ESP_8_BIT: Serving Some ESP32-based Nostalgia

Shanghai, China
May 26, 2020

You can now enjoy Atari 8-bit computers, NES and SMS game consoles on your TV, with only an ESP32 and a sense of nostalgia.

Rossum, who is a well-known maker, presented in a recent blogpost his latest creation, the ESP_8_BIT. This is an entertaining gadget with which users can enjoy Atari 8-bit computers, Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Sega Master System (SMS) game consoles on their television, with just an ESP32 that emulates all of that.

More specifically, ESP_8_BIT supports NTSC/PAL color composite video output using a 4x color carrier signal produced by Audio PLL/DAC at 14.318180 MHz or 17.734476 MHz. ESP_8_BIT also supports Bluetooth Classic along with a variety of IR keyboards and joysticks. In fact, it includes a minimal HCI/L2CAP/HID stack implemented on top of the VHCI API, which supports Bluetooth EDR peripherals, WiiMotes, etc. The technical aspects of the video and audio are handled very well, and so is Bluetooth, while the code is of very high quality and looks very clear. ESP_8_BIT is designed to run on ESP32 within the Arduino IDE framework.

You can see it in action on YouTube by clicking on here, while the fairly simple schematic diagram is shown below:

ESP_8_BIT Schematics

Regarding the support for Atari in this project, which is built from the Atari800 emulator, Rossum himself had a humorous comment to offer: “Oh how I adore thee Atari 8 bit! Forty years on, your cheery blue default background color and enigmatically wiggly built-in font still delights me. Your bizarre industrial design and giant floppy drives are the stuff of a legend. Nice to see you back in this new incarnation.”

On this note, Espressif’s response is that we, too, are delighted to see ESP32’s central role in this re-invention of Atari 8-bit!

As for the ESP_8_BIT’s use of the Sega Master System (SMS), it is based on smsplus, playing .sms (Sega Master System) and .gg (Game Gear) ROMs. “This is the same emulator with which the brilliant and prolific Sprite_TM first demostrated the power of ESP31”, as Rossum put it. According to Rossum, Espressif’s Software and Technical Marketing Manager Jeroen Domburg (a.k.a. Sprite_TM) “is the person most responsible for making the ESP32 ecosystem a pleasure to work with”.

All the details about this highly commendable ESP32-based project can be found on Rossum’s personal blog.

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