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the cartridges are different. theres a voltage difference, where gb is 5v and gba are 3.8 iirc..
if you had a gba you could look and see that the cartridges are physically different also (im not referring to just the size). theres a switch which is only activated with gb/gbc carts -- the gba carts have a notch that doesnt hit it. there is also a gbc chip incorporated into the gba. so the gba actually switches to a gbc mode when this switch is hit.. its all hardware regulated, nothing to do with the gba architecture itself..
 
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