Someone has proven that the Nintendo Game Boy can broadcast movies

Video game consoles have evolved into multi-purpose entertainment hubs, allowing players to stream movies, chat with friends, and do much more than just play games. By comparison, the 32-year-old Nintendo Game Boy was exclusively a gaming machine—at least until Sebastian Staacks found a way to expand your capabilities, including turning it into the worst possible way of watching movies.

If your gaming pedigree dates back to earlier Nintendo handheld consoles, you probably remember that the Game Boy Advance color screen could actually be used to watch TV shows through special cartridges that contain episodes of shows such as SpongeBob SquarePants, or whole movies like Shrek movies. The picture quality was terrible, limited to 240 resolutions x 160 for animated TV shows and even less for longer films, but it was still significantly better than Frankenstein’s Monster a media player created by Staacks.

The Game Boy is powered by a Sharp LR35902 processor running at just 4.19 MHz (for comparison, processor speed in modern smartphones is now measured in GHz), which means there is simply no horsepower needed to decode and display compressed video files in real time. So how did Staacks arrive Star Wars playing on that ugly a four-color screen in grayscale?

Last month Staacks shared a post on their personal blog details how they successfully made a wifi Game Boy cartridge that relied on a wireless ESP8266 microchip along with several other components connected to a custom PCB. The cartridge’s capabilities are severely limited by the Game Boy processor (you can’t use it to download ROM files that can be played from a cloud server, for example), but Stack’s first demonstrations include using telnet to send and receive simple text messages and using the basic on – screen keyboard to access and review of Wikipedia articles. As impressive as it is to see Game Boy with wireless internet access, access to Wikipedia isn’t terribly exciting, so Staack came up with another use of a wireless cartridge that is far more interesting.

Staack promised a much longer video that explains all the details later, but on Twitter last week they shared a short video the original unmodified Game Boy that uses a custom wifi cartridge to stream Star Wars compressed to only 160 x 144 pixels and runs at 20 frames per second – a limitation Staack explains is the result of “short intervals in which Game Boy allows access to video RAM”. Watching streaming video on the Game Boy screen is a horrible experience, especially considering how much film has to be cut to fit on a square screen, but the fact that I can to be done is kind of great. Just don’t expect the Netflix or Disney + app for Game Boy anytime soon (or ever).

If you want to try to make one of these wifi cartridges yourself, Staack has given quite detailed instructions on their personal blog, and open source plans and files available for download on their GitHub page. You’ll have to feel good with electronics, programming, and soldering to make your own, but as more and more people start messing with this hardware, it will be interesting to see what else the 30-year-old Game Boy can do with Internet access.

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Naveen Kumar

Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.

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