It’s no secret that one of the reasons why we can’t buy a graphics card right now—outside of auction sites—is demand from cryptominers. But there is another way to mine Bitcoin without requiring a graphics card, though it’s a lot slower than traditional methods: use a Nintendo Game Boy.
The impressive feat of engineering is the work of YouTube channel stacksmashing, which turned the Game Boy into a Bitcoin miner through some clever modding.
The first step was to load all the YouTuber’s compiled ROMS onto the Game Boy using a standard USB flash card.
The main issue with mining on a Game Boy is the lack of online connectivity in Nintendo’s classic handheld, meaning it can’t connect to the Bitcoin network without some tweaks. To get around this problem, stacksmashing used a $4 Raspberry Pi Pico and a modified Nintendo Game Link Cable.
Something else that needed to be addressed is the difference in voltage requirements between the Pico (3.3 volts) and the Nintendo Game Link Cable with its 5V logic levels. This meant using a simple four-channel, bi-directional logic shifter. It’s noted that the bi-directional feature isn’t actually required, but these types of components were the only ones available.
The Game Boy is connected to the Raspberry Pi Pico through the logic shifter, and the Pico links to a PC that provides the internet connection.
As you would expect, the Game Boy is no RTX 3090 when it comes to mining Bitcoin. Its 8-bit Sharp LR35902 processor (4.18 MHz) gives it a performance of around 0.8 hashes per second. Putting that into context, most modern ASIC miners are capable of about 100 terahashes per second, making the handheld around 125 trillion times slower.
While Bitcoin is worth $57,749 right now, mining a single one using this method would take a couple of quadrillion years, though its four triple-A batteries does mean it’s a lot less power-hungry than ASIC miners.