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Open Console

{ Open consoles are how I got into suckless programming, they taught me about the low-level, optimizations and how to actually program efficiently on very limited hardware. I recommend you grab one of these. ~drummyfish }

Open consoles (also indie handhelds etc.) are tiny GameBoy-like gaming consoles mostly powered by free software and free hardware, which have relatively recently (some time after 2015) seen a small boom. Examples include Arduboy, Pokitto or Gamebuino. These are NOT to be confused with the Raspberry Pi (and similar) handhelds that run GameBoy/PS1/DOS emulators but rather custom, mostly FOSS platforms running mostly their own community made homebrew games.

In summary, open consoles are:

Recommended consoles for starters are Arduboy and Pokitto which are not only very well designed, but most importantly have actual friendly active communities.

These nice little toys are great because they are anti-modern, simple, out of the toxic mainstream, like the oldschool bullshit-free computers. This supports (and by the low specs kind of "forces") suckless programming and brings the programmer the joy of programming (no headaches of resizable windows, multithreading etc., just plain programming of simple things with direct access to hardware). They offer an alternative ISA, a non-x86 platform without botnet and bloat usable for any purpose, not just games. Besides that, this hobby teaches low level, efficiency-focused programming skills.


Open consoles can typically be programmed without proprietary software (though officially they may promote something involving proprietary software), GNU/Linux mostly works just fine (sometimes it requires a bit of extra work but not much). Most of the consoles are Arduino-based so the Arduino IDE is the official development tool with C++ as a language (C being thankfully an option as well). The IDE is "open-source" but also bloat; thankfully CLI development workflow can be set up without greater issues (Arduino comes with CLI tools and for other platforms gcc cross-compiler can be used) so comfy programming with vim is nicely possible.

If normies can do it, you can do it too.

Some consoles (e.g. Arduboy, Pokitto and Gamebuino META) have their own emulators which make the development much easier... or rather bearable. Without an emulator you're forced to constantly reupload the program to the real hardware which is a pain, so you want to either use a nice LRS library such as SAF or write your game to be platform-independent and just make it run on your development PC as well as on the console (just abstract the I/O and use SDL for the PC and the console's library for the console -- see how Anarch does it).

Open Console List

Some notable open consoles (which fit the definition at least loosely) are listed here. Symbol meaning:

name CPU RAM (K) ROM (K) display notes
Arduboy 8b 16 MHz 2.5 32 64x32 1b * A C +, tiny
Gamebuino 8b 16 MHz 2 32 84x48 1b + A -, SD
Pokitto 32b 48 MHz 36 256 220x176 * C +, ext. hats, SD
ESPboy 32b 160 MHz 80 4000 128x128 A
GB META 32b 48 MHz 32 256 168x120 A + -, SD
Nibble 32b 160 MHz 80 4000 128x128 A, AAA bat.
Tiny Arcade

TODO: Retro Game Tiny, Adafruit PyGamer, ... see also https://github.com/ESPboy-edu/awesome-indie-handhelds

See Also

All content available under CC0 1.0 (public domain). Send comments and corrections to drummyfish at disroot dot org.