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Frequently Asked Questions

If one of the below options doesn't answer your question(s), you can post on the Thumby section of our forum, or get in touch with customer support.

Grayscale on Thumby

Why are/is the grayscale games/library malfunctioning on my Thumby?

Disclaimer: This library is not currently maintained nor guaranteed by the TinyCircuits team, use it as an external resource at your own discretion. Games submitted to the Thumby Arcade may not work on every Thumby device due to the nature of individual programming and alternative software setups designed by individual game-makers - please direct issues to the game authors via opening issues on their GitHub repository fork.

The Thumby Grayscale library uses a timing hack with the SSD1306 chip to create a grayscale effect that adds two shades of gray in addition to the white and black pixels available from the monochrome OLED. The grayscale effect is not guaranteed on all Thumby OLED screens, or for all viewers. Some screens may need further individual calibration to work with the grayscale library and games. Please use the grayscale calibrator currently available when initiating the Fireplace game available from the Thumby Arcade:

  • Add Fireplace to your Thumby, disconnect the device from your computer, turn Thumby off and back on, navigate to Fireplace, and follow the calibrator as prompted. Once the calibrator values have been saved, the grayscale calibration will apply to other games, such as RocketCup. If you need to update the values, you can re-calibrate with Fireplace by pressing button A at the opening of the game to re-enter the calibration menu.

To report issues, or submit fixes, please use the Grayscale repository's Issues and Pull Requests options. For more information on current status or updates, refer to previous Discord discussions before asking questions that may have already been addressed previously in the server.

This is an ongoing community effort so we appreciate your continued patience and the dedication of the Grayscale Brain Titans working on bringing grayscale functionality to all Thumbys!

How do I start working with grayscale in my game?

Note: You should be comfortable with the Thumby MicroPython API before using grayscale, as much of the grayscale library assumes an intermediate level of knowledge.

Setting up grayscale involves importing, much like thumbyGraphics (you can take the thumbyGrayscale file from the RocketCup game available in the Thumby Arcade and import it from the same folder using the convention):

import sys
sys.path += ['/Games/MyGame']
from thumbyGrayscale import display

Once you have loaded in a tab in the Code Editor, you should be able to open the Grayscale Bitmap Builder for convenient creation and editing of grayscale Sprites by selecting Utilities -> Widgets -> Grayscale Builder. The builder looks like this:

Grayscale Bitmap Editor displaying an 8x8 pixel grid with lines of black, dark gray, gray, and white repeated twice to fill all 8 lines

This makes dual bitmaps including a normal black and white bitmap, and also a shading bitmap, which can be loaded into a Sprite or blit by passing them in a tuple: (bitmapBW, bitmapSHD). Here is what the above bitmap generates when pressing Export.

# BITMAP: width: 8, height: 8
bitmap0 = bytearray([204,204,204,204,204,204,204,204])
bitmap0SHD = bytearray([102,102,102,102,102,102,102,102])

All other drawing functions are the same as in thumbyGraphics() except the color argument in all the functions accept additional values:

  • 0 - Black
  • 1 - White
  • 2 - Dark Gray
  • 3 - Light Gray

Is grayscale available in Blockly?

For now, there are no current plans for grayscale to be adapted into Blockly. But luckily, you can convert Blockly to MicroPython and then add grayscale from there!

Add More Storage to Thumby

For now, Thumby is limited to 2 MB in storage since the memory chip is built into the hardware. The games are easy to swap in and out and the save files will remain on the Thumby so that you can take games that have saved data off the Thumby without losing high scores or other saved game variables.

It's possible to remove games from a Thumby to free up storage space by connecting it to the Thumby Code Editor and then right-clicking the game name in the Filesystem panel and then pressing the DELETE option. Then you can add more games with the space you've made.

TinyCircuits Thumby Code Editor Filesystem for Thumby
Thumby Code Editor Filesystem for Thumby Screenshot with DELETE option

Code Editor Connection

Why is my Thumby not connecting to the Web Code Editor?

  • Make sure you only have one Code Editor tab open - sometimes an older tab can be connected to Thumby and interfere with your current attempt to connect
  • Make sure the Thumby device is ON - power switch should be to the right when looking at the screen
  • Try a different cable - Since no port is coming up at all when the Thumby is turned on - it's possible that the cable you are using does not have the necessary data lines for communicating with the Thumby. Many Micro USB cables have just the power and ground wires to charge or power electronics. Try another cable, or test that you are able to transfer data with that cable in a different way - possibly by transferring files or pictures from a different device.
  • Unplug the device completely and open your 'Device Manager' (windows) -> click on 'Ports' -> plug the device back in to see if anything shows up. For Thumby you should see "USB Serial Device (COM##)" where ## can be any number
  • Try a Code Editor Hard Reset: Save any unsaved files that are open in any Code Editor tabs, (as they will be lost after the hard reset) then choose Utilities Tab > Hard Reset.
  • Try a 'full reboot' on your PC. It's possible you have some serial device interfering with your ability to communicate with Thumby, such as a USB hub or other peripheral devices, like a mouse.
    • If you are on a Windows OS, Save any open documents, then click on the Windows Start Button, select the power icon, and then choose the Restart option. (not Shut Down).
    • If Linux or Mac, Save any open documents, then hold the computers' power button down for +3 seconds to turn off, then again to turn it back on.
  • Windows 7 users will need to change or install a serial driver in order to connect to Thumby:
    1. Plug the Thumby in and turn it on
    2. Download the latest .exe from this release page and run it
    3. Select the Thumby in the top most drop-down
    4. Using the little up/down arrows, switch the driver to 'USB Serial (CDC)'
    5. Click 'Install Driver'
      • You might need to unplug and re-plug the Thumby afterwards or reboot your computer
  • Lastly, you can try reloading the most recent firmware version:

    1. Plug Thumby into a computer
    2. Turn Thumby off
    3. Turn Thumby on while holding the down d-pad button (Note: Earlier revisions of Thumby may require pressing one of the red action buttons instead of the down d-pad button)
    4. Wait for a file explorer to pop up or for the 'RPI-RP2' device to mount
    5. Download the ThumbyFirmware.uf2 file
    6. Drag and drop the ThumbyFirmware.uf2 file to the 'RPI-RP2' device (WARNING: this will delete all Thumby files)
    7. Turn the Thumby off and on

The Thumby hardware freezes when it connects to the Code Editor, is it broken?

Not at all! This is natural behavior. The Thumby hardware appears to stop working when you connect it since you can no longer access the game menu, but everything is fine! The screen should display "Thumby Code Editor" when connected as of March 9th, 2022.

To test games or changes you upload to the Thumby, you will need to disconnect the unit and power cycle it (turn it off and back on). Otherwise, you can use "Fast Execute" to upload just the game you are currently reviewing or working on.

Thumby Settings menu

Can I change the audio and brightness?

Yes! Turn on the Thumby, scroll down once to the 'GAMES' menu and right once to view the 'SETTINGS'. Here you can press the d-pad down button to the setting you want to alter and press either red action button to change the setting mode:

  • Audio: On/Off
  • Brightness: Mid/Hi/Low -- Note: we couldn't fit the whole word Brightness on the screen, so it reads as just Brite

The changes automatically save after being changed.

Thumby Credits

Where is the credits menu and whose names are on it?

To view the credits menu on the Thumby, turn Thumby on, scroll down once to the 'GAMES' menu and press the d-pad button right twice to scroll past the 'SETTINGS' menu to see the credits roll 4 names at a time.

Kickstarter backers that selected a Special Edition Thumby were able to submit one 16 character name (or something) on the credits list per Special Edition Thumby purchased. To view the full credits list, you can connect Thumby to the Thumby Code Editor and view the credits.txt file from the 'filesystem' directory.

Playing and Adding More Games

How do I play the games on the Thumby?

Turn on the Thumby and once the "Start" text displays below the Thumby logo, you can scroll down to see the list of games downloaded to the Thumby. There are 5+ games preloaded onto the Thumby.

Select any game with a red action button to start playing. When you want to stop playing or play a different game, turn the Thumby off and back on with the power switch. Thumby will remember the last game you played. When the Thumby is first powered on and the 'Start' text is selected, you can press a red action button to start playing the last game played.

How do I add more games?

There are plenty of free games made by the community that you can play on your Thumby. Check out this tutorial to learn how to add games to Thumby.

Is the Thumby Link cable the same as an OTG cable, or is it different?

The pin wiring of the OTG cable would need to be verified.

TinyCircuits Thumby Link cable
Micro USB Pinout diagram

The Thumby Link cable is a custom cable that connects GND to GND (pin 5), and ID pin to ID pin (pin 4) for data transfer.


How can I test that the audio is working?

Check that the Audio is turned on in the settings menu: Turn Thumby on -> scroll down once -> scroll to the right once -> check that the 'Audio' setting is 'ON'.

Not every game has sound effects, but some of the preloaded games do. You can test audio with the game SaurRun - try playing this game and holding the Thumby closer to your ear to hear the tiny piezo sounds while jumping the running Dinosaur. Or play the TinyBlocks game to hear tiny ticking sounds as the play blocks fall down the screen.

Charging & Battery Life

How long does Thumby take to charge? Is there an indicator when it is charged?

Thumby takes around 1 hour to completely charge. An indicator LED will turn on from inside the Thumby case to show that the battery is being charged. The LED will turn off when the battery is fully charged. The LED is located to the left of the micro USB connector.

Note: The charging LED may be difficult to see through opaque plastic cases. Try turning off the lights in the room you are in if you are having difficulty seeing the LED while charging.

How long can I play Thumby on a full charge?

You can play Thumby for up to two hours on a full charge. Games that display more white pixels will use more power than games that are darker.

Software Updates

How do I know if my Thumby has the latest firmware/software?

You can update the Thumby firmware after connecting your Thumby to the Web Code Editor - the files system panel has an 'Update' button that will turn red when it detects your software is not up-to-date. Press the 'Update' button to load the newest software. The update will only overwrite a few core Thumby files.

Linux with Thumby

How do I connect Thumby to a Linux system?

If you have already tried to connect Thumby to your Linux machine and failed, it's likely you have encountered an error message like: "Could not open serial port /dev/ttyUSB0"

You will need to add your user to the dialout group to have access to the USB device. Use the command:

sudo adduser $USER dialout

The $USER keyword will fetch your username, so there is no need to alter the command. Then, log out of your user account or restart your machine for the changes to take effect.

Distributing Thumby

Can I distribute Thumby?

Yes! Check out the different levels of our distribution program on our main page.

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