Someone Proved The Nintendo Game Boy Can Stream Movies
Video game consoles have become versatile entertainment hubs, allowing gamers to stream movies, chat with friends, and do more than just play games. The 32-year-old Nintendo Game Boy, by comparison, was strictly a gaming machine…at least until Sebastien Staacks found a way to expand your capabilitiesincluding turning it into the worst possible way to watch movies.
If your gaming pedigree dates back to Nintendo’s earliest handheld consoles, you probably remember that the Game Boy Advance color screen could actually be used to watch TV shows through special cartridges that contained episodes of shows like Sponge Bob SquarePantsor full movies like the Shrek movies. Image quality was downright awful, limited to resolutions of 240 X 160 for animated TV shows let alone longer movies, but it was still considerably better than Frankenstein’s Monster of a media player that Staacks created.
The Game Boy was powered by a Sharp LR35902 processor running at just 4.19 MHz (for comparison, the speed of modern smartphone processors is now measured in GHz), which means it just doesn’t have the power to decode and display compressed video files in real time. So how did Staacks come about star wars play on this villain four-color grayscale screen?
Last month shared an article on his personal blog retailer how they managed to build a Game Boy wifi cartridge that relied on an ESP8266 wireless chip in addition to several other components attached to a custom PCB. The cartridge’s capabilities are severely limited by the Game Boy’s processor (you can’t use it to download playable ROMs from a cloud server, for example), corn Staack’s first demonstrations include the use of telnet to send and receive simple text messages and the use of a basic on-screen keyboard to access and view Wikipedia articles. As impressive as it might be to see a Game Boy with wireless Internet access, accessing Wikipedia isn’t very exciting, so Staack came up with another use for the wireless cartridge that’s a lot more interesting.
Staack promised a much longer video explaining all the details later, but on Twitter last week they or they shared a short video from an unmodified original Game Boy using the custom wifi cartridge to stream star wars compressed to only 160 X 144 pixels and running at 20 frames per second – a limitation explained by Staack is the result of the “short intervals at which the Game Boy allows access to video RAM”. Watching streaming video on the Game Boy’s screen is a horrible experience, especially considering how much a movie has to be cropped to fit on its square screen, but the fact that it can to be done is kind of awesome. Don’t expect a Netflix or Disney+ app for the Game Boy anytime soon (or ever).
If you want to try building one of these wifi cartridges yourself, Staack has provided some pretty detailed instructions. on their personal blogand open source plans and files available for download on their GitHub page. You’ll need to be very comfortable with electronics, programming, and soldering to make your own, but as more people start tinkering with this hardware, it’ll be interesting to see what the Game Boy’s 30 year old can do else with internet. access.