Saturday May 18, 2024

XGS Pico

Author: Wayne Eggert
Date: 03/15/06

The XGameStation Pico is a device for hobbyists designed by Andre LaMothe over at The Pico is just one of the many game system development kits that Andre plans to offer and is aimed mainly at hobbyists who want to be able to build a working game system from the ground up. It is a simplfied version of the XGS Micro Edition, which is pre-built & ready to program out of the box and has more advanced features than the simplified Pico.

What can it do?
The XGS Pico is not something you would buy if you just wanted to play games -- you'd be much better off buying an XBox 360 or Playstation 3. It's meant for people who want to learn how to build a basic video game system & program it. If you'd rather learn how to program a modern video game system with software libraries and a nice IDE, I suggest buying a Dreamcast and a Dreamcast Broadband Adapter -- there are plenty of websites of folks who are developing great things on the Dreamcast and it's a modern game system to learn on. The XGS Pico, however is meant for individuals who want to learn the ins and outs of the hardware, what makes the system tick, and how to manipulate the hardware directly with assembly language like was done in the old days of programming systems like the Atari 2600. It doesn't even have color video out of the box -- it's black and white -- you have to do some more advanced programming to output color or build the hardware for it.

Basically where I'm going with this is it's probably one of the best kits you can buy to learn about electronics, video game systems, televisions, programming.. it's a real geek goldmine! Why would you want to put together some stupid blinking LED project or little radio kit when you can build a video game system & then.. actually program it and add onto it and make it better? So the answer to what it can do is.. whatever you're capable of making it do -- it's a priceless learning tool really.

My Experience
I was very pleased with everything that came with the kit. I bought the SX-Key along with the kit, because I wanted to be able to do some programming after I got it all up and running (otherwise you can only play around with the racer demo that comes loaded on the SX-28 Micro Controller).

It took me 2-3 hours to build it.. a little slow because I was being cautious, double checking everything was right, chasing the cat from messing with my parts strewn around the table. After I was sure I had everything wired up correctly, I hooked it up to the TV -- unfortunately I had nothing come up on the screen. I went through the schematic and pictures again, but couldn't find any mistakes. I tried to program the chip with the SX-Key and it gave me an error about failing to connect to the chip. I was getting voltages where I was supposed to -- I was stumped. I eventually found that I didn't have the SX-28 Micro Controller pushed into the breadboard far enough, which definitely explains why everything was pointing to the SX-28 not working properly :) The game demo fired right up afterwards.

More To Come
I will be playing around with this kit some more.. first some programming, then maybe seeing what kind of things I can do with getting color video on it. I'll post updates here as I make progress with it. What a cool little kit!

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