Benjamin Heckendorn

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Benjamin Heckendorn
Benjamin Heckendorn.JPG
Heckendorn at Midwest Gaming Classic 2007
Born (1975-10-19) October 19, 1975 (age 46)

Benjamin J. Heckendorn (born October 19, 1975) is an American console modder and Computer engineer. He is better known as Ben Heck on the Internet. Heckendorn is also an independent filmmaker and he was the star of element14's The Ben Heck Show, a popular online series, until leaving the show in late 2018.

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] In 2015 he restored the only known surviving Sony/Nintendo Play Station prototype console, the Super NES CD-ROM.[5][6]



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. He has also 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, bringing him to further prominence.
  • A one-handed Xbox 360 controller was built for a serviceman injured in Iraq.
  • 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 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.[4]

Xbox One[edit]

  • Heckendorn has modified an Xbox One console into a portable.


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


  • 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. When a cartridge slot was added, it gained the ability to play most Sega Genesis games


  • The SNK Neo Geo MVS Portable was built around an MV-1C motherboard from 1999.


Heckendorn has made three Sony portables, a "laptop" version of the PS3 based on the Slim version, and 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 [7]

Combo systems[edit]

Heckendorn has made four combo system to date.

  • Atari 2600 / PS2 Combo Unit: It
  • NEStari: His first portable combo system. The system was an NES and an Atari 2600 combo.
  • Ultimate Combo System: It was an Xbox 360, a PlayStation 3, and a Wii U in a custom case.
  • Colecovision/Sega Master System combo with mention of adding MSX capabilities.


  • Bill Paxton - Heckendorn built most of this from scratch, CNC-ing the cabinet himself and even using a piece of channel for the lockdown bar. The dot matrix display was soldered by hand, and is less dots than a standard DMD display (128 x 32). Most of the playfield components were used early Bally parts, including the ball trough that was modified for multiball similar to what Gottlieb did by adding a solenoid and a hook to hold balls back. Overall, the theme focused on films and television series in which Bill Paxton appeared, including True Lies, U-571, Titanic, Apollo 13, Aliens, and Big Love. Heckendorn eventually decided it was taking up space, so he offered it up for sale on Pinside. Lloyd from SS Billiards ended up buying it so it can be played on location.
  • Lost - This was Heckendorn's second title, which switched to an LCD display. Because of ball hangups, ultimately this design was dismantled (destroyed) and parts used for the next project.
  • America's Most Haunted - Originally called Ghost Squad, which can still be heard during multiball, this was the first design that ended up being made commercially. The reason for the name change was because there is a Sega arcade shooter with the same name. This theme is loosely based on an episode of The Ben Heck Show which was a parody of the typical ghost hunting reality show. Chuck Emery teamed up with Heckendorn, and because AMH was further along than his own design, this would be the first title to be built by his new company.

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 starred 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.[8] 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.[9][10][11]

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.[12][13]

It was announced during an interview with an Element14 Community member that Ben would be leaving The Ben Heck Show after June 2018.[14] The Ben Heck Show was replaced with Element14 presents, a similar show featuring a new cast of hosts.


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-01-25. Retrieved 2018-11-05.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-07-18. Retrieved 2008-07-27.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Topic: BenHeck articles on Engadget".
  4. ^ a b Ben Heck interviewed on the TV show Triangulation on the network
  5. ^ "Hacker Makes the 'Nintendo PlayStation' Fully Operational". 5 May 2017.
  6. ^ Good, Owen S. (May 6, 2017). "The 'Nintendo Play Station' is working, thanks to Ben Heck". Polygon. Retrieved February 14, 2020.
  7. ^
  8. ^ ""The Ben Heck Show" on element14 Marks 10 Million Episode Views With Coin-Operated Tabletop Arcade Build". Premier Farnell. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
  9. ^ Alexis Santos (30 July 2013). "Bicycle turn signals get the Ben Heck mod treatment (video)". Engadget. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Dougal Shaw (12 September 2014). "Ben Heck: How I miniaturised the ZX Spectrum". BBC TV. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  12. ^ "Updates in store for Maker Faire Detroit in Dearborn". Dearborn Press & Guide. 2 April 2015. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ The Ben Heck Show (2018-02-07), A Conversation with Ben Heck, retrieved 2018-02-07

External links[edit]