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This original video game console features a VFD

Arduino TeamFebruary 21st, 2023

VFDs (vacuum fluorescent displays) were common a few decades ago and have a nice, distinct glow that many find appealing. But like Nixie tubes and CRTs, VFDs have are outdated and almost obsolete at this point. They can’t come close to matching the price or functionality of modern LCD and OLED screens, but they still have a lot of charm. Simon Boak harnessed that charm when he built this custom video game console that features a VFD.

This console is 100% custom and looks fantastic. It has two parts: the display and the controller. Both have enclosures made of formed sheet metal and wooden side panels, which enhance the retro aesthetic. Users can run Conway’s Game of Life, play a snake game, watch a snow animation, or draw within a painting program. If the user wants to keep their art, they can save it to EEPROM for later viewing.

Boak originally planned to build this as a custom 6502 machine and program everything in Assembly, but realized that that plan was a bit too ambitious. Instead, he built this console around an Arduino Nano board. The screen is a Noritake Itron Gu20x8, which can display three different colors across the 20×8 grid of pixels. The controller uses an array of push buttons and there is a piezo buzzer for sound effects.

While the current game/program selection is limited, Boak now has a console for which he can develop as many games as he likes.