#2008-02-16: swankmania

My favorite school project.

swankmania logo. BLiT logo.

swankmania was a neat one semester project I did in the Fall of 2007. It was a portable gaming device featuring a liquid crystal display (LCD), vector graphics, and a vintage controller. As I needed to demonstrate the capabilities of swankmania, I also designed BLiT, a small game in the vein of Asteroids.

The most interesting and challenging aspect of swankmania was designing the vector graphics controller. This component is responsible for receiving model vertices, color, mode, and other information and rasterizing their representations on the LCD using a double buffered frame. As the throughput needed to update the LCD many times a second was great, I developed the mechanism on a field programmable gate array (FPGA) using synchronous and asynchronous elements. Since there was only room for one frame on the FPGA, I also interfaced with external RAM for the second frame. For line drawing, I implemented a variation of the well known Bresenham algorithm in hardware.

Design on the FPGA incorporated multiple clock domains for the LCD controller, rasterizer, and communications buffer. At completion, the device was capable of updating every pixel on the 240 x 160 screen about 30 times over without missing a frame at 72 frames per second.

BLiT was a very simple Asteroids-like game that demonstrated some of the neat lossless aspects of vector graphics like scaling and rotation. I wrote BLiT mostly in C on a microcontroller that interfaced with the vector graphics controller and an old input controller from the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Special thanks goes to Christopher Theriault for designing the LCD printed circuit board (PCB), Mike Anderson for rendering tips and miscellanies, Cesar Carrasco for soldering components to the LCD PCB, and Todd Seiler for miscellanies.

Here's some photos of the project:

Start up screen featuring the school logo as a bitmap. BLiT screenshot. BLiT screenshot. Photograph of all of the hardware.

Addendum (2022-09-23): swankmania, the physical, one-of-a-kind hodgepodge was stolen in transit from a college fair circa 2009. My computer containing all of swankmania's software sources and related materials, as well as my up-to-then life's work, was also stolen in a burglary in June, 2011 leaving nothing but these short notes. However, Chris Clark, a dear classmate one year my junior, saved some snapshot of swankmania I had given him and generously returned the favor on December 8th, 2012. I've since shared these sources on GitHub, such as they are.