A 55-year-old, digital electronics engineer from the UK has created a 10-metre (33-foot) wide ‘megaprocessor’ at his home, and now he plays the classic video game Tetris on this machine.
The computer took four years to complete, costing about £40,000 (US$ 53,000). And despite such a huge amount spent on this machine, it is a million times slower than a modern-day desktop computer.
“The machine on your desk may be a million times better than what I have built – but mine is much prettier,” James Newman, the creator of the megaprocessor, told Zoe Kleinman from the BBC.
“Mine has 10,000 times more LEDs.”
Newman – a science graduate from the Oxford University – says he wanted to show people how computer actually work, and keeping this aim in mind, he started working on this megaprocessor in 2012.
“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,” Newman 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. It’s going to be great,” he says.
Newman’s new machine, which was just a couple of meters wide initially, now weighs around 500 kilograms and contains over 10,000 LEDs and 40,000 transistors. It is 33 feet wide and 2 meters tall.
Newman – who lives alone in Great Shelford, Cambridge – says he had no plan to spend £40,000 at the start. It was a small project initially and he was playing around with transistors. Later he got a bit more ambitious as the machine’s grew in size. He then started spending about three hours a night on his machine, and over time he was forced to move all the shelves and sofas out of his lounge.
Newman is currently using his megaprocessor to play video game Tetris, although he believes it can also be used to play other old-school puzzle games. According to Newman Tetris seemed like a good example project to demonstrate inner operation of a processor. His megraprocessor is designed to operate so slowly that a viewer can easily understand how it works.
Newman is now thinking over whether he should allow people to see the machine at his home.
“My dream is that it goes to a museum or educational institute so that people can learn from it, “ he said.
“I doubt I’ll be able to sell it.”