Archive for January 16th, 2007

16
Jan
07

Hacking the Wavebird

My apologies to my readers who are not interested in the Nintendo Wii – this is another Wii-related post.

Anyway, as you may or may not know, the Wii is backward compatible with the Nintendo GameCube. In fact, this backward compatibility is real, not emulated. So, when you start playing a GameCube game, the system stops functioning as a Wii and no longer responds to the Wii Remotes. However, you can still play your GameCube games wirelessly if you buy the wireless “Wavebird” controller originally released for the GameCube. This consists of a controller with a built-in transmitter and a separate receiver that plugs into a GameCube controller port on the Wii. Unfortunately, this is the only wireless controller for the GameCube – all the others require you to plug the controller directly into the controller ports. However, yesterday it occurred to me that I might be able to hack the Wavebird so that I could plug other wired controllers into it and use the transmitter in it in order to use other controllers wirelessly as well. This would be particularly useful in that it would allow me to use my “DK Bongo” controllers from the comfort of my couch.

Here’s how it would work:
I assume that, internally, the Wavebird contains a GameCube controller like any wired GameCube controller. However, instead of the controller output going directly to the console over a wire, it is connected to the wireless transmitter. It seems to me that if I can open the controller up and splice a switch and a female controller port in between the controller and the wireless transmitter, I could make it possible to plug other wired controllers into the Wavebird, effectively making them wireless.

There are a couple of obstacles to this plan right now.
First, in order to confirm my assumption about the internal wiring of the Wavebird, I need to open it up. This requires a small tri-wing screwdriver with a long shaft. While I could head over to Microcenter and pick up a set of specialty screwdriver bits, actual tri-wing screwdrivers are tough to come by. Unfortunately, in this case, a bit set won’t work because some of the screws are recessed in holes that are both deep and narrow – too narrow to accommodate bits from a bit set. Does anyone have any suggestions on where I could buy individual tri-wing screwdrivers?

Second, providing that my assumptions about the internal wiring of the controller are correct, I need to find a source of female GameCube controller ports. I guess I could try to buy broken GameCube consoles or something but I’d like to keep my costs as low as possible.

If it turns out that the hack is easy and the necessary parts are plentiful and cheap, I might consider selling these things. There are a number of non-standard controllers for the GameCube, like the “DK Bongos” and the “Action Pad”, so people who are interested in using these controllers but have their home entertainment centers set up in a way that precludes plugging them directly into the built-in controller ports would probably be interested in a product that enables them to use these controllers wirelessly. This seems like an elegant solution because it also mimics the model used in the Wii Remote which offers the ability to plug peripheral controllers into the main wireless controller.

If anyone has any comments or suggestions, please pass them along. Also, it’s very possible (even probable) that someone has already done this hack. If you know of such a hack, please pass along the link. I won’t be offended.

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