What the heck? We’ve seen 1993’s classic first-person shooter Doom run on a lot of crazy things over the last 20-plus years, but this takes the cake. In the video above, we see the 1994 sequel, Doom II: Hell on Earth, running on an actual, physical keyboard key. The keyboard in question is the Optimus Maximus that uses stand-alone displays for each key. These little displays are fully customizable, displaying any function assigned by the user.
Just like when classic Doom was pushed into the Touch Bar installed on Apple’s new MacBook Pro laptops, the object here was obviously to see if the hardware would be capable of running the shooter without additional hardware. In this case, the game is playable, but likely only if fans have a magnifying glass strapped to their eyeballs.
The individual behind this Doom II project doesn’t explain how this was accomplished or how the player moves around and shoots the hellish goons. However, a look at the keyboard’s specs shows that on the back it includes two USB 2.0 ports, an SD card slot intended for layout storage, a smaller USB port, and DC input. It comes with software for programming each button, such as editing each image displayed on the keys, reproducing a sequence of symbols, and more.
Every key-sized screen on the Optimus Maximum is an individual module consisting of a moving cap, a microchip, and an OLED display. The display portion has a viewable area of 0.4 x 0.4 inches, a 48 x 48-pixel resolution, and a minimum frame rate of 10 frames per second. The little screen even supports 65,536 colors and 160-degree viewing angles.
These modules can be easily removed and cleaned. The can essentially be programmed with anything ranging from math functions to HTML codes and, as we see in the video embedded above, old PC games that once ran on 486 processors, 8MB of system memory, and two configuration files setting up the DOS environment to grant the game access resources and sound. Wow. Just look at what games demand today!
However, notice in the video that the only key/screen that’s lit is the one running Doom 2: Hell on Earth. That may be how the overall keyboard can generate the game’s high framerate. In an FAQ discussing the keyboard, the manufacturer indicates that when all 113 screens are cycling through the same information, the framerate will be around 10 frames per second. If animated images are only on five displays, then the framerates will be faster.
The Optimus Maximus keyboard launched in 2007, so it has been around for almost 10 years. Unfortunately, inventive programmers wanting to shove other old PC games onto a key are out of luck, as the peripheral currently is not in stock.