How NOT to light your Game Boy Color

Discussion in 'Other Consoles & Oldies' started by Sinkhead, May 23, 2009.

  1. Sinkhead

    Sinkhead yay p1ngpong.

    Former Staff
    Nov 22, 2006
    Across the pond

    A few of you might have seen my recent topic asking people for advice on how to light the screen of a Game Boy Color. There's a lack of information on this subject, as noted by a few other people in the thread, so I decided that I might as well just go ahead and try it.

    The results were catastrophic not quite up-to-par, but that's my fault. The method was correct, which is why I'm posting it here, in the hope that it will be useful to someone else [​IMG]

    This method uses the frontlight from a Game Boy Advance SP, and works well if you do it right.

    Let's get started!
    What you'll need:
    • A Game Boy Color
    • A Game Boy Advance SP (the only bit that's needed is the lighting module, so the screen can be broken. It's important to note, however, that this needs to be one of the old-style ones with only one brightness setting, because the newer ones used a backlight, and that's much more complicated when working with a Game Boy Color). You could also buy just the screen module (but make sure it includes the light and that it's the older version). A quick Google search suggests this.
    • Soldering equipment and thin-ish wire. A thinner tip is better for most parts of this exercise. You'll want some heat-shrink tubing or insulation tape too.
    • A small switch and an 80? (ohm) resistor.
    • A Dremel with a sanding and a cutting bit, or some glasspaper/sandpaper and a small saw.
    • A tri-wing (also known as three-star or Y-shaped) screwdriver for disassembling the consoles
    • Other basic tools like pliers, wire strippers etc. might be mentioned, but you can probably do without them.
    Step 1
    The first thing you'll need to do is disassemble the GBA SP. There are plenty of guides and videos for that all over the place, just search Google, so I won't go into detail. The bit I will mention is sometimes missed, however, and it makes removing the ribbon cable much easier. Make sure you remove the screw under the motherboard to pop off the second hinge covering.


    A Warning
    Both of the little yellow tabs on the light distributor (you've not seen it yet, but you will do as you carry on with the disassembly) are VERY important. The first is where you connect the power, and that's big enough to notice, so that's not a problem, but the smaller one you can see here is absolutely tiny. It's the most important bit of the light assembly, as it's what makes it glow, so take care!


    Step 2
    Once you've unattached the screen, warm up your soldering iron and melt the two blobs of solder which will let the two ribbons separate. Watch out for flying blobs of molten solder when they spring apart, and make sure to use a proper soldering station unlike me.


    Step 3
    Using a screwdriver, or something thin and plastic so you don't leave scratches, prise the black border off the silver/grey screen assembly. Sorry the picture's a bit blurry; I added a little diagram I made in Paint to in the hope of making it clearer.


    Step 4
    Next, prise off the black border. It's just glued to the front screen (the one with 'Game Boy Advance' on) and it comes off easily with a ruler or something. Be very careful from this point onwards though, because you're working directly with the light distributor panel. This is the panel that spreads the light evenly across the screen, and is very important. If you're not paying attention, you'll scratch it, like I did... After the black border, keep removing all the other bits including the black adhesive strip (or maybe not, you could use this to mount it later, but I think it would be too thick) until you're left with the distributor panel and the silver strip on the bottom.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Step 5
    Now you'll need to disassemble the Game Boy Color. Again, this is easy, just make sure to take the batteries and game out first. I spent about a minute searching for more screws, when I still needed to remove the game.

    After you've opened it, you'll need to make room for the light distributor assembly. I'd protect the screen with something so it doesn't get scratched on the inside while you work. Remove the ridges using a Dremel or a sharp knife or something (I tried a knife, but either my craft knife was too blunt or the plastic was too tough).

    You'll probably have to trim the light distributor down to size. Use a tile cutter, or dremel or something. Not scissors (SLAP SINKHEAD).


    Step 6
    After making room, try the screen and light distributor for size. The light distributor goes in front of the screen, with the tab on the left from the outside, so on the right looking from the inside, if mounted in the direction I have it (with the silver strip along the bottom edge).
    You need to solder wires onto the tab. The negative contact is the one closest to the ribbon connecting the tab to the silver strip, so the positive is the other one.


    Step 7
    After you've got the distributor in the right place, fix it there with some glue or something (I think I just left mine loose, the pressure of screwing the case together holds it in place, but I really don't recommend that).


    Step 8
    Route the wires along the bottom of the case (between the buttons) and out of the bottom. Screw the motherboard back in place, and make sure everything fits in. The screen and buttons should now all be back in place. You could connect a battery at this point to test your soldering, but it'll be dim. It will be much brighter when it's properly wired up. 3 volts, the power supplied by two AA batteries, should light it. I tested with a CR2 battery which gives 3.7 volts, and I could see the luminescence clearly with that.

    Next, solder the negative wire to the fourth contact down on the left strip of four contacts in the bottom-right of the motherboard, if that makes sense to you. Otherwise, take a look at the picture.


    Step 9
    Then, solder the positive wire from the top contact to an 80? (ohm) resistor, then solder a wire between the resistor and switch. Attach the negative wire you soldered in the last step to the other leg of the switch.

    Once you cut a hole in the case for the switch (I used a Dremel, but you couldn't tell) you should end up with something like this, only better looking...


    Step 10
    Aaaand once you screw the casing back together, you're done! Make sure everything is insulated though, especially the bit of PCB under the switch, and around the exposed wires coming off the screen. I didn't heatshrink these because the flat ribbon would roll up, thus forcing the contacts to touch, but I did put a small piece of insulation tape round.

    Hopefully it works. Mine didn't first time, but that's to be expected, really. Once it did work, even my poor effort works really well. The screen is just as bright as on the SP and if I hadn't have scratched the light distributor it would have looked brilliant. Let me know how yours goes!


    Massive thanks given to ????????? for their tutorial (in Japanese) that I borrowed heavily from. I couldn't have made this without them (actually, considering the state of my finished version, that might not be such a bad thing!) especially the resistor values.
  2. DjoeN

    DjoeN Captain Haddock!

    Oct 21, 2005
    Somewhere in this potatoland!
    Great, have to do this with mine to [​IMG]

    - Also recommanded, use smaller wires, sinkhead uses wires that are a bit thick in my opinion (Can i slap you for that sinkhead [​IMG] )
    - Just need to find me a spare second hand GBA SP cheap (don't wanna ruin mine for that).
  3. Sinkhead

    Sinkhead yay p1ngpong.

    Former Staff
    Nov 22, 2006
    Across the pond
    - Yeeaaah [​IMG] It's all I had (actually from a doorbell I think)
    - Yep, I used my Bro's old one. It still works, just with no backlight, which is handy.
  4. UltraMagnus

    UltraMagnus hic sunt dracones

    Aug 2, 2007
    can I ask why do it though? cannot the gba play all games the gameboy colour can?
  5. kobykaan

    kobykaan GBAtemp Addict

    Aug 27, 2007

    THAT answer is pretty easy ..... JUST BECAUSE..

    There is no particular reason its just yet one of those SINKHEAD mad ideas he comes across/thinks up now and then and does it the OEM / crude SINKHEAD way but ... although regardless how its actually done it still works how it should in the end!

    see the SINKHEAD AIRCON UNIT 101 guide a while back [​IMG]

    Nice work SINKY!

    btw I found your cat the other day mate ...

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
  6. jesterscourt

    jesterscourt Not Brad.

    Jan 3, 2007
    United States
    Good job? No really, I miss soldering stuff. Bravo.
  7. Geezuzkhrist119

    Geezuzkhrist119 GBAtemp Regular

    Apr 14, 2008
    i wish i didnt smash my sp. i should of saved it and mod a gbc with it.

    im dumb for smashing it
  8. mercluke

    mercluke ‮҉

    Dec 2, 2007
    i really need to get around to doing this sometime soon, i hate my worm light :/