James Brown's LEGO Computer Brick Gains a New Skill: Playing Doom — with a Little Help

Project jumps from simply displaying animations to proving that the original 1993 release of Doom really can run on anything.

Gareth Halfacree
3 days agoRetroTech / HW101 / Displays / Gaming

James Brown's semi-functional LEGO computer brick, with integrated OLED display panel, has a new trick up its sleeve: the ability to function as an external monitor for a more powerful device, even to the point of running classic first-person shooter Doom.

Brown unveiled his original custom electronic LEGO brick earlier this month. While its shape was designed around the classic LEGO computer, rather than having a display which is merely printed onto the plastic surface it holds a compact single-color OLED panel and just enough of a microcontroller to display simple animations.

At the time, Brown was working to write code that would create animated versions of various LEGO computer-type bricks, including the iconic radar display — but the project has taken something of a turn, resulting in the first LEGO computer brick to ever play Doom.

"I wired the brick up as a very small external monitor," Brown explains, "so you can, for instance, play Doom on it. [The main computer] does an adaptive histogram equalization to flatten the the dynamic range, adds some noise, and thresholds it [to one bit per pixel]. I wasn't going to do it, but then I thought how annoyed I would be when someone else inevitably did."

While what appears on the screen is recognizably Doom, Id Software's seminal 1993 first-person shooter, it could prove a challenge to play: In addition to being a monochrome panel with one-bit color depth, Brown's LEGO brick monitor has a resolution of just 72×40 pixels — a little bit lower than the VGA Mode 13h 320×200 resolution for which the game was written.

More details are available in the replies to Brown's Twitter post.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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