It Suddenly Dawned on Me: A Gameboy Cell Data Device


I think modern smart phones are a terrible idea. I think the technology that they use in order to operate is terrible. I also think the way they are used in our society is also very negative. The cultural practices that surround the use of smart phones is damaging to our society. I have published essays on this blog about how modern CPUs and the modern ways of constructing the internet are negative forces for how our society will come to develop.

I have been searching for a straightforward way to hack together a low tech portable communication device that avoids the pitfalls of the modern use of the HTTP protocol, and the modern use of smartphones.

I was having a conversation with a friend about how it might be possible to trade Pokemon on a Gameboy or Gameboy Colour over the internet, when the solution to my long search for an 8-bit internet-enabled device dawned on me: use a Gameboy as the principal hardware for the replacement for a cell phone.

Placing a Raspberry Pi Zero inside a Gameboy cartridge, or linking a Pi to the Gameboy serial port, and using the Pi as a cell-data modem or gateway, would be an incredibly simple and cost effective way of ridding oneself of a cell phone. Most of the effort would not come from hardware assembly or construction – it would be coding. At the outset I can see that one would need an SMS program and a web browser to run natively on the Gameboy. Email could also be managed with few difficulties. It may even be possible to get the Gameboy to run XMPP.

If web browsers and twitter clients are possible on the Commodore 64, then they are definitely possible on the Gameboy / Gameboy Colour. I could even expand the RAM of the device through the cartridge slot.

The major upshot of this project is that (a) I have a Gameboy Colour; and that (b) Raspberry Pi Zero Ws and cell data modems are cheap.

Most of the difficulty of realising the project is developing software – and that only costs time and effort, things I can actually afford.