A CAMBRIDGE MAN who has simultaneously hit and missed the entire point of microcomputers has built a giant room-filling machine on which to play Tetris.
James Newman, who clearly has an insatiable appetite for knowledge but is mad as a box of frogs, has built the "mega-processor" over four years at a cost of £40,000 and it works exactly the same way as a processor in your phone.
The difference is that this one measures 10x2 metres and looks like the set from BBC1's early 1980s pre-school programme Chock-A-Block.
The machine has 40,000 transistors and 10,000 LEDs, and burns 500W of electricity (about as much as running two electric showers simultaneously, all the time). It weighs about half a metric tonne.
The idea, according to Newman's website, is that: "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. 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 put LEDs on everything so we can actually see the data moving and the logic happening."
This makes it a fantastic educational tool, which perhaps means there are some advantages to the box of frogs approach.
It looks beautifully 1960s post-modern but it is, in fact, a 16-bit processor, so quite appropriate that it's currently programmed to play Tetris.
The one problem with the educational element is that the whole thing is way too big and heavy to be carried around.
However, Newman has committed to organising some sort of open day so that kids can literally step inside a circuit and take a look around, and that's so exciting. The world needs more frog boxes. µ
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