Print Your Own Games

Nintendo’s eReader, an optical card reader developed by Olympus using their “Dot Code” technology, is a small add-on for GBA users. Players can scan (hideously overpriced) trading cards into their GBA to play games and unlock extras. Each card has a dot code printed on it that stores a couple of kilobytes of code – that code can be an emulation of an early Game and Watch title, or it can even be a smart new umbrella for your Animal Crossing character.

Cards are the same shape and size as standard playing cards (though without the naked ladies on the back) and are available in packs of five or so based on popular Nintendo franchises: Animal Crossing and Pokémon unlock or upload new aspects to the games, or you can even upload the classic Donkey Kong 3 to your GameBoy Advance.

The dot codes use Reed Solomon error correction and now that the scheme has been worked out, homebrew coders can finally write their own games for easy distribution to GBA owners. Tim Schuerewegen cracked the code and is hosting an original game – BombSweeper. Coders interested in writing for the GBA can even use GNU GCC to compile code – plus the API for the GameBoy Advance is very well documented.

The eReader has been modestly successful, but never set the world alight. In fact, support for it seems to have been quietly dropped. Try plugging one into your GBA SP and you’ll see what I mean – it no longer fits. The link port on a SP is now on the opposite side of the console, so the eReader can’t slide fully into the cartridge slot.

Tim Schuerewegen’s page on the GBA

The eReader file format

Official eReader home page

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?