Matthias Hullin
Liesbet-Dill-Str. 14
D-66125 Saarbrücken

The Retrode firmware is based on the LUFA library by Dean Camera (license).


General questions


General questions

What is the Retrode?

The Retrode is a USB interface for vintage video game cartridges and controllers. Technically speaking, it wraps whatever memory chips there are on the cartridge into virtual files on a USB drive, and makes the gamepads appear as USB HID-class controllers.

Isn’t that essentially the same as an emulator?

The Retrode is not an emulator. An emulator is a piece of software that runs the program code (“ROM”) contained on the cartridge. The Retrode is an interface that allows emulators to load the ROM from the cartridge.

Can I use the Retrode to change the ROM on my cartridges?

“ROM” stands for Read Only Memory, hence: no. The games on standard game carts can be read, but not replaced (unless you replace the entire ROM chip). You can change the savegames (SRAM) on many cartridges, though.

Can I use the Retrode to dump ROMs and put them on the internet?

Yes, but we don’t think you should. First, you’d probably violate someone’s copyright, which is illegal pretty much everywhere on this planet. Second, there are already zillions of illegal ROM repositories out there, so why bother. The Retrode is not for pirates – it’s for retro enthusiasts who want to keep enjoying their own original games.

I hear you keep on developing new features. If I get a Retrode now, will it soon be outdated?

Not at all. The Retrode system offers plenty of room for new features. The plug-in system in combination with firmware updates guarantees that you will enjoy the device for a long time.

Why do I want a Retrode?

Let’s see. Maybe because you like playing those sweet classic video games on your computer, and doing so legally. Or because you noticed that your 20-year-old cartridge batteries are starting to die, and you want to back up your precious game saves before you replace the battery. Maybe you like the convenience of emulator cheats, but prefer to finish the boss on the real console. Or, you simply think it’s cool to plug huge game cartridges into a PDA or cell phone. If you’re like us, it will be all of the above :)

General questions

What system do I need to use the Retrode?

Anything with a USB host port that runs a modern operating system (Linux, Mac OS X, Windows, you name it). If it recognizes standard USB mass storage drives and game controllers, and there exists an emulator of your favorite console for it, you’re good to go with the Retrode.

Why all the cartridge cleaning?

Well, because your average 16-bit cartridge is, like, 20 years old, and if you have never cleaned it, we promise you there will be muck on the card edge contacts. When you put dirty carts into the original console, the game may seem to play okay at first, but freeze at some later point. Unlike the console, your emulator loads the entire ROM chip into memory, and likely also performs a checksum test before you can start playing. Therefore, if you clean your carts well, and the checksum was tested to be correct, you can be sure the dump is good.

Does the Retrode support fancy accessories (cartridge adapters such as the Super Game Boy or 32X, multitap adapters, light guns, etc)??

The controller ports on the Retrode are implemented to support standard SNES and Sega (3- and 6-button) gamepads. Any other accessories are extremely unlikely to work, so please don’t try and end up breaking something. One exception: the SNES mouse is supported on the left port.

As far as cartridge adapters are concerned, only the Sega 32X (without power supply) has been confirmed to work. Super Game Boy, the RetroPort series, etc. don’t work since they contain a full console and don’t pass the cartridge data through to the Retrode.

What about games with co-processor chips (Super-FX, DSPx, etc)?

Depends. Nintendo’s Super FX and DSP1, for instance, simply offer additional processing capability that is included in most emulators. Such Others, such as Nintendo’s SA-1 and S-DD1 and Sega’s Virtua Processor, sit between console and ROM/RAM chips and act as sort of a copy protection mechanism. Game cartridges featuring these chips are currently not supported.

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