James Brown's Tiny LEGO Brick Computer Is Now Truly Self-Contained, with a Playable Doom Port

From a simple animated display to a true computer on which you can play Id Software's 1993 classic, Brown's LEGO brick has come a long way.

Maker James Brown is continuing to iterate on the idea of turning LEGO's iconic computer bricks into actually-functional devices, taking what was once a simple animated display and making it a fully self-contained computer capable of playing Doom — using an accelerometer as its input.

"I hooked up the accelerometer, so Doom is now 'playable' entirely on the [LEGO computer] brick," Brown explains of his latest efforts with the project. "The capacitive touch wasn't tuned very well, so it's a bit shooty."

James Brown's tiny LEGO computer is now fully-functional and self-contained, capable of hosting a playable version of Doom. (📹: James Brown)

Brown's work started last year with an attempt, wildly successful, to create a technological update for the computer, radar, and other display-type LEGO bricks — originally created from plastic with the "display" simply painted on the front. A teeny-tiny display connected to an equally-small PCB with microcontroller plus a transparent resin LEGO brick replica kicked things off — providing a programmable, animated display.

The project has only grown from there. Getting Id Software's 1993 classic Doom playing on devices is something of a running joke, and one which has yet to reach a conclusion — so Brown set about doing that, after a fashion. "I wired the brick up as a very small external monitor," he explained at the time, "so you can, for instance, play Doom on it."

The next step was to switch to a more powerful microcontroller, the Raspberry Pi RP2040 — for which Graham Sanderson had already written a playable Doom port. Adapting it for a single-color low-resolution OLED display — using sub-frames to simulate multiple levels of gray — let Brown build a LEGO brick capable of running the game internally, but still left the matter of input.

The heart of the project is a tiny custom circuit board, barely larger than the RP2040 which drives the display. (📹: James Brown)

That's where the latest version of the brick comes in. With some components cleverly packed into an extra brick that snaps onto the bottom, Brown found enough room for the RP2040, 0.42" OLED panel, a tiny battery pack, and an accelerometer — which combines with turning the two upper studs into touch-sensitive buttons, based on work on a resin ring with a similar input system, to provide a control system, no external hardware required.

More information is available on Brown's YouTube channel, which includes a walk-through of the assembly process.

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