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Varvara PPU on the Playdate
Varvara PPU on the Playdate

The Playdate is a monochromatic handheld console, programmable in C.

A Playdate was donated to Hundred Rabbits by Nate Steiner, our interest in the device was to see if we could turn it into a host machine for Uxn.

The device is the result of a collaboration between Teenage Engineering, a company who makes disposable electronics and Panic, a company who writes proprietary development software for the platform that most aggressively fights against the Right To Repair. Despite that, it's surprisingly easy to open the Playdate and replace its standard 740mAh battery, all is needed is a slotted screwdriver. We did not recieve our pre-sale unit with a disassembly manual nor the tools to open the case. The playdate is lacking select and start buttons, leaving only a d-pad, 2 buttons and a crank.

Why Bother

It's a fair question to ask why we even bother, and if our interest in the device might not inadvertently generate more electronic waste by encouraging others to buy that sort of products. Our documenting the device and its ecosystem is not an endorsement. At this time, the device is still unreleased, the official documentation principally focuses on complex toolchains for Windows and OSX - Our thinking is that by collecting our notes we can help consumers who already own the device, or those who were going to get the device, to take control of their Playdate and find a purpose for it.

Our thinking is that the Playdate Uxn port has no added value in comparison to its other implementations, moreso, it has 2 colors less than the typical Varvara spec. That being said, we also feel like, if something is to be brought into the world, we rather it be a console open by-design such as the Playdate than a closed platform like a gameboy which artificial hurdles that have been created to stop developers from maintaining it through its end-of-life.

Screen 2.7” Sharp Memory LCD
Monochrome memory LCD display
400 x 240 pixel resolution
Default 30fps, maximum 50fps
Memory & Storage 16MB RAM
2GB flash storage
Controls D-pad
2 Buttons
Crank

Setup

The PlayDate documention focuses on building Lua projects using either VS Code or X Code, we will setup a plain C project without relying on an IDE.

You need to install the GNU cross compiler for ARM EABI(bare-metal) to be able to make arm compatible binaries. It should include libnewlib-arm-none-eabi(arm-none-eabi-newlib) which is also needed.

We'll simply use make as opposed to the ninja/cmake toolchain suggested in the official documentation. For an example project, you can have a look at the Uxn Emulator.

WORK IN PROGRESS