I recently stumbled upon a pretty oddball handheld. Somebody actually made a custom device for the single purpose of browsing Twitter. For your consideration, I present to you the TW Boy.
A hardware and software engineer by the name of Kosuke Saito (aka NEKOPLA) created this unique console to take advantage of the free Twitter API before it became an obsolete service.
More specifically, NEKOPLA knew that Twitter planned on changing the Twitter API to a paid service in 2023. And his handheld would become obsolete unless he planned on paying $100 a month for the service (which he didn’t).
But this was all part of his mission – to create a nostalgic handheld before it would inevitably become obsolete.
So will it ever features in our best retro handhelds article, absolutely not, but here’s some more information.
TW Boy – A Twitter Handheld
Yup, it really is a fully functional handheld console that does one thing and one thing only: browses Twitter.
Whether or not you think Twitter is worth all that effort, surely you might be impressed by the custom hardware and software work done to make the TW Boy come to life.
The main processing for the handheld is done using a Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W.
And I appreciate that NEKOPLA also has a love of Game Boy style monochrome liquid crystal displays. He specifically wanted this style of display to create something that had the same “magic” and nostalgia as a Game Boy.
And it took a lot of extra work to make it actually pair with the Raspberry Pi to display Tweets.
If we were to give an honest rating of the internal hardware for the TW Boy, we would say that it isn’t all that pretty. But it’s not really supposed to be. This is a single use project that exists in a short span of time.
It surely was never intended to be recreated. And NEKOPLA knew that he was racing against the clock to get a working handheld made before Twitter went pay-to-play.
But a decent amount of custom soldered parts were needed to actually connect the liquid crystal screen to the Raspberry Pi, as well as his custom retro style button board.
There was also some custom programming done to pull real tweets from the Twitter API, convert them to something the display can show, as well as the ability to do real reactions (likes and retweets).
Encased in a custom 3d printed shell, the whole product looks fairly minimal and clean when it’s all together.
Honestly, when you hear NEKOPLA’s explanation of the whole thing, it becomes sort of endearing.
In his words (translated by Google): “Goodbye TW BOY, thank you Twitter API. I will never forget that I was able to have a good time even for a short time.”
That’s kind of sweet, right?
Sure, it’s a bit of a silly idea. And was surely made as more of an exercise in “can I do it?” more than “should I do it?”
But somebody put their hardware and software skills to the test and made a functional Twitter handheld. You gotta love the ingenuity and creativity.
Knowing that it was all inspired by NEKOPLA’s vision of an alternate reality where we all still use late 90s tech for things like social media is sort of fun.
Thank you for your imagination, NEKOPLA. Imagining a world where we use devices that look like Game Boys to browse Twitter is the kind of world we would actually like to see.
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Anthony has been a video game lover ever since he can remember. He became a fulltime nomad in 2018, living throughout most of Asia. He focused his passion in retro gaming and began creating a game for the Game Boy Color while living in Nara, Japan during the 2020 pandemic. He is now in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where he spends most of his time gaming, going on long walks and meeting as many stray dogs as possible.