A Calgary-based programmer recently shared his work turning a rotary telephone into what may be the least effective video game controller of all time.
Smith first shared his rotary-based exploits on January 3, taking to r/ArduinoProjects to show off how he rigged an old-school telephone to handle numpad inputs with the eponymous microcontroller. It didn’t take long until someone challenged him to use it to play Doom, the prototypical first-person shooter often invoked and utilized for these types of bizarre hacking feats. Smith couldn’t help but oblige.
As demonstrated in the video above, Doom’s simplistic controls were easy enough to map. Movement is handled with 2-5, while something more pressing like shooting is assigned to 1 to make use of the closest thing a rotary telephone has to rapid fire. That said, each input only provides the briefest of in-game action, making something as simple as opening a door a maddening series of micro-steps as Smith waits for the device to become receptive again.
Funny enough, this isn’t even the first time rotary technology has been combined with Doom. While researching this story, I learned that a group known as Dialrhea Technologies developed a similar controller back in 2017 that also utilized the phone’s receiver.
While not technically being played on a rotary phone, Smith’s work is the latest in a long line of projects dedicated to making Doom playable everywhere. From a social media platform like Twitter to devices like pregnancy tests and cash registers, the iconic first-person shooter’s relentless spread doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon.
I doubt playing Doom like this is much fun, but there’s something special about how tactile a rotary phone is compared to, say, pressing digital buttons on a smart phone’s touchscreen. If you have the appropriate hardware on hand and want to try this out for yourself, be sure to check out Smith’s dedicated Github page for the project to see how you can go about dialing up some demon-slaying of your own.