Benjamin Heckendorn

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Benjamin J. Heckendorn
Benjamin Heckendorn.JPG
Benjamin Heckendorn at Midwest Gaming Classic 2007
Born (1975-10-19) October 19, 1975 (age 40)
Richland Center, Wisconsin
Residence Verona, Wisconsin, U.S.

Benjamin J. Heckendorn (born October 19, 1975) is an American console modder and Internet celebrity. He is better known as "Ben Heck" on the Internet. Heckendorn is also an independent filmmaker and star of element14's The Ben Heck Show, a popular online TV program.

He has two podcasts, one which he runs with the help of a friend, Jason Jones,[1] and the other on Warpath.TV with George Force, Mike Zucker, and Anthony Carboni.[2]

Most of Heckendorn's mods are done by taking apart old video game consoles such as the Atari 2600 and Nintendo Entertainment System. He then reconfigures internal printed circuit board (PCB) into a smaller form factor. The newly configured circuit board is enclosed within a custom case (done by a CNC machine) and any peripherals are assembled by Heckendorn.

His creations have been featured in such publications as Wired, Popular Science, and Maxim, and on television shows such as The Screen Savers, Attack of the Show!, and X-Play. His mods are also commonly presented on popular blogs such as Engadget.[3]


He had an interest in electronic and video games as a child, as a young man in film-making and in later life while working as a graphic artist he made a GeoCities site covering his project to make a portable Atari 2600, this led to an appearance in 2004 on The Screen Savers (following the temporary injury of the normal maker Yoshi) and then to a book deal and requests for custom electronics creations to YouTube videos in 2010.[4]



Heckendorn has created a line of portable Atari systems, almost always using some form of Atari 2600 board cut up into a smaller PCB. The only exception is the Atari Jaguar "64-Bit" Portable and the Atari 800 laptop.

  • Original VCSp: Ben's first portable project.
  • Revisions 1-7: After "it all" was started these units came next.
  • VCSp Special Edition: An all-oak VCSp.
  • Vagabond 2003: A special unit made to be small.
  • Vagabond 2000: A special unit made even smaller.
  • Atari Jaguar "64-Bit" Portable: Ben's newest Atari portable. The Jaguar is also the newest Atari video game system he made into a portable.
  • Atari 800 Laptops: He has turned two Atari 800 computers into laptops.

Xbox 360[edit]

  • An Xbox 360 was modded so as to have a form factor similar to that of a portable laptop computer. Ben had been very used to modest popularity on the internet until the Xbox 360 laptop was revealed, skyrocketing his publicity for an extended period of time. The Xbox 360 laptop caused such a massive flood of traffic to his website that for a time caused it to crash until he acquired unlimited bandwidth from his provider.
  • A one-handed Xbox 360 controller was built for a serviceman injured in Iraq. The Y, B, X, A, and trigger buttons are on the underside of the controller. The right bumper was moved vertically, opposite to the left bumper. The right analog stick was also moved to the underside, reversed wired, and elongated, so that when the right analog stick is tilted on the leg it works the way it supposed to. The left analog stick and left bumper were not moved.
  • He has revised the Xbox Laptop five times, his fifth revision being a modified Xbox Slim.
  • He made an Xbox 360 controller out of a Standard Xbox Controller. He called it the Xbox 360 “Duke” Controller. The black and white buttons were wired to be the left and right bumpers. He also added a guide button and sync button. The batteries go where the memory card slots were on the top of the controller.
  • He has made another one-handed Access Controller with modular ministicks and buttons. Originally designed for PC, PS2 and PS3, it will now work with Xbox 360 through an adapter. The modular aspect allows the user to freely switch the location of the sticks, digipad and buttons. He continues to make this item commercially.[4]

Xbox One[edit]

  • Heckendorn has modified an Xbox One console into a portable. Since many other modders had done laptop versions before him, he decided to go with the form factor of a tablet for his build.


Heckendorn has created five (3 NESp's) Nintendo portables:

  • NESp: A portable version of the NES, it uses a "NES-on-a-chip" and is quite small.
  • SNESp: Built in 2001, it is the portable version of the SNES.
  • N64p: Portable Nintendo 64
  • Several portable NES projects using the NES-on-a-chip hardware, the most notable being the NES micro, made to parody the unnecessarily small Game Boy Micro and the nPod, a project that Ben had plans to make in large numbers and sell.
  • Wii Laptop: Ben is done with the Wii Laptop. A making-of is posted on Engadget.[5] A video is posted here.
  • An Automatic Loading Cartridge Slot For A NES.


  • The MGDp: a fully functional PC built into an antique MGD beer case(18 pack).


  • Heckendorn has made a Sega Genesis portable called the Sega Exodus. It started life as a Radica Genesis collection DTV unit. However, its on-board composite video output and low power requirements made it the perfect candidate for a handheld. When a cartridge slot was added, it gained the ability to play most Sega Genesis games (however it is incompatible with Sonic & Knuckles, the Sega 32X, and other Genesis add-on cartridges, a limitation caused by the re-designed hardware in the Radica DTV).
  • On episode 11 of The Ben Heck Show, Ben built a portable Sega CDX.[6]
  • He spent three episodes of The Ben Heck Show modifying a Sega Dreamcast system into a portable form factor.


  • The SNK Neo Geo MVS Portable was built around an MV-1C motherboard from 1999. For a screen, it uses the Sony PSone screen wired for RGB Video. The board was set up with an updated BIOS and a pair of wires to get stereo sound. Everything is mounted in a CNC cut case made of acrylic plastic.
  • The SNK Neo-Geo Arcade cabinet.[citation needed].
  • The Neo Geo MVS console: Uses standard Neo Geo controllers to play all your favorite MVS games on your TV.


Heckendorn has made three Sony portables:

  • PSp: A portable PlayStation. (This project predates the PlayStation Portable or "PSP.")[7]
  • PS2p: A portable PlayStation 2.
  • PS3p: A portable PlayStation 3.
  • A "laptop" version of the PS3 based on the Slim version.
  • He made a "PS360" controller, which is a PlayStation 3 controller built into an Xbox 360 controller's shell.


  • Apple IIGS Laptop: It is a laptop made from an original Apple IIGS motherboard, with added RAM and a CompactFlash interface.
  • Apple One Replica Laptop is A Custom Made Replica Of The Apple One


  • A Commodore 64 (C model for its smaller motherboard) modded into a portable laptop computer with an SD drive taking the place of the disk drive (not to be confused with the SX-64). Ben Heck's portable C-64 being much cooler (and more useful to commodore fans). See [8]

Combo systems[edit]

Heckendorn has made three combo system to date.

  • Atari 2600 / PS2 Combo Unit: It was a PlayStation 2 and an Atari 2600 all together in an Atari 2600 case. The system was not a portable unlike most of his game system mods. The case had to be modified and the cartridge slot was redone to allow more space in side the case. The Atari's controller ports were moved to the back of the unit. The PS2 controller and memory card ports were also on the back of the unit. The switches on the console were modified to perform various tasks that had to do with both systems in the unit.
  • NEStari: His first portable combo system. The system was an NES and an Atari 2600 combo. Ben used both a NES-on-a-chip and an Atari 2600-on-a-chip hardware instead of whole systems (due to size it had to be made to be a portable). The Atari 2600-on-a-chip came from an Atari Flashback 2 system. The NES and the Atari 2600 use the same buttons except for the A button which is not used by the Atari 2600 hardware. A video of the NEStari in action is available for download here.
  • Ultimate Combo System: It was an Xbox 360, a PS3, and a Wii U all together in a case custom built by Heckendorn himself.

Hacking video game consoles[edit]

In February 2005, Heckendorn released his book Hacking Video Game Consoles, published by Wiley Publishing Inc. and printed under their ExtremeTech line. It contains step by step instructions for creating two Atari 2600 portables, two NES portables, two SNES portables, and two PlayStation portables, each in hand-built and CNC-cut designs.

Podcast website[edit]

On December 13, 2006, Heckendorn started, a website for storing all of his podcasts. In addition, posts are made detailing all the projects he is currently working and the projects he has worked on in the past.

Heckendorn's other podcast is entitled Sonic Boom, and is available on the Warpath.TV digital network. This podcast is no longer in production.


Heckendorn is also an amateur film maker. He has completed 6 Films since 1995, including his comedic love story, Port Washington, released in 2006. His most recent movie, released on October 31, 2008 was entitled Possumus Woman, and is the sequel to his 1995 film, Possumus Man. All of his films have been released independently.

Year Film
1995 Possumus Man
1996 Adventure!
1999 The Adventurous
2000 The Lizard of Death
2006 Port Washington
2008 Possumus Woman

The Ben Heck Show[edit]

Ben Heck is the main attraction in a weekly online TV program called element14's The Ben Heck Show, hosted on YouTube and the element14 Community. As of June 2016, the show had recorded more than 33 million views worldwide.[9] A typical episode has Ben creating a new product or hacking existing devices, such as an Xbox, for different uses, sometimes based on viewers' suggestions.[10][11][12]

As the host of element14's The Ben Heck Show, Heckendorn has made celebrity appearances as an attendee or judge at numerous industry events and competitions, including Maker Faire Detroit and Engadget Expand.[13][14]


  1. ^
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  3. ^
  4. ^ a b Ben Heck interviewed on the TV show Triangulation on the network
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  9. ^ ""The Ben Heck Show" on element14 Marks 10 Million Episode Views With Coin-Operated Tabletop Arcade Build". Premier Farnell. Retrieved 14 October 2013. 
  10. ^ Alexis Santos (30 July 2013). "Bicycle turn signals get the Ben Heck mod treatment (video)". Engadget. Retrieved 14 October 2013. 
  11. ^ Nicole Lee (12 March 2013). "Ben Heck combines PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii U into one console to rule them all (video)". Engadget. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  12. ^ Dougal Shaw (12 September 2014). "Ben Heck: How I miniaturised the ZX Spectrum". BBC TV. Retrieved 26 April 2015. 
  13. ^ "Updates in store for Maker Faire Detroit in Dearborn". Dearborn Press & Guide. 2 April 2015. Retrieved 26 April 2015. 
  14. ^ Michael Gorman (26 September 2013). "Meet the judges for Expand NY's Insert Coin competition: Ryan Block, Ben Heck, Hilary Mason and Peter Rojas". Engadget. Retrieved 26 April 2015. 

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