Man Builds a Room-Sized ‘Megaprocessor’ for Playing Tetris

The blown-up microprocessor is 33 feet wide.

Michele Debczak
07 . 07 . 16

In a few decades, computers have gone from machines that filled entire rooms to sleek devices that fit in our pockets. James Newman, a digital electronics engineer from Cambridge, England, took his cue from the past, building a room-sized computer of his own to better understand how they work. He now uses it to play Tetris, the BBC reports.

Newman embarked on the project four years ago following a conversation with his coworkers. “[W]e were talking about debugging something and someone remarked it would be easier if we had an LED on a signal," he told The Register in 2015. "Things got out of hand at that point."

The 6-foot high, 33-foot wide computer is basically a blown-up version of the chip-sized microprocessor you’d find in your own computer. His so-called "Megaprocessor" uses 40,000 transistors and 10,000 LED lights, and requires about 500 watts of electricity to run. Putting it all together gave Newman the opportunity to see how microprocessors work up close. When he uses it, LED lights installed across the outside light up to illustrate the steps it takes to complete each function.

Outside of its value as an educational tool, the megaprocessor doesn’t serve much of a practical purpose. Newman has found at least one worthwhile use for it so far—playing Tetris (you can watch him play a round in the video tour above).

As for the fate of the machine, Newman told the BBC, "My dream is that it goes to a museum or educational institute so that people can learn from it." Until then, he plans to open up the room to visitors on select days this summer.

[h/t BBC]

All images courtesy of James Newman via YouTube.

Know of something you think we should cover? Email us at tips@mentalfloss.com.