Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Iconic King of Gaming Handhelds: The Original Nintendo GameBoy

Nintendo GameBoy
The original Nintendo GameBoy

Ah, the original Nintendo GameBoy… The first in the line of GameBoy handheld video game systems released by Nintendo. It’s basically the granddaddy of the handheld gaming world. When it was first released on 1989, it was bundled with the game Tetris and it was an instant hit. Upon its release in the United States, it sold its entire shipment of one million units within a few weeks. It subsequently became a worldwide phenomenon.

 I have a lot of fond memories playing with this handheld console during my childhood days. Hours and hours on end of gaming goodness in a small package. Although the graphics and screen was okay in my opinion, it wasn’t a color LCD. Instead it was what I call, “pea green soup graphics.” It certainly wasn’t all that nice to look at, but it wasn’t horrible either. The graphics are still pretty detailed for the time considering the aforementioned shortcomings. All of the games had great animation and detail not seen before during the time. It’s certainly far superior than Nintendo’s own Game & Watch pocket games in terms of visuals. Although its main competition did have a color screen: The Sega Game Gear. Another major gripe was the number of batteries you have to put in the system… 4 AA batteries! It was also pretty bulky especially when compared with its later releases like the GameBoy Pocket and GameBoy Light which were smaller. Still, the GameBoy became the dominant portable game console in that era mainly due to the large number of great games. In that area, the GameBoy sure didn’t disappoint. The GameBoy games came in game cards that are slightly smaller than NES cartridges and were called Game Paks. The top GameBoy games include: Tetris, Super Mario Land, Mortal Kombat, just to name a few.

GameBoy Game Pak for Super Mario Land 2
GameBoy Game Pak for Super Mario Land 2
The Original GameBoy in action

A quick look at the technical specs:

  • CPU: Custom 8-bit Sharp LR35902 core at 4.19 MHz.
  • RAM: 8 kB internal S-RAM (can be extended up to 32 kB)
  • Display: Reflective STN LCD 160 × 144 pixels
  • Video RAM: 8 kB internal
  • Sound: 2 pulse wave generators, 1 PCM 4-bit wave sample (64 4-bit samples played in 1×64 bank or 2×32 bank) channel, 1 noise generator, and one audio input from the cartridge. The unit only has one speaker, but headphones provide stereo sound.
  • ROM: On-CPU-Die 256-byte bootstrap; 256 kb, 512 kb, 1 Mb, 2 Mb, 4 Mb and 8 Mb cartridges
  • Frame Rate: Approx. 59.7 frames per second
  • Vertical Blank Rate: Approx 1.1 ms.
  • Screen size: 66 mm (2.6 in) diagonal
  • Color Palette: 2-bit (4 shades of "gray" {light to very dark olive green})
  • Communication: 2 Game Boys can be linked together via built-in serial ports, up to 4 with a DMG-07 4-player adapter.
  • Power: 6 V, 0.7 W (4 AA batteries provide 15–30+ hours)
  • Dimensions: 90 mm (W) × 148 mm (H) × 32 mm (D) / 3.5″ × 5.8″ × 1.3″

 The original GameBoy had a directional pad in the front and four operation buttons, namely: "A", "B", "SELECT", and "START.” At the top of the unit, the slot for the GameBoy cartridges and a sliding on-off switch. Users are recommended to leave a cartridge in the slot to prevent dust and dirt from entering the system. Located on the left side, a knob to adjust the contrast; on the right side of the console, there is a volume control dial. The Nintendo GameBoy requires 6 Volts DC of at least 150 mA. Also included is an external power supply connector that allows users to use an external rechargeable battery pack or AC adapter instead of four AA batteries. The GameBoy also includes optional input/output connectors. A 3.5 mm stereo headphone jack is located on the bottom side of the console for listening purposes. There is also a port on the right side of the device that allows another GameBoy system to connect via a link cable. Players can play head to head provided they have the same game cartridge.

Nintendo actually held off development for a new handheld game system for ten years because the sales was just so strong. Although the GameBoy did have a few revisions like the GameBoy Pocket and GameBoy Light... It wasn’t until 1999 that Nintendo would release its successor, the GameBoy Color. The original GameBoy had a long and illustrious life and it occupies a great place in the history of gaming.

Classic GameBoy games and rare GameBoy games, consoles and accessories are still available through Ebay.

No comments:

Post a Comment