The Uzebox Project

By: Derek Yu

On: August 26th, 2008

You know, I’ve been waiting for something like this for a long while! The Uzebox is an open-source homebrew retro game console based on Atmel’s AVR 8-bit general purpose microcontroller. Its creator, “Uze,” has designed the system to be simple, but relatively powerful, so that hobbyists can easily put together their own system. Games can be programmed in C, using free software, and are compiled with the kernel and then flashed directly onto the main chip.

AVR Megatris,” the Tetris DS clone Uze developed for the system, looks and sounds pretty good! The Uzebox supports 256 simultaneous colors onscreen, a 240×224 (40×28 tiles) screen resolution, a 4-channel sound engine, a MIDI In input port, and 2 NES joystick ports. It also has 4k of RAM and an overclocked speed of ~28.6 MHz.

The source and schematics are both available for download on the Uzebox website, under GPL. This would make a fun, and nerdy, weekend project. I’d love to see people develop games for this thing!

(Source: Brandon, via insert credit)

  • Phlog

    I dig!

  • toasty mofo

    i’d forgotten how awesome the tetris music was.

    i’ve got to find my breadboard…

  • ^_^

    Very cool. ^_^

  • OrR

    This should be fun to make… :) Fantastic addition to my Neo 1973 and will probably be good friends with my Pandora in the future. B)

  • ChaosMaker

    This may be the coolest thing I’ve seen in like half a year or so.

  • MedO

    This is really impressive! I’ve had a video+sound-project with an ATMega chip as well, and can tell you that it’s already an achievement just to get video and sound out at the same time. Of course, overclocking it this heavily helps a lot.

    This really makes me want to get out my own development kit again… but… have… to finish… Bootleg Demake first… ;)

  • Snow

    Interesting. I too have been interested in console design. To actually be able to program the game in C is neat stuff. As always, thanks for sharing. Never knew that this kind of hardware was available.

  • Fishy Boy

    This console is pretty awesome.

    Making games for it would be a pretty cool idea for the next competition.

  • coderneedsfood

    need to combine this with the Demake Compo !!! WooT :)

  • sinoth

    Give it an ethernet port and I’ll be sold.

  • cougarten

    wolud someone please tell the right player how to drop that shit?

  • Skofo

    So it’s a retro GP2X?

  • namuol

    Any emulators in the works?

    It’s too bad that the display resolution is just barely too large for a DS screen :-/

  • Anonymous


  • Esha

    As if MAKE magazine doesn’t give me enough crazy things to want to create.

    Still, I hope these will become popular because that could lead to some fun. I remember the “chip my console and I’ll give you something for it” sites of old, but those were always a bit shady.

    Of course, a “build me a uzebox and I’ll give you something for it” would be eminently more nifty, and legal.

    Beer for uzeboxes! It could happen. They just need to get some good PR/advertising going for this thing.

  • cuntface

    Zomg! Pass me the sauce, Awesomeman!

  • Mike V

    This reminds me a lot of the XGameStation:

    If you don’t want to build the hardware yourself, you might opt for that instead.

  • Lyx

    While from a geeks perspective, the project is impressive, it will not become interesting to non-geeks, simply because it does not support external memory – normal players have no interest to flash the whole thing for every software-change (i.e. changing games).

  • Anon

    But will it run Crysis?!?!1

  • Golds

    Owl Country 8-bit

  • The Anger

    Looks like this guy built this thing as an excuse to show off his mad Tetris skills.

  • Eclipse

    I’m mostly waiting for the Wiz, the new gp2x

  • MedO

    “It will not become interesting to non-geeks, simply because it does not support external memory”

    Support for SD/MMC memory cards is not very hard to implement, and there are already libs available for this purpose, and for filesystem access as well. Since the atmegas have the ability to program their own flashrom, you could build a game selection screen that reads game info from the memory card, and flashes the game to the main chip when selected. Careful though, the flashrom is only rated for 10000 erase/write cycles ;)

  • Let me be the first to say it

    Auqaria rip off

  • colorFool

    Heh, this is really cool. Quite nerdy, but still really cool. :P
    I’d love to see some Demakes of the compo done for this. ;)

  • Lyx


    Thanks for the reply. I was considering that idea as well, but did not know how simple and cheap memory card support would be to add.

    Unless i’m missing something, i wouldn’t worry too much about the 10.000 erase/write cycles – even if one plays two different games on every day, that still leaves you with a lifetime of about 13 years.

  • Phasma Felis

    240×224 would be 30×28 tiles, not 40×28. Unless he’s using 6×8 tiles somehow.

    The original website says 240×224, but the tetris video is clearly 40 tiles wide, so I suspect a misprint.

  • Uze (the Uzebox guy)

    In fact, you’re quite right, its really 6×8 pixels tiles (due to cpu limitations). Btw, its awesome so many peoples likes the project. Theres already a lots of fans proposing new features like SD card and Ethernet online gaming, just log in the forums…Cheers to all electro-freaks and hackers in here!

  • me

    Make a portable version and I’m sold! It looks small enough to be able to fit on a handheld anyway.

  • Uze

    We have found a professional who will make circuit boards for the Uzebox. Perfect for those who dont have electronics skills!

  • GlingON

    I like your work. It’s very inspiring. Will your ambitions continue on this track? Perhaps a 16-bit system? Perhaps custom hardware on an FPGA? Well I guess there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

  • Uze

    You got the point. There was already projects like the Hydra console and there’s many much more powerful MCUs out there. However they get very complex and intimidating for the casual hacker. With modern FPGAs we could easily replicate a SNES or even better. But it’s much more challenging interesting to squeeze out the last bit out of a low power cpu! And most importantly, it’s guaranteed to give that unmistakably cool, retro 8-bit look!



  • magallanes

    Sound great but i don’t think so this cpu is quite popular (not at least than the zilog or a SA).

  • magallanes

    And, exist such thing as a emulator?, or are they expect to program (and debug) directly to the machine?