For those moments when you want to play a game, but have left your Switch, smartphone, Steam Deck, PlayDate, DevTerm, PowKiddy A20 or Gem Boy Zero at home, there now comes a saviour. Currently more than doubling its funding goal on Kickstarter, with 29 days to go, the Thumby is a Raspberry Pi powered gaming system so small you can carry it with your keys.
Of course there's a microcontroller board at work here - it’s the RP2040 SoC as found in the Raspberry Pi Pico, and it powers the Thumby through five included retro games: Tetris clone TinyBlocks, Space Debris (Asteroids), Annelid (Snake), a side-scrolling game in which a dinosaur jumps over rocks (Saur Run); and Delver a dungeon crawler adventure game.
There is space however for more games, Thumby has 2MB of storage for your own games or you can learn the skills by editing the existing ones. Games are written using MicroPython or via the Arduino IDE, as this is an RP2040 board we wouldn't be surprised to see CircuitPython ported to Thumby. A double-ended Micro USB cable enables multiplayer gaming for two, though we’re certain a large crowd will immediately gather to see what all the excitement is about if you try this in public.
The screen is an OLED, boasting a resolution of 72x40 pixels, not the greatest resolution even for an tiny OLED, but plenty for the form factor. Control comes via a four-position D-pad and two buttons, and there's a power switch to spark the 40mAh rechargeable battery into life.
Creator TinyCircuits has a lot of experience in the open-source hardware game, and Thumby dates back to an exhibit at the Bay Area Maker Faire in 2016. The RP2040 design was finalized this year, and shipping should start in early 2022. Remember that crowdfunding a project is not a guarantee of receiving a finished product. Backing a crowdfunded project is akin to an investment, you believe in the project and want it to succeed. You are not purchasing a retail product.
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Ian Evenden is a UK-based news writer for Tom’s Hardware US. He’ll write about anything, but stories about Raspberry Pi and DIY robots seem to find their way to him.