Wednesday 20 September 2017

Man makes giant homemade computer to play Tetris

Madhumita Murgia

A Cambridge resident has finished building a 10-metre wide and 2-metre high computer in his living room, which he uses to play the video game Tetris.

James Newman took four years and £40,000 to build the processor which works exactly like a small microprocessor chip in a regular desktop computer or laptop that's about the size of a sim card.

tetris computer

The room-sized device has 40,000 transistors, 10,000 LED lights, weighs around half a tonne (500kg) and burns 500W of electricity, according to Newman, who explains the entire contraption in a video.

The homemade "megaprocessor" is essentially a blown up version of a tiny chip that allows you to see how all the elements of a computer chip join together and how it actually works. It was born out of a conversation Newman was having with some work colleagues, when "someone remarked it would be easier if we had an LED on a signal," he told the Register.

What was the point of it all?

"Computers are quite opaque, looking at them it's impossible to see how they work. What I would like to do is get inside and see what's going on," he explains on his site. 

"Trouble is we can't shrink down small enough to walk inside a silicon chip.

"But we can go the other way; we can build the thing big enough that we can walk inside it. Not only that we can also put LEDs on everything so we can actually SEE the data moving and the logic happening."

So far, Newman has found  a single application for the large machine. "What can you do with a processor like this? You can play games!" he says. His Tetris skills aren't particularly accomplished, but he hopes to run open days to show people what he's made.

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