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©2006-2009 taizou.
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The Console

(click for hi-res versions)

Other than its superficial appearance, the Gamate is quite similar to the original Game Boy, and indeed the Supervision - it has A, B, Start and Select buttons and a D-pad, contrast and volume wheels, an "ext" port (I believe a link cable was released, but it's pretty rare - it looks like it'd be fairly easy to whip one up, though), a mono speaker with stereo available via headphones, a 6v AC adapter port, and it takes four AA batteries. The screen is a 4-shade LCD type thing, resolution approximately the same as the Game Boy (give or take a few pixels), and it's prone to motion blur. Just like the Game Boy. The sound tends to distort at low levels, but that's probably just down to a cheap speaker - the Supervision suffers from the same problem, and it even happens on the DS to some extent (in certain GBA games, at least).

Internally, though, I have no idea, even after having opened one and had a look (although not as thoroughly as these guys). It's almost certainly quite similar to the Game Boy (again), but I don't have any specifications beyond the spectacularly vague ones listed in the Italian manual. Oh, except that it apparently has 2x8KB RAM, but I suspect one lot is the video RAM. Like the... oh go on, guess.

The Box, and contents thereof

(click for hi-res versions)

The one box I have is the Italian version (distributed by Gig, hence the logos) - in addition to the console itself, it contains the (brief) manual, a copy of Brick Blaster (seems like a common pack-in), some headphones that look like something has been eating them, and a deposit of some brown substance where the included batteries used to be. I wonder if they were Bit Corp batteries. Probably not.

(oh and I found the English version on eBay, it's mostly identical - there's also a German "Uranium" version which isn't)

The Case Variations

There exist a few different variations of the Gamate hardware; externally most of those I've seen are identical to the one pictured above, but there's also another case version out there (pics from ebay) - as you can see, it's most certainly different! in many ways. Mostly insignificant ways, like button recesses, D-pad style and the location of the speaker, but different nonetheless, for reasons I can't even begin to understand. I don't own one of these and I've never heard from someone who does, and I have no idea if it's an older or newer version than the more common one (although the common one being G1002 would probably indicate something came before it), it's just... different. Interestingly though this is the version depicted in Bit's US patent for the system's housing, in which it appears upside down.

There was also a version released in Taiwan with the English name at the top of the screen and the Chinese at the bottom, but it seems to be otherwise the same. Looks like this and the box looks like this, which is a fair bit awesomer than the European version, as far as I'm concerned. (pics from yahoo). I also found this on Ruten, which appears to show another Taiwanese box variation (probably from the UMC era), along with a manual/warranty card(?) of some sort, some games and a Gamate still in its original wrapping (complete with screen protector). Some gamates sold in Taiwan seem to have the English logos only, but they all usually have text moulded into the back where there would be a sticker on the international model, for some reason.

The Internal Variations

Internally, there are at least a couple more variations to be found - perhaps the most noticeable is the screen. Basically the Gamate seems to have had two different types of LCD screen used throughout its lifespan; one is somewhat better than the other, in as much as it actually allows you to see projectiles and such, although it still isn't great. The easiest way to tell which one you have is by turning the Gamate on without a game in - the "bad" one displays horizontal lines while the "good" one displays a slightly corrupted checkerboard pattern. which you can see above (bad left, good right). and i quote: "you should also find significant differences in the circuitry on the back screen(s). the lower quality version has several small black cylinders (capacitors?) and 4 (i think) chips of equal size. the better one lacks the little gizmos and has 3 chips, with one somewhat larger than the other two." (i haven't yet verified this on my own consoles because i'm quite lazy, but it certainly seems to be the case)

(click for hi-res versions)

Then there's the chipset; it appears that some Gamates have a large UMC chip only where others have a large NCR (interestingly labelled BIT WS39323F; perhaps a custom chip produced for Bit Corp, not just an off-the-shelf part?) and a smaller UMC, although everything else is much the same. (the two identical chips at the top seem to come from any number of different manufacturers, I suppose they'd be the RAM)

Jonathan Lux has compiled a list of all known Gamate serial numbers with their corresponding hardware types, where known, and I've updated with details of my own Gamates - it goes like this: (all are the more common case version)

Serial ChipsetScreen
9001475 ? ?
9001495 UMC worse
9008927 ? worse
9019279 UMC worse
9103136 NCR BITbetter
9110706 ? worse
9112374 ? ?
9118923 ? better
9124315 NCR BITbetter
9132931 ? better
9136591 NCR BITworse
9161276 ? ?
9317422 ? worse

So it appears that, at least preliminarily, Gamates with an earlier serial number have the large UMC chip only, while those with a later serial number have the BIT/NCR large chip and the small UMC one. This seems to correspond to serial numbers beginning with 90 and 91 respectively, although I don't have enough data to say for sure if this does actually represent a revision number (it could equally just be the year of manufacture). BUT in any case the serial number seems to have no bearing on the screen type - probably they were using two different suppliers of LCDs at the same time, Nintendo did the same with the original DS IIRC so it wouldn't be too unusual.

on a final note (no pun intended ever i swear) i'm not currently sure about variations in the console's speaker; the "90" version certainly has a different looking one, but the better-screen version always seemed to sound better to me. although it might just be because that gamate is in the best condition of my three, and the other two are just a bit knackered. but whichever version you have, headphones are always about 100,000,000 times better, so use them. yes.

The Second Generation and the Colour Version

Rumours persist of a colour Gamate being exhibited, and even released in Mexico and Asia, but I've never seen one. Must be rare as hell, if it exists (which it probably doesn't).

I also once came across a post on a Chinese forum (one of those willy-waving collection list sort of things) in which the guy claims to own a "GAMATE Second generation machine (white case)", but I have no idea if this is the elusive colour version, a minor GB-Pocket style update, or just the same old Gamate in a different colour.

The Game Cards

(click for hi-res versions)

The games come on cards, much like PC Engine games and stuff like that (in fact, they have the same number and layout of pins as MSX Soft Cards, for what it's worth). They're the same size as a credit card, albeit somewhat thicker, so you can use your wallet as an impromptu gamate game storage case should you so desire. On the back there are notes warning against things like touching the "golden finger", which is always good advice, really.

(click for hi-res versions)

As with HuCards and other cards of this type, the actual PCB doesn't take up anywhere near the full length of the thing - it's only under the black bit above the connectors (the rest of the card is just solid plastic). Brick Blaster's (shown above) just has a couple of small epoxy-covered chips on it, presumably others are the same but I'm not about to crack another one open just to prove a point.