Raspberry Pi Pico Handheld Emulates ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64

Raspberry Pi Zero-powered Retro Gaming Emulator
(Image credit: @bobricius)

Raspberry Pi computers, even the diminutive Raspberry Pi Zero, have long been used as emulators. Thanks to software like RetroPie (see how to install RetroPie on a Raspberry Pi), you can run games and apps from old computers dating back to the 1970s and 80s.

Unlike other Raspberry Pi SBCs, which run Linux on chips that are at least 1 GHz (often 2.5 GHz), the Raspberry Pi Pico is a relatively simple microcontroller that has no OS on its 133 MHz dual-core RP2040 processor. Nevertheless, since the Pico came out in January, we've seen it used for some impressive emulation projects, including one which turns the $4 board into a Nintendo NES

Now, Twitter user @bobricius has developed a custom PCB which attaches to a Raspberry Pi Pico and turns it into a ZX Spectrum / Commodore 64, complete with a built-in game pad.  A project called M.CU.M.E (Multi CompUter Machine Emulator) is the heart of this build, and it is used as the software layer for running the old applications.

The SBC features both a controller and a built-in LCD display. The controller is wired directly to the Raspberry Pi Pico and has a separate piece of buttons for movement, and a few to control the in-game happenings.

In addition to having an embedded display, you can connect this entire setup to an external monitor, which the project aims to power by the addition of a VGA connector. As demonstrated below, you can see the project outputting video to the monitor and actually playing some of the games.

While this doesn't represent a commercial project that will make it into production, it is just a fun and creative way to use the Raspberry Pi Pico platform to revive the 80s gaming experience and get back to where it all started.