Spending four years of your life and over US$53,000 on apparently “reinventing the wheel” is not an ideal proposition. But an electrical engineer from the UK, James Newman went ahead and did it anyway. And that too so that he can play the old, worn out game called Tetris!
This 10-metre (33-foot) wide ‘mega processor’ is definitely the biggest computer you’ll see in this day and age of pocket-sized – or even smaller – computers. But despite the enormous size, it only has the processing power of a standard, chip-sized microprocessor.
When confronted in an interview, he explained the rationale, “The machine on your desk may be a million times better than what I have built – but mine is much prettier. Mine has 10,000 times more LEDs.”
But before you truly start thinking that Newman is nuts, here the real reason why he spent so many resources on the gigantic processor. He wanted to help people visualise how microprocessors really work, so this project is more of an educational tool to make people understand better about the hidden inner-workings of the everyday technology.
According to Newman, he wanted to do away with the opaque nature of computers to see what is happening in real time. One option was to shrink down to the size of a silicon chip, and the other making the chips large enough to be visible. And that’s exactly what Newman did; no, not the shrinking part. He created this mega machine and put LEDs on everything so that he can actually SEE the data moving and the logic happening.
The machine weighs roughly 500 kilogrammes (1,102 pounds), and is 10 metres (33 feet) wide and 2 metres (6 feet) tall. This giant of a computer contains over 40,000 transistors and 10,000 LEDs, but can only be used for low-end processing such as playing a video game Tetris or solving old school puzzles.
For the obvious limitation of not being able to sell the device, Newman is contemplating on opening his house to the public to get a chance to see the masterpiece. Or he can also try to send it to a museum or educational institute for a greater audience and recognition.
While the computer might seem laughable, it marks the advent of today’s superfast computers. These mega machines are part of the not so distant history – and back then every computer was the size of a room. These projects help you appreciate just how far our technology has progressed over the years, and also the intricacies and thought being put into making these concepts a reality.
You can watch Newman give a tour of his mega processor below!
Would you like to play a game of Tetris on this machine?