Game Boy Advance

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A handheld video game console from Nintendo. This successor to the popular Game Boy can run most legacy GB software (that is, software developed for Game Boy and Game Boy Color machines) and new software developed for the more advanced capabilities of the system. It has hardware support for simple 2D operations using graphical elements called sprites. It can scale, rotate and sum-blend (but not alpha-blend) sprites, and it can change the scaling and rotation of sprites and the background on each scanline to give a pseudo-3D effect.

It has a custom 32-bit 16Mhz ARM processor based on a RISC architecture, which is much more compatible with the C programming language than the 8-bit Z80 compatible processor used in older Game Boy models. The ARM processor can run both 32-bit ARM and 16-bit Thumb instructions. The system also contains an 8Mhz Z80 compatible processor to provide support for legacy GB software; however, both processors cannot be active at the same time.

The LCD display is capable of a maximum of 240x160 pixels in 15 bit color (32768 colors). This display includes more pixels than Game Boy's 160x144; when playing legacy games, the user can press the L or R button to switch the display between 160x144 with a black border and scaling to 240x144 pixels.

The interface from the GBA unit to the ROM cartridge includes only a 24-bit address bus multiplexed with a 16-bit data bus, limiting the directly addressable memory to 16 megawords (that is, 256 megabits or 32 megabytes), but bankswitching hardware on the cartridge can extend this by controlling the ROM's upper address lines from software, effectively switching other parts of the ROM into the GBA's address space.

The GBA also has a serial port for connecting to other GBA units in a setup similar to a token ring network over a bus physical topology. In single-cartridge multiplayer play, a GBA can also netboot up to three other GBA units, where the machine with the cartridge sends up to a 256 KB executable image to the internal RAM of the other machines. The serial port can (with a suitable cable) also connect to a standard RS-232 serial port for debugging purposes and (hypothetically) Internet play, although a TCP/IP stack has yet to be implemented on the GBA.


Titles released by Nintendo licensees include the following:

Hardware is readily available for moving user code onto GBA hardware. For example, as of December 2001, flash memory cartridge writing hardware can be had for less than $200 US, and a $50 device emulates a netbooting master. Because of this, a homebrew software development community has sprung up; see (http://www.gbadev.org/).

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