June 1, 2016
GBA Back Light Mod
I stumbled upon the idea of doing this mod after I decided to do a shell replacement on my old GBA that I've had lying around since I was a 13 year old. That idea unto itself came about when I was brainstorming for a good gift for my girlfriend and I's anniversary. Playing on our 3DSs was one of the things that brought us together among many other things so what better than to unite our individual childhood memories with new ones? On top of that we're both huge Pokemon nerds so naturally that will also be part of the gift in one way or another. So alas here we are giving the heart of my GBA a new home inside a new body complete with a back-lit screen! Here we go!
[OG GBA IMAGE HERE]
Here we have the remains of the GBA that was once alive. What you see here is just the skin. I did not go step by step into a re-shelling since I wanted to highlight the non trivial part of this mod. The back lighting.
Here's the results of the re shelling.
Start by removing all the screws on the back of the system with the tri-wing screw driver. Don't forget the one in the battery compartment.
Once these screws are all out remove the back half of the shell.
[OPEN FRONT SHELL JUST THE SCREEN AND BUTTONS]
Remove the two side trim pieces, L and R buttons, and the power switch. Carefully remove the ribbon cable from its connector by gently pulling up the tabs on the left and right. Don't force it to much or you risk ruining the connector or the ribbon cable. Next, remove the three screws that secure the motherboard to the front half of the shell. Once that's done you can remove the motherboard from the front half of the shell.
[EMPTY FRONT PIECE]
Now you can remove all the remaining buttons. This includes the A,B, select/start, d-pad, and LED power indicator diffusor. Place these aside (with the L/R, side trim, and power switch) to be cleaned/replaced later if you are not replacing them entirely with new ones.
Now you can remove the OG screen by wedging something like guitar pick or something similar underneath the edge to pry it out. Do not pull on the ribbon cable to remove the screen.
Once that's out you can place that aside since you'll be not needing that any longer. Also push out the plastic/glass screen with your thumbs carefully if you are meaning to replace that.
Now that we have removed all the internals this is where we mod the existing shell or the replacement shell (which ever the internals will be housed) to allow the new AGS 101 LCD room to fit inside the shell. This is where we get dirty. Using your crafting knife and/or rotary tool carefully trim out all the marked pieces as shown below. Once that's done use compressed air to clean up the remains or give it a quick water bath and dry thoroughly.
Now that we've trimmed all the appropriate pieces out of the way it's time to place the AGS 101 screen into the shell. I recommend placing adhesive strips around the outside of the LCD so it will remain secure in its location once we've lined up the screen with the shell. The original rubber gasket from the original screen would have been useful but it adds to much thickness which will cause a bulge in the shell once we re assemble it.
I also inserted the buttons following that. And the next will show where I also put in the LED diffusor and the button pads back on.
Now it's time to connect the ribbon cable adapter to the motherboard and the LCD!
Make sure you hook this up gently and correctly by inserting the ribbon with the pins inserted in the correct way. In this case gold pins up for the adapter into the mother board and gold pins down for LCD into the adapter as shown. Push the ribbon tabs back in and you're good to go.
Now see that red wire that we still have floating around at the moment? We're gonna need to solder that to the correct point on the mother board.
There is resistor that is located on the right side that we will need to solder it to. It is labeled as DA1. If you think about the shape of it as a Y then we will be soldering the wire to the top left part of the Y.
Now it's time to place the motherboard back into the shell. Neatly fold the the ribbon cable into a Z like pattern (i taped it down to the back of the LCD with double sided tape) and fold the switch back onto the bottom area of the back of the LCD (also double sided taped this). The placement of this switch is a sort of tricky thing. Use the back shell to kind of eye ball where it will go since there is a small notch in the shell (left side of the battery compartment) perfectly sized for this switch.
Once the ribbon cable has been placed you can screw the mother board back to the shell, place the back of the shell on and put the screws back into that. I also added a finishing detail to the back where the serial sticker would have went.
Boom! Finished! Here it is in all it's glory side by side with a re-shelled / not modded for screen comparisons. Very nice right? Heck yeah.
Additional Project Notes
Clean the button contacts with some rubbing alcohol and wash the buttons and rubber pieces in some water with a little soap. Tada old buttons are as good as new!