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How to Play Retro Video Games on Your Oscilloscope

Remember the old Vectrex video game system? Here’s how you can build you own using an oscilloscope as a monitor.

Chris Wiltz

June 9, 2020

2 Min Read
How to Play Retro Video Games on Your Oscilloscope

(Image source: schlae via GitHub)

Building and modifying game systems has long been a staple of the DIY community. But have you ever tried creating a retro gaming system with an oscilloscope?

People deeply embedded in the history of gaming might remember a system called the Vectrex. Released in the early 1980s, it was a semi-portable system that played simple games using vector-based graphics. The Vectrex never gain the popularity of systems like the Atari 2600 or the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), but it does enjoy somewhat of a cult following today and you can still find old Vectrex systems for sale for a few hundred dollars on eBay.

For those that want to recreate the Vectrex experience on a budget, a GitHub user that goes by the name schlae has posted plans for a DIY system called Scopetrex that is single-board version of the Vectrex and uses an oscilloscope or XY monitor as its display. The whole thing can be run off of a Motorolla 68A09/68B09 or 68A09E/68B09E microprocesssor and uses a General Instrument AY-3-8912 or AY-3-8910/YM2149F sound chip.

It also offers some improvements over the old-school Vectrex including a single +5V power supply, only 500mA (minimum) configurable X and Y size and polarity, and configurable brightness and video blanking polarity. And if you’re looking for an even bigger challenge you can also try your hand at building a custom controller for the Scopetrex as well. After all, you can’t get the full retro gaming experience without the right thumbstick.

Full BOM, schematics, and fab files for the Scopetrex and controller are available on GitHub.

If you’re looking for a trip down memory lane at some old Vectrex games, check out the video below:

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Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at   Design News  covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, blockchain, and robotics.

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