The Absurd Console

Oh Tiny Circuits, you are your wacky ideas. As you might conclude by the name, Tiny Circuits has dedicated themselves to making very small computers and other electronic gadgets.

Our initial exposure to their world was with the TinyTV, a miniature 1950's style console TV that has the most ridiculously small screen you'll ever see. You can load up video files and play them, even using the remote to "change channels." (The remote is so small that it's just a bare PCB with buttons, since molding a body for it would be nearly impossible.

While Tiny makes a number of DIY elements to create yojur own electronic gadgets, their latest creation branches off into a new world, console gaming. Taking inspiration from the original Nintendo Gameboy, they managed to produce the most absurdly small fully functional console in existence.

The Thumby is, as you would expect, the size of a thumb. It looks like a Gameboy and has a 4:3 black and white screen (at a whopping 10mm wide!), a 4-way directional pad and an A and B button. I got my calipers out and the red action buttons are an incredible 2.7mm in diameter. Silly. It has a standard micro-USB piort on the bottom for charging and has the cutest little rechargable lithium ion battery pack ever fitted to a gadget.

Tiny Circuits Thumby

When you turn it on via the top mounted switch you will see a simple menu of games to pick from. As you would imagine, simplicity is the order of the day, as there just aren't enough pixels to do much on screen. You wil get 6 games (though you can program your own, and over time I am sure the open source developer kit will enable a lot of poeple to make new games.)

  • Annelid is like the classic Snakes game in which you "eat" blocks and grow your character without touching the walls
  • SaurRun is a simple side-scrolling "jump over the obstacles" game
  • SpaceDebris is akin to Asteroids
  • Tennis is Pong
  • Thumgeon...honestly I have no idea what is going on in this one :D
  • TinyBlocks is the smallest version of Tetris known to humankind

I'll be really blunt...the Thumby is hard to play. For adult sized fingers, the buttons are just impossibly small and for my old eyes, the tiny screen is a challenge. But that is really not the point of the Thumby. It is designed to give you a moment of joy. I do not think anyone is capable of holding this for the first time and not cracking a smile. It is just an absurd little thing, but absurd in the best possible way.

Tiny Circuits Thumby

There is no real pretense of stellar gameplay or long term use. Instead, the Thumby takes the joy of the Gameboy, which for many people encompasses years of fun childhood memories, and condenses that into a package you can put on your keychain. The Thumby's purpose is not to game on, but instead to show people and connect with them over the simpler times of our youths, when all there was to worry about was getting past the next level of Super Mario Land. And for that, Tiny Circuits succeeded and the Thumby is a masterpiece.