Pong in a bottle


The kit, bought for £9.99 at Menkind.

In which I put a Haynes “retro game” into my recycling. Annoyingly, they’re currently sold out here but at least you can have a look at what the project was supposed to look like. Amazon and Waterstones do them, but at full price.


Plastic bottle for scale vs original box.

I’m not one for following instructions, and I’m rapidly running out of room to store all the projects I make, so one look at the box and the sheer amount of space inside that wasn’t being used, and I decided to downsize it. Given a choice of a jar, can, cereal box, or a plastic bottle, the bottle seemed easiest to use, although that turned out to be a bit of a mistake. See later.


The original kit.

So, step one, lay out the components and work out how they’ll fit. The original kit has a coin slot to start the game, but given the space constraints I changed it to a tactile switch. All it needs to do is send a signal to start the game, so I soldered two legs of it (the other two are essentially duplicates) to the points that would have had the coin detector (two bent bits of wire). Soldered all the rest as per the instruction booklet, having remembered to tin my soldering iron, unlike last time when I apparently made some duff joints.  It was straightforward, although I might have to get one of those third arm things.


Testing it all works.

Step two, test it. Worked fine straight off, so yay and woo!

Step three, make holes in the bottle to fit the controls through. I had initially planned on cutting a hole for the LED display to sit in, but once I figured that they were bright enough to show through the bottle I changed my mind. However, I’d already cut the hole so I lined up the battery holder with that on the back so there’s an easy way to change the batteries without having to take it all apart.

Making holes in thick plastic is harder than it sounds. I used an awl and scissors. Great mess and wonkiness. I tried my Dremel. Nope. Just melted the plastic and coated the tip. Power drill. This worked the best, but left scuffy bits of plastic hanging off. I got rid of them with some nail clippers (choice of tools limited to what I have) and FINALLY it was ready. In all the hassle, I forgot to take any photos.


Now, I do not have very small hands. Or even small hands. I have giant hands, which although great for spanning more than an octave on a piano, are terrible for fiddly jobs. Still managed to wedge the controls through, and only snapped one tactile switch cap in the process (a success for me).

All that was left to do was to put the caps on the potentiometers that serve as the controls, and then test it in-bottle. There was a squee.


SOME TECH BITS (mostly thanks to google)

If you’re interested, the board has an ATmega8 controller , two shift registers, the LEDs are laid out in a 10 x 12 matrix, and it runs for approximately 10 hours on 3 x AA batteries (4.5v). The linear potentiometers are 10kΩ.


The board, up close.

The board also has an unused set of 8 ports, and a 6 pole ISP connection that you could use to reprogram it.