Category Archives: Retro Consoles

The Gadget Man – Episode 146 – Retro Gadget of the Week – Part 10 – Nintendo Game Boy

In the final episode of my Retro Gadget of the Week, I bring you the Nintendo Game Boy.

This is an exclusive episode which was never broadcast. I’d like to be able to say it was too hot for broadcast, but in reality, it never made it because of time constraints on BBC Radio Suffolk. But here it is in all its glory, exclusively available to your pleasure!

Nintendo Game Boy in front of Assorted Games Cartridges
Nintendo Game Boy in front of Assorted Games Cartridges

Nintendo Game Boy

The Game Boy was an 8-bit portable games console designed and built by Nintendo, it was released in Japan in 1989 and then 12 months later made it to the USA and Europe.

The console featured a green, greyscale screen, but excelled in battery life against its arch-rivals, the Sega Game Gear and Atari Lynx. Along with an extremely durable case, both these features went towards beating it’s technically more advanced rivals.

The Game Boy came with the puzzle game, Tetris with later bundles including the legendary Super Mario Land, both were excellent games with fabulous soundtracks which didn’t become irritating.

The original Game Boy was a smash hit with gamers and went on to sell almost 65 million units. Nintendo kept gamers attention by releasing backwardly compatible upgraded units such as the Game Boy Color, Game Boy Light and Game Boy Advance.

As will other format wars, the gadget you least expect to win on paper is the victor and the Game Boy was certainly that, a truly great retro gadget which deserves to round off this series.

If you haven’t already, listen in to the stream as it contains 6 minutes of discussion about the Game Boy and its rivals and a little bit of history behind them.

Thanks to Matt Marvell at BBC Radio Suffolk for hosting my segment for the last 12 weeks and for producing this final one.

Don’t forget to Like, Share, Subscribe and Comment!!!

Gadget Man Episode 144 – Retro Gadget of the Week – Part 9 – 80s Home Computers

In our penultimate episode of Retro Gadget of the Week, we take a look at one the most revolutionary moments in computer history,  where an explosion of homegrown talent changed the very face of the personal computer marketplace and faced up directly the power of Silicon Valley with low-cost home computers designed in the UK

Commodore VIC20 Personal Computer
Commodore VIC20 Personal Computer, my first computer in all it’s 3.5k glory and 22 columns display

I was very lucky to receive a Commodore VIC20 personal computer for one of my birthdays in the 80s and proceeded to embrace coding head-on! Unlike other home computers, the VIC20 only supported it’s own tape drive, so instead of using our portable cassette play like my mates with Sinclair ZX Spectrums, I had to wait until I save enough money to buy my own Commodore Datasette.  This meant that every single program I wrote on the Vic was lost when the power was switched off, I either needed to write down my code or memorise it!

Alongside the American VIC20, a slew of other devices was released by UK based companies. The most famous was the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and ZX81. However, other notable UK made systems included the BBC Model B (built by Acorn), Dragon 32Amstrad CPC464, Apricot F1, Camputers Lynx, Gundy Newbrain, Jupiter Ace, Memotech MTX, Tangerine Oric 1 and many others.

Dragon 32
The Dragon 32 used the Motorola 6809 CPU

Almost all home computers of the era were based on the Zilog Z80 or MOS 6502 microprocessors with a small number going with the Motorola 6809 (which was more advanced that the Zilog and MOS processors).

The computers were generally self-contained devices, combining keyboards and computers as one with connectivity with colour or black and white TV’s which the user was generally expected to supply. Other peripherals were available such as tape drives, floppy disk drives, printers, joysticks and light-pens. Some models also supported plug-in cartridges which generally allowed the owner to play pre-programmed games.

Sinclair ZX Spectrum 16K 48K
The Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K was the darling of the 80s market due to it’s price and range of games

The first to the market came with minute amounts of programmable RAM in the region of 1K to 5K, later entrants from the UK market settings with 16K or 32K with some stretching even further.  If I compare this to my Sony Xperia 1 mobile that I use today, this comes with 6 Gigabytes of RAM which is roughly 1,700,000 times more than my Commodore VIC!

Commodore 64 Personal Computer
The higher-end Commodore 64 Personal Computer with its sprite graphics, outstanding sound and award-winning games had a longer stay than most in the market
BASIC Code - Beginner's All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code
An example of Commodore BASIC Code – Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code

Almost every computer came preloaded the BASIC (Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) programming language which allowed a new breed of programmers to begin crafting their own code. Although the basics of each version of BASIC remained similar, that’s where it ended, different hardware and firmware made each machine incompatible with the other. Having a market saturated with different devices which didn’t speak the same dialect was the architect of their demise.

BBC Micro Model B
The BBC Micro Model B, built by Acorn as a joint venture with BBC. It found it’s way into schools as the staple computer for education.

After 3 to 4 years, the majority of these computers had become obsolete and fell out of use leaving the BBC Model B surviving through use in UK schools, colleges and universities and the Commodore 64 which had become a glorified games console rather than a way for young people to gain computer experience.

IBM PC AT
The IBM_PC_AT and it’s lower cost clones swooped in and stole the market

Along came affordable IBM PC clones from Dell, Compaq, AST and Gateway which WERE compatible with each other. Users began migrating across to these PC compatibles and the market was replaced at home and office. It was the end of an era.

Without the likes of Commodore or Acorn, my life would have been very different, so I have to tip my hat to the 80s Home Computer!.

Listen in to the podcast above to find out more and don’t forget to LIKE, SUBSCRIBE, SHARE and COMMENT!!!

See you next time

Matt
The Gadget Man
(Former Programmer of CBM Basic, BBC Basic, DataGeneral Basic, Testpoint Basix and Visual Basic)

Image Credits: Wikipedia

 

 

The Gadget Man – Episode 105 – On the Sofa with Sarah Lilley at BBC Radio Suffolk

As I continue to ride the wave of euphoria of completing the 1200 mile east to west  Gadget Road Trip with my lifelong friend Andy. Today I joined BBC Radio Suffolk’s Sarah Lilley on the Sofa in Ipswich and explained how the challenge came about and how it felt to drive 1200 miles in an Electric Car and why I love Gadgets!

I also talked about how I met Vanessa, how I listen to music and an ill fated trip to Tunisia in 1996.

Listen in to the stream, bookmark the site, we have a LOAD of reviews coming up over the next few weeks, so stay tuned!

Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System, now we can all relive the 80’s

This week has been all ‘GO’ with Nintendo, but some surprising and particularly pleasing news came along today with the announcement of the.. Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System !

Yes, we get to relive those halcyon days of playing Super Mario 3 into the wee small hours of the night and best of all we now get to play on a HD TV.

Nintendo have indeed announced the release of a mini version of the famous Nintendo Entertainment System or ‘NES’, coming to a store near you from the 11th November 2016.

The console is a cut down to size replica of the original million selling home games console. This time we plug it into our high def TV’s with the included HDMI cable and power it using a mini USB power cable (We supply the plug, possible from the dozens we have accumulated over the years from mobile phones and tablets).

CI_NintendoClassicMiniNES_PS_Announcement_MS7_image912w

This time around there is now fiddling with games cartridges, instead Nintendo are loading the console with 30 NES classics, from the legendary Super Mario Bros 1, 2 and 3!! to The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Donkey Kong, PAC-MAN, Kirby,

Bring back memories and make brand new ones with Nintendo’s ultimate retro gaming experience, launching 11th November!

Relive the 80s when the Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System launches in stores on 11th November. The classic NES is back in a familiar-yet-new form as a mini replica of Nintendo’s original home console. Plugging directly into a high-definition TV using the included HDMI cable, the console comes complete with 30 NES games built-in, including beloved classics like Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Donkey Kong, PAC-MAN and Kirby’s Adventure and more (I’ve put the complete games list at the end of the article).

When my eldest son was a baby (He’s now 24!), I use to sit rocking him in the night when he woke for his feed, while he was getting off to sleep I spent many an hour playing Super Mario Bros 3 on a original NES that was lent to us by my old mate Mikey Moore. This was a time of classic console gaming, memory and processing power was in short supply so the programmers worked near miracles to produce these simply amazing 8 bit games.

In reality Nintendo owned home consoles for a decade before the onslaught of Sony and Microsoft and their enormous bank balances and getting to play these games again is going to prove very popular for gamers young and old.

The console comes with HDMI cable, USB cable,one Nintendo Classic Mini: NES Controller and of course the 30 including classic games. Nintendo will also sell you additional controllers to make your doubles games even more memorable.

The console is released on the 11th November 2016, look pay around £70 for the console package.

Complete Games List:-

Balloon Fight
BUBBLE BOBBLE
Castlevania™
Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest™
Donkey Kong
Donkey Kong Jr.
DOUBLE DRAGON II: THE REVENGE
Dr. Mario
Excitebike
FINAL FANTASY®
Galaga™
GHOSTS‘N GOBLINS™
GRADIUS™
Ice Climber
Kid Icarus
Kirby’s Adventure
Mario Bros.
MEGA MAN™ 2
Metroid
NINJA GAIDEN®
PAC-MAN™
Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream
StarTropics
SUPER C™
Super Mario Bros.
Super Mario Bros. 2
Super Mario Bros. 3
Tecmo Bowl™
The Legend of Zelda
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link