Maker and retro computer enthusiast Matthew Frost has decided the time is near to bring back a classic piece of computing history that has been suitably updated for the 21st century: the turbo button.
“This replicates the gimmicky TURBO knob, CPU and displays of the old 486 machines of yesteryear,” Frost explains of his project. “But this build is for those who want the same retro feel and gimmicks for their modern machine! There are two main components of this build. An Arduino or ESP32/ESP8266 or similar microcontroller and then your Windows PC. These two components serially communicate with each other to gather PC information and display it on a three-digit, seven-segment display.”
The “Turbo” button was a mainstay of home computing in the era of the Intel 286, 386, 486 and compatibles. Typically, but not always, the button sat next to a seven-segment display, the button sounded like it was meant to make your computer run faster – but it actually slowed it down and reduced performance to mimic that of the older 8086 to avoid problems with the bypass software compatibility .
However, Frost’s modern incarnation is different. First, the seven-segment display isn’t limited to showing the current CPU clock speed: a second button allows the user to toggle between clock speed, GPU utilization, network throughput in megabits per second, and memory utilization. Resource monitoring overview.
“Also, we can set our PC to TURBO MODE. Sort of,” adds Frost. “With the lock button on the left, we can switch the power plans on the Windows computer. From the balanced power plan to the TURBO power plan. You need to create the TURBO power plan by yourself. It is recommended to copy the high-performance power plan and name it simply ‘TURBO’.”
The hardware fits neatly into a 3D printed 5.25″ drive bay bracket that can be 3D printed. (📷: Matthew Frost)
A final feature of the device, which is designed to be installed in a 5.25-inch drive bay, is a physical keylock: “The locking mechanism in this code toggles your network on and off,” explains Frost. “You must first specify which network adapter to disable/enable using the ‘systray’ icon included with this installation and select the ‘Network Adapter’ option.”
Frost has released the source code for the project, written in a combination of Microsoft PowerShell and C++. on GitHub under an unspecified open source license – along with a 3D printable faceplate and wiring instructions for the physical portion of the build.