The Raspberry Pi 400 as a couch game machine

Hardware

Speaking of the Raspberry Pi, I’ve been in the market for an integrated keyboard case for one. I’ve rediscovered the joys of couch computing, and love the idea of having a small machine I can emulate various vintage games on the TV (mostly DOS), and take with me to other places.

Using a Raspberry Pi for this has a few advantages:

  • It easily has the compute power for the old stuff I love.

  • I can emulate a few different architectures and software platforms from the one device, rather than needing a bunch of separate boxes. Space in our tiny apartment is at a premium at the best of times.

  • Running ARM FreeBSD or Debian/Raspberry Pi OS gives me access to a huge library of stuff, including DOSBox, QEMU, VICE, SimH, and Bochs.

  • The Raspberry Pi’s HDMI port and software scaling negates the need for an expensive analogue video upscaler.

  • I keep my precious vintage computer kit firmly on my desk where they’re not getting rattled around. They also have so much stuff plugged into them, it’d be a pain to carry them around.

  • I can carry my entire software library on one or more cards. Using the CD-ROM and Iomega drives on my Pentium 1 tower, and the 1571 disk drive on the C128, C16, and Plus/4 is fun, but not that portable!

There are a few options, some of which involve some manual soldering. But then I discovered what everyone else had for a year now:

Photo of the Raspberry Pi 400

This looks so cool! It’s a remodelled Raspberry Pi 4 in the company’s official little keyboard, with ports and GPIO pins running along the back. It reminds me of a 1980s home computer, both in form factor and spirit.

I can’t stop grinning at this beautiful little thing!

I was intending to write a grand long post about how the Vilros Keyboard Trackpad Hub looked disappointing, and that I wished more people did something better. I might just bite the bullet and get one of these… or add it to the Xmas wishlist!

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and IaaS engineer in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person in bios. Wait, not BIOS… my brain should be EFI by now.

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