Inside the Hartung GameMaster!  

Ever wondered what was inside your favourite console? Ever wanted to get out the screwdriver and undo stuff until the soul of it all was laid bare? Ever been put off by the fact that you may possibly be turning your pride and joy into a very expensive doorstop?

Yeah, me too. Which is why I decided to pull apart my Hartung GameMaster.

I own a fair few consoles which I've pulled apart for varying reasons, but I've never had a digital camera until now. Also, I've never owned a console that gave itself so much to pulling apart as the GameMaster. Hell, the thing was basically falling apart of its own accord, and the build quality and general crapness was begging to have a screwdriver taken to it in order to see what was beneath. So, here we go.

Just a note. I'm still getting used to my camera, and the lighting was crap, so I apoligise in advance for poorly-lit and badly focussed pictures of electrical hardware.

Where else should we start other than with a fully assembled GameMaster. An average-looking Gameboy clone.

There was the front, and this is the back. Note that Laura C used to own this GameMaster, and she stole the battery covers.

As a bit of a comparison, here is the GameMaster game Space Castle, next to an original Gameboy cart. The exposed cart connectors are clearly visible. What isn't visible is the crap build quality. What is also visible is Revenge of the Gator on Gameboy. It is one of the best games ever. Buy it.

But, I digress. It is now time to pull out the precision screwdrivers (left over from an Engineering degree) and remove the four screws that hold the thing together. Lifting the back, you can see that it contains wires and a printed circuit board, which is an excellent start for any piece of consumer electronics.

Pulling a few more screws out, you can lift and move the PCB containing the main processor and controller circuitry. Attached to that via small ribbon cables are the interface panels for the controls (which are the light grey blobby bits on the top and bottom right). The PCB itself was easy to lift away from the screen circuitry because they interface via a detachable connector (seen in the middle of the screen) and a set of pins (hidden) on the screen board. The board is still hard to move around, because it's hard-connected to the terminals on the battery compartments and the speaker.

Why is the GameMaster such a mongrel of a thing to control? These things are partly to blame. Hard slippery plastic moulded into a dome does not feel good on the fingers.

Taking a further look, we can see the screen board, complete with the now-revealed interface pins to the main PCB. This appears to be a general purpose LCD screen that has been custom modified for the GameMaster, as the chips contained within plastic moulds (centre of picture) and detailed circuitry are rather incongruous with the large hobby-kit resistors and rather shoddy (almost hand-done) soldering at the bottom. You can see signs of overheating on the solder joints, which sometimes indicates hand-soldering or shoddy automated soldering.

Shoddy is as shoddy does, and I quite enjoyed opening my GameMaster and spying that some poor bastard had sticky-taped down the large silver capacitor just north of the precious processor. As you can see, they actually taped it TO the processor. Even though I have a Computer Systems Engineering degree and am theoretically qualified, I have no bloody idea what the processor is or its specs. Don't really care either.. :)

Aah, the crapness emerges. More evident signs of a shoddy hand-soldered job here, with the yellowing indicating overheating with the iron prior to soldering, and excess solder blobbing showing that whoever they got to put these things together was getting pretty much over it towards the end.

And that's it. Exciting? Not really. Good way to fill in time that could be spent being a constructive member of society? Absolutely. Tune in next time when I pull apart a Virtual Boy and cause the space-time continuum to rip in two.
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