Computer geeks spend ridiculous amounts of money on high-end rigs all the time, but one digital electronics engineer from Cambridge, England, poured a small fortune into building a giant computer that he only uses to play Tetris.
James Newman’s supercomputer took five years to build, cost over $53,000 and takes up an entire room, yet it is a million times slower and has a million times less memory than a typical desktop. That’s because it’s actually just a mega microprocessor. “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 the Megaprocessor project website. “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.” And that’s exactly what he spent the last five decades doing. As of June 22, the Megaprocessor is finally complete.
“I spent around three hours a night working on it and I’ve had to take all the books and shelves and sofas out of my lounge,” the 55-year-old computer geek said. “I didn’t plan on spending [that much money]at the start. It grew as time went by and I got a bit more ambitious. If I had a wife she’d probably have left me by now.”
The Megaprocessor contains 40,000 transistors, 10,000 LED lights and weighs around half a ton (500 kg). It is 10 meters long and 2 meters tall. Newman can program it – so far he has managed to use it to play Tetris – but he admits that it is much slower than the average desktop. “Mine is much prettier, though, it has 10,000 LEDs,” he jokingly boasts.
Now that he has finally finished his dream supercomputer, James Newman plans to hold open days over the summer, to give other computer geeks the chance to see a blown-up microprocessor up close. He doubts he’ll ever be able to sell it, but hopes the Megaprocessor will be used as an educational tool. “My dream is that it goes to a museum or educational institute so that people can learn from it,” he said.