Nintendo Gameboy A mobile device story

The Start of Something Big

The return of 8-Bit

With the incredible popularity of the now sold out NES Classic that Nintendo released for this holiday season, I started thinking about the rise in retro gaming. Retro or classic gaming is all the rage as of late. From retro inspired indie games to Kia commercials featuring the NES classic, Tecmo Bowl, 8-bit gaming is HUGE!

Nintendo hits a home run with the NES Classic Edition
Classic, retro gaming is everywhere you look lately
Top, Hyper Light Drifter; Left to right, Tecmo Bowl, Shovel Knight, Bro Force

Melancholy Inspiration

I decided to dig out my Original was in pretty bad shape. Yellowed plastic, corrosion in the battery terminals, and audio volume so low it was unusable. I remembered seeing a story online about restoring yellowed consoles a while back. I decided to do some research and set out to restore my beloved Gameboy to its former glory. During the time I spent restoring it, and subsequently, replaying some of the classics, this story evolved. I started to realize that the Gameboy was where my true passion for gadgets and tech was born.

The original Nintendo Gameboy, seen here in its natural environment.

In the summer of 1989, I was an obnoxious, smart-mouthed, 13 year old with a bad attitude and an even worse case of ADD. I spent most of that summer playing video games or locked in my room drawing and painting. Those were pretty much the only two thing I could sit still for for more than 10 minutes. Now before the internet existed, we got all of our gaming and tech news from magazines. Weird, I know. At one point, I had convinced my parents to get me a subscription to a few of them, and I always looked for to their arrival in the mail. I would spend days re-reading articles and drooling over ads.

I lived for this stuff.

A Technology Breakthrough

I was flipping through a game magazine and as I flipped the page, there it was, an advertisement for the Nintendo Gameboy! I stared at it for ten minutes trying to understand how could this be possible.

Nintendo. In your pocket!

You have to understand, at this point in time the only true portable gaming device attempted was the Game and Watch systems. As a matter of fact, mobile devices weren't really even a product category yet. The Sony walkman was really the only portable device do gain any sort of mass appeal, and as far as tech goes, that was a pretty simple device.

Not quite the gaming experience I remember.

The Dream Scenario

Now, in spite of what the ads showed, I would surely never be able to escape grounding from the least not if my parents new about it. See my parents had a strict grounding protocol that was as predictable as the sunrise. My most prized possessions were the first to go if I was being punished. My bike, skateboard, video games, and TV privelages were all prime candidates. I had my 13" television and NES confiscated more times than I can remember, but the Gameboy could change all of that.

The Plan

I immediately started imagining how cool it would be to play games like mario, zelda, and metroid, on a portable device. Even more importantly than portable, in secret! I could finally be free from constant moderation and control from my parents. I spent the next few months finding any way I could to make extra cash and stashing it away. Yard work around the neighborhood, feeding pets and dog walking, whatever. At the end of the summer, my lack of discipline left me a bit short. Hey, $89 was a lot of money to a 13 year old kid! When school started that year, I was even more determined to make it happen. I started selling candy out of my backpack to kids in the halls between classes. Blowpops for .50 cents! I was like a drug dealer!

I was slinging Blow Pops and chewing gum like a drug dealer

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Playing Zelda everywhere I went was a life changing experience

4 x AA batteries

20+ hours of playtime?

Kirbys Dreamland, another Gameboy classic

Making Comparisons

Comparing the Gameboy to today's portable consoles is tough. You could argue that the original Gameboy came the closest to replicating its the home console experience than any system since. After all, the GB was basically capable of all the same graphics and gameplay characteristics as the NES -- minus the colored graphics of course.

The evolution of mobile technology

Portable consoles have been promising to bring the full gaming experience of home consoles and arcades into a portable package for years. For all of the improvements and technological leaps we have experienced, it has never really been fully achieved. The PSP was the first to offer full 3d graphics and analog controls that dominated that generation of systems, but its power was far behind the PS2 or Xbox. The Vita took things a step closer with incredible graphics and dual analog sticks, but developers never really got on board and the Vita never saw it's true potential.

Even Nintendo themeselves seems to still be striving to deliver that full console experience -- even attempting to combine the two with the announcement of the upcoming Nintendo Switch hybrid.

Too good to be true?

The Experience

My experience restoring my original Gameboy back to a like-new-condition was pretty great. I have so many memories of play my Gameboy for so many years. I can still appreciate the creativity of both the graphics and the game design that those early developers mastered. They made so much out of such limited hardware. What I never realized was just how profound the impact of having a Gameboy had on my future passion fro technology.

It's just a Gameboy...what's the big deal?

I get that some people might read this and say..."It's just a Gameboy! What's the big deal?" However, to me and many others of my generation, its about more than the Gameboy itsself. It's about what the Gameboy represented at the time, and what it ultimately led to. It also happens to be the third best selling console of all time. That should tell you a little about it's impact on the tech industry.

With the Gameboy, Nintendo kickstarted a revolution in what was possible with mobile consumer electronics. Even if you never owned one, every tech geek and gadget nerd out there owes them a small debt of gratitude.

Created By
Shawn Alfenito Gadget Reason

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