You can get the classic video game Doom to run on a lot of things: pianos, printers, old Nokia phones, and even electronic pregnancy tests. But one YouTuber decided to flip the script on the ole, “Does it run Doom?” test to ask the heroic question: How many potatoes do you need to generate enough electricity for a game of Doom?
The YouTuber in question is Equalo, whose channel focuses on fun experiments related to art, music, design, and tech. In a 17-minute video, Equalo documents a roughly month-long project in which he tried to power a Raspberry Pi Zero with Doom loaded onto it. The results are educational, entertaining, and rather smelly.
The whole potato electricity thing isn’t new—it’s a common science experiment for kids in elementary school to explain the concept of batteries and building circuits. In a nutshell, potatoes contain phosphoric acid, which facilitates a chemical reaction if you stick a zinc-plated nail into one end of a potato, and a copper penny into the other.
The thing about potato batteries is that one potato doesn’t produce a lot of power. That said, a Raspberry Pi Zero is relatively low-power and runs off of 100-120mA of electricity (roughly five volts). Apparently, of all the potatoes Equalo tested, the humble Russet potato generated the most electricity. At this point, the experiment starts to go off the rails as an 11 by 6 grid of potato halves generated enough amperage for 10mA volts. After running the numbers, it appeared that roughly 770 potato bits would be necessary to generate 100mA, or 4.5 volts—a truly daunting amount even for the most ardent of potato and Doom lovers.
You should absolutely watch the full video for the sheer ridiculousness, but Equalo basically creates this monstrous potato grid out of about 100 pounds of boiled potatoes. (According to Equalo, boiling the potatoes breaks down the starch, which in turn magnifies the amperage.) Which do not, I repeat, do not, generate enough electricity to power the Raspberry Pi. At this point, I would have given up. I am a coward and clearly do not have a quarter of the chutzpah that Equalo does. What follows is a tragicomedy of sorts, as Equalo desperately tries to figure out ways to salvage the experiment over the course of a week, surrounded and suffocated by increasingly rotten, moldy potatoes giving off noxious fumes. I will say there is some impressive footage of potato mold colony growth and a man staring at said potatoes, regretting his life decisions. Relatable, honestly.
Spoiler alert: There is a happy ending. Just as the potatoes reach peak decomposition, Equalo has the brilliant idea to ditch the Raspberry Pi Zero for a trusty old TI-84 graphing calculator. Because as many of us fondly remember, the best part of a TI-84 calculator was programming games onto them. Not only that, TI-84s require even less energy, meaning that they can, in fact, be fully powered by a garage full of rotten potatoes.
Was it worth it?
“I hate potatoes now,” Equalo says at the end of the video. “Please don’t ever try to do this yourself. It’s not worth it. I do not feel rewarded at all for this experience. It punishes you. It’s an abusive relationship.”
Now that the potatoes have been cleared and his garage (hopefully) sanitized, we pray Equalo has regained a sense of normalcy. However, judging by the fact that the YouTube video’s description is a parody of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air’s theme song based on the experience, perhaps not.