It turns out that medical manufacturers also do hacking once in a while. [Jana Marie Hemsing] recently tweeted a photo of an ECG-Trigger-Unit that she’d opened up. Inside she found that the LCD screen was that of a Game Boy Advance (GBA) and the reason she could tell was that the screen’s original case was still there, complete with GAME BOY ADVANCE SP written on it.
In the manufacturer’s defense, this device was likely made around the year 2000 when gaming products were some of the best sources for high speed, high quality, small LCDs
displays. This design document for a portable ECG measurement instrument from as recently as 2013 cites reasons for using a GBA as:
- impressive plotting results,
- no serious transmission delays, and
- fine graphics processing capability.
The Verge had even turned up this US patent from 1997 that has the diagnostic medical device be a cartridge for plugging into a Game Boy. At the time, PCs were frequently used for medical displays but this patent cites issues such as the higher cost of PCs, software installation issues, and crashing. However, they talk about the crashing being due to running word processing and spreadsheet software on the same PC, something not likely to happen if the PC is dedicated to bedside monitoring.
But despite all those pros, wouldn’t you feel surprise and alarm when you first glimpse the Game Boy inside the device that’s monitoring your heart? We also have to wonder what licensing these products went through in the countries in which they were used. This particular device was made by German company Medical Imaging Electronics.
Game Boy hacks aren’t limited to the medical industry though. Here on Hackaday, we’ve seen them turned into remote controls for flying drones and we’ve seen Game Boy cartridge emulators that use STM32. Finally, if you’re wondering where you saw [Jana Marie]’s name before, she was one of the two hackers driving the motorized armchair in a photo in our [Jenny List]’s SHACamp 2017 write-up.
Our thanks to [geonomad] for the tip!