This Programmer Figured Out How to Play Doom on a Pregnancy Test

·4 min read
Photo credit: Twitter/Foone Turing
Photo credit: Twitter/Foone Turing

From Popular Mechanics

No "first-person shooter" jokes, please: A hardware wonk has successfully played Doom on a pregnancy test. By removing most of the interior of the test, including the original CPU, Foone Turing used its tiny one-color display first to stream video of the classic video game, and then actually play it.

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Watch the glorious results here:

Turing’s interest seems to have been sparked a few weeks ago when another Twitter user showed the guts of a pregnancy test, which is just the minimal hardware required to interpret a test strip—like a very low-power, unitasking automaton. But the most kitted-out tests have a one-color LCD screen, meaning they also have inputs for those displays. Someone with enough curiosity and hardware knowhow could connect the dots, so to speak.

Like old-hardware wizard Marc Verdiell, Turing loves to tinker with technologies that don’t seem to match up. The pregnancy test they ordered has an LCD screen that has just four symbols and is hard-coded to do only one job: to display cues like an hourglass and the word “PREGNANT.” In the first test Turing tried, the internal chip was fully hard-coded, like a read-only CD-ROM installer.

Onto the next one. Turing then removed the guts of the symbols-only LCD and the hard-coded computer chip. They tried several tiny OLEDs, settling on an Adafruit microcontroller unit and display that can fit in the tiny space inside the pregnancy test case. (Adafruit, a Manhattan-based manufacturer of very small computing hardware, has made two generations of its Trinket microcontroller.)

This is where Doom finally comes in.

The look is familiar not just to classic gamers, but to many Windows 95 users who saw first-person navigation in the iconic maze screensaver. Turing fed the game into the display from an outside piece of hardware and used a graphics rendering method called dithering to translate the colorful game graphics into simplified, textural one-color OLED. But this wasn’t playing the game—just basically streaming video footage of it into a pregnancy test-shaped monitor.

After a lot of interim shenanigans and tinkering, Turing finally hooked up the right string of inputs and peripherals to turn the pregnancy test display into a true Doom machine.

Even the tiny bluetooth keyboard is just a few inches wide, and Turing uses a classic WASD directional scheme to move around in the game. We’re getting a little bit of carpal tunnel just watching.

You might be wondering “why?” to all of this—if the idea of hardware tinkering alone isn’t enough, and why a pregnancy test, and why Doom instead of something else?

It runs Doom” is a major meme in both games and hardware communities because the 27-year-old game is so ubiquitous, rereleased many times on subsequent game consoles and, now, a small-enough piece of software that it can run on many household appliances. There’s even a dedicated subreddit.

This pregnancy test technically isn’t running Doom using its original hardware, although a differently made pregnancy test might—and we believe Turing is determined to find out.

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