The NES-PC Part 0: Background

Fifteen years ago, I built a custom computer. Here it is next to the Nintendo Entertainment System that my sister and I used to play with as children.

Yeah, I don’t know which one is which either. That was by design. I thought of this box as a bit of a ‘sleeper’. It didn’t look like much, but it was far more fully featured than it appeared. This idea was pretty fully formed in my head for a couple of months before I actually took the jump and started to order parts. I remember having to hand my dad cash to pay for some online purchases, because he had an eBay account and I desperately needed a part that could not be gotten in a physical store.  I was quite proud of this build when I was 19. It went off to college with me and acted as my movie watching computer and occasional “lend to a friend” gaming box for over a year.
To be honest though, it wasn’t a complete success. Let’s take a look at my shame:
If I was willing to give myself some credit, I could call this “hiding my crimes” and point out that from the front everything looked fine. Some of this mess was the result of limitations; my best tool was a dremel and I didn’t have the patience or nerve to deal with sanding and painting. Some of this was due to laziness and rushing forward without planning ahead. This… this thing had a lot more potential than I managed to fulfill.

Regrets aside, it did its job amicably and lasted about as long as you could expect tech like this too. The hardware was arguably under-powered, but it really was the best small form factor gear that I could get my hands on at the time. It played a ton of slightly-old-for-the-time games, pushed pirated movies to my old CRT TV, and even acted as a friend’s only PC when his blew up. It features in the background of a bunch of my old photos from my college days. I used it until the little VIA cpu just couldn’t keep up anymore, and held onto it way longer than it was actually useful. Stupidly, I put the thing in the trash.

I found the digital photos the other day and was hit was a pair of simultaneous emotions. On the one hand, I cringed at how badly I’d done that job in the past, how primitive the workmanship and the hardware, and how little documentation of it had. On the other, I desperately wanted that NES-PC back.

Ten minutes later, I put “broken nintendo entertainment system” into the eBay search window and  found a cornucopia of options. I’ve been working on the new one since and it’s time to start putting together a log of my work here. Let’s get this party startet.

  • Part 0: Hardware
  • Part 2: Initial fit
  • Part 3: Brackets and fittings
  • Part 4: Ventilation
  • Part 5: I/O
  • Part 6: Finish