wireless RF controller for Sega Saturn

Started by micro, April 07, 2010, 08:56:36 AM

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Hey guys,
during the last weeks I built myself a neat 433MHz RF Sega Saturn controller:

A video of the controller can be seen at: Sega Saturn Wireless Controller Mod

I used a cheap (and also rather shitty) 433MHz transmitter/receiver set sold by Conrad (multi language manual)
The downside of the transmitter surely is the low bandwidth of 2kHz and your data has to be in manchester code. So in the end you can only transmit about 1000 bps which is just enough for all the Saturn buttons to be transmitted 60 times per second

As power supply I took an Ipod Shuffle Li-Po battery.  It got a capacity of 250mAh which is not much compared to other cellphone/Ipod/DS/PSP batteries but the space inside the Saturn controller is limited. (the biggest space is about 36mm x 36mm)
Thanks to the MAX1811 Li+ charger IC the battery can be charged by a common mini USB cable connected to a PC, XBox, wall adapter, etc. The MAX1811 is only available as SO8 package so I scratched a suitable board with an x-acto knife. I guess I could have also used a SO8->DIP8 adaptor.

Here are some more pictures I made during the process:

To make the mini USB socket fit you have to sand off just a little bit on these 3 sides.

That's the USB charging circuit and the board I scratched/cut. The MAX1811 is really small!

Two simple 3mm holes for the power and the charge LED.

That would be the space where the battery would be put in.

5mm hole for the toggle switch which powers the controller on and off. (charging the battery is not affected by this switch)

That's how the controller looked like in the end. You can see the microcontroller above the original Sega IC on the green PCB. The small green PCB on the lower left is the actual transmitter.

If you cut with an x-acto knife between the 2 halves of the Saturn plug you can easily open it.  It seems the 2 halves are just snapped in.

That's the whole wireless receiver in a nice box. As usual I used a lot of hot glue to hold everything in place.

In case you want to build your own wireless Saturn controller I've attached schematics and .hex files for the microcontrollers (for noncommercial use only!). You can use Ponyprog to flash the microcontrollers with the .hex files but be careful with setting the fusebits. Have fun :)

(I moved all pictures to imageshack)



Would love to make one.. or rather 2 of these myself.

Is there an issue with having 2 of these controllers ? would the be on the same channel and clash?

Could we have a detailed list of parts and model numbers

Thanks for bringing this great mod to the board


Unfortunately two controllers at the same time won't work since you can't select different channels on the RF transmitter & receiver.

The parts list would look like:

1   433MHz RF transmitter/receiver set
2   Atmel AVR ATtiny2313 microcontroller
2   74HC153
1   Maxim MAX1811
2   2mA low current LED
1   20MHz crystal
1   10MHz crystal
4   22pF ceramic capacitator
2   100nF ceramic capacitator
2   4.7µF tantalum capacitator
2   10kOhm resistor
1   1.2kOhm resistor
1   1.5kOhm resistor
1   toggle switch
1   mini USB socket
1   250 mAh Li-Po battery (1st generation Ipod Shuffle)
1   suitable housing for the receiver

In addition you might need a  SO8->DIP8 adaptor or you cut a suitable board yourseld like I did because the MAX1811 is really small. To flash the ATtiny2313 with the .hex files you'll need access to a suitable programmer. You can use a cheap parallel port programmer + Ponyprog . Or I could send you some preprogrammed ATtiny2313's if owning a programming cable doesn't pay for you.

The program I wrote works only for the transmitter/receiver sold by Conrad. Check out the specifications in the manual and see if you can find another transmitter/receiver with the same specifications in your local store :)


micro, I'm curious. What country do you live in?

BTW. Very nice project. I may give it a go. Only being able to use one controller at a time will have to go though.  ;D


I'm from Germany and conrad.de is also located in Germany  ;D

Yes, I'd also like to use 2 RF controllers simultaneously but as I mentionend it's not possible with that kind of transmitter/receiver.

What I have in mind is some kind of universal RF controller protocol. By holding the A, B, C,... button while powering on the cotroller you would select channel 1, 2, 3, etc. The first 2 or 3 bits of each transmission would tell the receiver what kind of controller is transmitting. For example Saturn = 00, SNES = 01,  Playstation=11 and so on...
Next would come the 4 directions of the dpad, start, select, bottom row buttons, top row buttons, shoulder buttons.
The receiving microcontroller would map the buttons accordingly so you could use a Saturn controller on the SNES and vice versa.

The transmitter/receiver of my choice would be the Easy Radio modules from Low Power Radio Solutions, check out their page:
The modules seem to be very user friendly. They allow to select different channels and data rates easily.

I'd love to built 2 wireless SNES controller with Easy Radio modules but unfortunately they're not cheap (13£ for the transmitter, 21£ for the receiver). And I'm afraid I'd have to use 2 receiver for 2 Pads. I can't imagine one single receiver constantly switching between 2 channels would be enough. That would probably end in lags and lost data packets.
I've also read your post how to detect if a SNES pad is connected. That way it would be even possible to place the RF receiver inside the SNES console so they would be invisible and the SNES sockets would still be usable.

But right now I've got no more money for that kind of experiments. :D


Friendly suggestion:

You might be able to save money on parts by just forwarding the output from the Saturn pad on the transmitter side to the output on the receive side, instead of mimicking an controller with the two 74LS153. :D


any chance your looking to sell that controller and receiver or parhaps willing to make a new one, just give me a price :P