The Retrode is a USB adapter for legacy video games that enabled the use of game cartridges and controllers with emulators. Technically, the Retrode could be considered a ROM dumper in that it could create a copy of the cartridge content. Unlike most such devices, the Retrode could be operated without drivers or special software under the most popular operating systems. It further allowed the emulator to directly access the game data through the file system, eliminating the need to create a ROM image as a separate step. By default, the Retrode was equipped with cartridge slots and controller ports for the SNES and Sega Genesis (also known as Mega Drive outside North America) game consoles; support for cartridges and controllers for other systems could be added via so-called plug-in adapters that users can buy online or make themselves.
Retrode with two game cartridges inserted
|Manufacturer||Matthias Hullin / Retrode UG (haftungsbeschränkt)|
|Type||USB adapter / Game controller / Game backup device hybrid|
The device was originally conceived by Matthias Hullin in 2009 during a discussion on USB accessories in a user forum for the Pandora handheld gaming console. Hullin prototyped the envisioned operation principle by wiring an edge connector to an AT90USBKey evaluation board running a custom firmware, and prepared a demonstration video. After receiving significant coverage through various press outlets, Hullin developed the proof-of-concept (working title "snega2usb") into a product that was later manufactured by Retrode UG in Germany. Retrode UG ceased manufacturing the Retrode in the summer of 2013. The Retrode got licensed to OpenPandora GmbH in Germany and is available again since March 2015. The Retrode from 2015 is the second hardware revision.
For each of the two hardware revisions, the transition from prototype to mass production was enabled through crowdfunding (pre-ordering). A comprehensive write-up by a Retrode user documents the history of the project.
The Retrode was based on an Atmel AVR microcontroller (AT90USB646) with an integrated USB interface, connecting to cartridge slots and game controller ports via the microcontroller's GPIO pins. Its updateable firmware was based on the LUFA library by Dean Camera, and was developed mainly by Hullin with the help of a few users.
The device enumerated as a composite USB device consisting of a USB mass storage endpoint and one or several USB game controllers. Access to the cartridge contents (typically a ROM chip with the game itself and optionally also a battery-backed SRAM to store game progress) was provided through files on the USB medium. A number of device parameters could be edited through a configuration file.
The first commercial version of the Retrode featured an aluminum profile enclosure with two slots to accommodate SNES and Sega Genesis game cartridges. Internal soldering pins allowed users to retrofit up to four ports for SNES controllers. The successor model, the Retrode 2, used a plastic enclosure with a dust cover, and had four controller ports built in—two for each system, SNES and Sega Genesis.
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|Console(s)||State||DIY Provisions||Production Run||Slot||Voltage Required|
|Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Mega Drive/Genesis||Built-in support in Retrode 1 and 2||None||Ongoing batches of production of Retrode 2||N/A||5V|
|Nintendo 64||Working||PCB layout and schematic soon||Ongoing production||Mega Drive/Genesis||3.3V|
|Game Boy variants||Working||PCB layout and schematic soon||Ongoing production||Mega Drive/Genesis||3.3V for Game Boy Advance; 5V for Game Boy and Game Boy Color|
|Sega Master System and Game Gear||Working||Wiring key, design and build write-up/rough guide (for original prototype); PCB layout and schematic soon||build write-up/rough guide (for original prototype); PCB layout and schematic soon Ongoing production (without Game Gear slot, but space provided to solder your own on)||Mega Drive/Genesis||5V|
|Atari 2600||Working||PCB layout and schematic||Previous sold out; none planned||SNES||5V|
|TurboGrafx16/PC Engine||Working||Wiring key||None planned||SNES||5V|
|Virtual Boy||Working||Wiring key; design and build write-up/rough guide||None planned||Mega Drive/Genesis||5V|
|Neo Geo Pocket variants||Working||Wiring key; Japanese design and build write-up/rough guide||None planned||SNES||3.3V|
|Nintendo Entertainment System||Considering||Will be PCB layout and schematic if completed||Probably if completed||?||5V|
|Sega Pico||Working||Wiring key; design and build write-up/rough guide||None planned||Mega Drive/Genesis||5V|
|V.Smile||Working||Wiring key; brief build notes||None planned||Sega Genesis||Unknown (5V?)|
- "retrode.org (community website)". Retrode UG. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
- "retrode.com: Plug-in adapters". Retrode UG. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
- "GP32X.com Discussion Board: Lets Talk Usb Accessories!". Retrieved 21 March 2013.
- Matthias Hullin. "Retrode: USB reader for SNES game carts (YouTube video)". Retrieved 21 March 2013.
- Gerrit Coetzee. "USB reader for SNES game carts". Hack a Day. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
- Joshua Topolsky. "SNES USB cartridge adapter should set eBay aflame". Engadget. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
- Jack Loftus. "Geek God Builds DIY Super NES ROM-Creating USB Reader". Gizmodo. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
- Devin Coldewey. "You don't need no ROMs with this USB SNES cartridge reader". TechCrunch. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
- "retrode.com (product website)". Retrode UG. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
- 2, R. (2015). Retrode 2 - Retrode. DragonBox. Retrieved 14 December 2015, from https://www.dragonbox.de/en/71-retrode-2-retrode-4260416650091.html
- Phil Howard. "From Snega2USB To Retrode 2: A Comprehensive History". Gadgetoid. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
- "Retrode 2 Manual" (PDF). Retrieved 21 March 2013.
- Forum.retrode.org,. (2015). Adaptors. Retrieved 14 December 2015, from http://forum.retrode.org/index.php/topic,7