pay money for software by third party publishers; aka, competition for Nintendo within their own walled garden.

                    Based on those observations, it's obvious what Nintendo's position on the issue is. The path of least resistance and most profit is to encourage (or force) customers to throw their old consoles away and buy new ones.

                    Maybe they don't care if it specifically goes to a landfill, but they certainly want it in the trash.

                    • Wowfunhappy 5 days ago
                      Because the type of person who tracks down an SNES and an original copy of Super Mario World on eBay is more likely to also buy a Nintendo Switch and Super Mario Odyssey. It's not an either-or. Nintendo's brand benefits from the level of affection people hold for old consoles, and so it's in their interest to have a lively second-hand market.

                      I don't think Nintendo cares enough to keep digital services running indefinitely, which is a shame. They did keep the Wii Shop Channel up until 2019, which is a considerable lifespan for a 2006 console. I've also never seen Nintendo take steps to curb mods for out-of-production hardware. Their hostility is reserved for emulators (because almost no one actually uses those to play roms they ripped themselves), and for mods of products they're actively producing.

                      To be clear, I'm opposed to closed hardware, and the ESA's stance. But I do read Nintendo's actions as broadly "supportive" of their old products, for understandable reasons. The caveat is that Nintendo wants you to use those products as designed—to play original, Nintendo-licensed cartridges on original Nintendo hardware.

                      And I'd hazard a guess that a significantly smaller percentage of old working Nintendo consoles end up in landfills than old working iPhones.

              • LeoPanthera 6 days ago
                > Imagine if jailbreaking video game consoles were actually legal

                Is it not?

                • MarioMan 6 days ago
                  It’s an old article, but it’s laid out nicely here:

                  Essentially, bypassing DRM is a violation of the DCMA unless it has received an exemption from the government. Exemptions must be reevaluated every three years else they expire.

                  • denkmoon 6 days ago
                    Obviously depends where you are.

                    DMCA legislates against circumvention of copyright protection mechanisms.

                    • surround 6 days ago
                      So if I make a modification to add “competing app stores, free and open source apps/games, cool hardware features,” how does this violate DMCA?
                      • SilverRed 6 days ago
                        If you have to break DRM features to add your app store then you are in violation of the DMCA technically. But there is no reason you should care if you are outside of the US
                        • DanBC 6 days ago
                          Circumvention of technical measures is part of law in many countries. See this example from the UK:


                          > Technological Protection Measures (TPMs) (also known as copy protection measures or DRM) are often used to protect copyright works, for example, through encryption on DVDs. TPMs can have a important role in enabling copyright owners (rightsholders) to offer content to consumers in different ways, as well as protecting against unlawful copying (piracy). UK law protects the right of copyright owners to use TPMs to protect their works, and circumvention of such technology is illegal.

                  • bumbada 6 days ago
                    As someone who jailbroke his DS in order to program and run homebrew on it, it was far from ideal.

                    You needed so many tricks in order to run those fast enough, like removing floating point code and replacing it with integer replacement for the different CPUs it had.

                    All the API had to be reverse engineered.

                    Programming mobile phones,or raspberrys is much better and you have much more freedom.

                    • bogwog 6 days ago
                      Just because it's harder to develop on than modern devices doesn't mean that there aren't people who know how to do it/want to do it. If I knew that I could sell my indie game on the Nintendo DS, which sold 154 million units and a huge number of them are likely still circulating around, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

                      But more importantly, the only thing that matters is the end-user experience. The people playing games aren't going to care if the developer had to wrestle with some funky toolchain and weird hardware quirks. They just want new games for their old, but still fully functional console.

                      • djmips 6 days ago
                        Pis you have a point but phones are far from having 'freedom'
                  • SilverRed 6 days ago
                    It always blows me away when people work out this stuff so long after the product comes out. This hardware sold hundreds of millions of units and yet no one noticed it had a video output inside it? Just goes to show how complex this stuff is I guess.
                    • accrual 6 days ago
                      I'm sure the internals were photographed and dissected a long time ago but maybe someone is just now getting into the guts of the SoC. It's fun to imagine all the interesting things we might have laying around that are hidden by a $DEBUG=0 flag...
                  • cbanek 6 days ago
                    I wish I could have decent output of a 3DS! I was looking into it and apparently it is really hard and one of the small setups modding them in Japan recently closed down!
                    • bpiche 5 days ago
                      Kind of serendipitous but I have been getting really into DSi, N3DS, and PSP hacking recently and just watched this video last night. Take a look. I think it will blow your mind. I didn't make this video, of course.

                      "N3DSXL Hardware Mods Part II, Including Wireless Streaming"

                      • cbanek 5 days ago
                        Wow that's really cool - thanks for sharing. This almost makes me want to get a new 3ds! I just have an old one. But I can't think of any other reason to upgrade. These days I'm living on the switch :)
                      • SilverRed 6 days ago
                        I think most people just use an emulator when they want to record/stream 3ds games.
                      • post_break 6 days ago
                        I just wish I picked up a DS. The prices for them now is ridiculous.
                        • codetrotter 6 days ago
                          I bought a couple of Nintendo DS Lite consoles at the beginning of the corona virus but found these to be too small to be enjoyable so I bought a Nintendo New 3DS XL instead. The New 3DS XL was pretty decent. I played quite a few games and finally sold the New 3DS XL as well as the DS Lite consoles that I had bought.

                          Something worth keeping in mind is that if like me you don’t intend to keep them but only want to play with them for a few months, then I suggest you do like I did, stay on the lookout for a while to get a feel for how much people are asking and how much people are paying, when you then later find one at a decent price you will know that the price is decent. You buy it you play with it for a while and then you sell it for somewhere around what you paid for it. Try asking for a higher price first. But even if you sell it at a small loss, you (hopefully) got entertainment value out of it and it was worth it.

                          I was extra lucky with mine because after I bought the New 3DS XL, someone listed quite a few DS games and a couple of 3DS games that they were giving away for free in a neighboring city to mine. So I went and picked up 12 or 14 games or thereabouts, that was given to me for free. Maybe 2/3 of the games were low quality games that I only played a little, but there were some gems too. And when I sold the DS consoles I bundled the games with them, distributing the games I liked and the ones I did not like so much evenly. And still not asking much more for most of the consoles, just a little extra. And this way it also became a good deal for the buyers that bought them from me.

                          I probably would have held onto the New 3DS XL if I could afford to, but realistically even if I hadn’t needed the money I feel that I was done with it, and was not planing on devoting more time playing it in the near future. Better then to sell it to someone else. I get the money and they get to enjoy it.

                          • chungy 6 days ago
                            The 3DS line has a bit of an unfortunate side-effect that, by default, it stretches the display of original-DS games with some pretty unsightly artifacts from a non-integer scale. The workaround is to hold Start+Select on launching the games, displaying them at the original 1:1 pixels, but then there's a large black border and the size of the game's display is also unsatisfying small.

                            For sure, if you can only pick up one console, a 3DS XL or 2DS XL is a good option. If you can pick up two consoles, I believe the DSi XL is an excellent complement. Large screens with the same native resolution as the original DS. By playing games on the DSi XL, you get a comfortable and large display of original-DS games and no artifacts from a non-integer scale.

                            • SilverRed 6 days ago
                              The dsi XL is the ideal system for playing ds games on. The lite is far too small and the 3ds like you said, leaves games blurry.

                              I'd also suggest picking up one of those flashcarts on ebay for a few dollars so you can load roms on to it. Or installing twilight menu so you can do it off the sd card slot.

                          • s5300 6 days ago

                            They seem to be quite cheap on eBay unless I'm missing something

                          • bpiche 5 days ago
                            I have bought about 8 DSi/DSi XL, a Phat DS, an SP, and a GBA over the last few months and never paid more than 80 for any of them. The average price for a used Phat DS or DSi on eBay is $50 bucks in my experience. It's extremely easy to hack the DSi as well.
                            • 5600 6 days ago
                              > The prices for them now is ridiculous.

                              Ridiculous like the back of Yvonne’s head[1] or the laughably bad kind?

                              I think as much as Nintendo can recover off of that property they should. The Atari 2600 sold as much as it did not because it was the best tech, but because it made the market through advertising. If you have supply, and you make the demand and/or there is demand, and you’re not concerned with staying on top, you can milk that cow.


                              • t0astbread 6 days ago
                                The last descendant of the DS line went out of production some time last year so I guess Nintendo's not making money off of them anymore now.
                            • Pet_Ant 6 days ago
                              Now if you could drive the lower screen with an iPad then you have a real winner and great accessibility for the disabled.
                              • fmj 5 days ago
                                At that point I think it'd be easier to emulate a DS on the iPad and stream the top screen to an external display.
                              • marinhero 6 days ago
                                Could this be one of the first iterations of the Switch?
                                • fredoralive 6 days ago
                                  Nintendo have offered handheld-on-TV options before with the Super Game Boy for SNES and Game Boy Player for Gamecube, so them considering a TV output for a DS wouldn't be entirely out of the question, although the dual screen / touchscreen nature of the DS would make it rather awkward.

                                  Although as others have noted, adding it to the chipset might have been intended to make store demo units or developer / reviewer test units simpler to make, and not something for general public use.