The original Gameboy DMG. The pioneer of the Gameboy line of handhelds, and Nintendo’s successor to the Game and Watch series. This device launched in Japan and North America in 1989 and is a source of nostalgia for many.
Although it is an extremely outdated piece of hardware, many can still be found in perfect working condition. If you happen to find one not working, don’t worry! The old technology can be very simple to fix with a soldering iron and a little patience. Make sure you check out my tutorials for walkthroughs on a majority of Gameboy related fixes.
In this article I’m going to discuss the hardware inside the original Gameboy DMG, and do a teardown so you can see how simple it can be to do this work yourself.
Before I begin, I’d like to point out some items I always have on hand when doing tear-downs and part replacements. These aren’t all 100% necessary, but they definitely help make things go smoother!
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This is the Gameboy I’m going to highlight in this article. It’s an original from 1989 with the model number DMG-01 and CPU revision DMG-CPU-02. Note that if your device has a different model or revision number, you can still follow along here as there were only minor changes between models. As you can see this model is in pretty good condition. Only minor yellowing on the shells, slight traces of dirt, and although you can’t see this in the pictures, it is working perfectly.
Let’s start this teardown by separating the front and rear shells. This is done by removing six tri-wing screws (yours may have 6 phillips screws if it is a newer model) on the back of the Gameboy. Once removed, you can flip the shell upwards to reveal a ribbon cable connecting the two halves. Simply pull one side of the ribbon cable to disconnect it.
This is what you should be left with. The back half contains the main motherboard, the power board, and the headphone jack controller board. The front half contains the LCD display board, which blocks the view of the LCD, and the speaker.
Let’s set the rear of the Gameboy aside and tackle the LCD assembly. Remove 10 phillips screws to detach the LCD board from the shell. To remove the board, you may need to apply slight pressure around the edges of the screen to loosen the adhesive. Since this adhesive is about 30 years old, chances are it is dried out by now so you shouldn’t have any issues with it.
Remove the board and you can now see the front containing the LCD panel, the button contacts, and the speaker. You’re also left with the front shell containing the rubber button membranes, buttons, and plastic screen lens. The LCD board in this Gameboy is model DMG-LCD-05. From my research, this was the second last LCD board revision in the Gameboy. It was used for a few years until the Play It Loud series launched, where the LCD board was replaced with the DMG-LCD-06 board.
Now that the front is disassembled, let’s move to the other half. Slightly less screws this time. 4 on the motherboard, and two on the headphone board. Once they are removed you can easily remove the assembly from the shell. You can now inspect the power board, headphone board, and the motherboard. Be careful not to lose the power switch that is still sitting in the top of the rear shell.
On the motherboard you can see all the electronics that are needed to power on the device, and make it function. You’ll notice these are all through hole components. At the time of this handheld release, that was standard. In later Gameboy models (such as the Gameboy Pocket) Nintendo switched to the more advanced, space-saving, surface mount components.
The main components on the motherboard are the CPU, VRAM, and WRAM. This specific model contains the DMG-CPU A which is the first revision of the CPU. Originally the Gameboy was released in Japan with the DMG-CPU, but a few months later Nintendo made a minor revision and named it the DMG-CPU A (more revisions followed throughout its lifespan). The VRAM and WRAM on this board are both Sharp LH5264TN-L chips. These RAM chips are specific to this motherboard revision, and changed periodically depending with the different revisions.
My Gameboy uses the Type A2 power board, and the DMG-JACK-02 headphone board. These are similar to the aforementioned parts as they were also used with this specific motherboard, and were swapped out with newer revisions throughout the life of the Gameboy.
Hopefully now you have a better understanding of what the internals of the original Gameboy DMG looks like. From here, you can clean up your old handheld, swap the shell for a new look, or go more in-depth and replace the outdated parts with newer alternatives.
For this specific Gameboy, I plan to completely replace it’s parts with brand new ones. The original 160 x 144 pixel LCD display will be swapped with a new IPS display with 8 RGB color palette choices. The single .5 watt speaker will be replaced with an amplifier powering a larger 1 watt speaker. The 4 AA batteries will be removed and an 11.1 watt USB-C rechargeable battery will be used instead. All that, along with some other TLC and a shell swap, are sure to make this a device I can use for years to come!