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Nintendo Entertainment System

In 1983, as video game companies were producing more and more games, ever faster and ever lower in quality, the public was fed up with ever shittier games. The video game market, which had boomed to oppressive heights since the late seventies, crashed and burned and, so it seemed, died.

And for two years it slumbered. But then, a Japanese company that had been manufacturing pong machines and handheld LCD games came up with a brave new plan: a video game machine that focused on quality over quantity. It already produced the Japan-only "Famicom" -Family Computer- in 1983, much to its despair as the crash coincided with its release - but it sold. It was more powerful than anything of its time and it allowed for bigger, more complex, more beautiful games to be produced for it. After mounting success they changed the name and form factor and released its magic into the wider world.

And so, in 1985, the global video game market emerged anew, leaning up against the doorframe with a burning cigarette in its mouth and two glasses of martini in its hands, pronouncing to the quivering world that rumours of its death had been greatly exaggerated. Nintendo became a name forever connected to and indeed embodying the world of video gaming, and no one was sad ever again.

front view of the NES, with two controllers attached

Oh, how the world was changed. The NES is an 8 bit gray beast that connects to your television with AV cables. My parents bought the pictured machine in 1986, three years before I was born. And it still runs smooth and true. Let's see anything produced today last three decades!

bottom of the NES with the expansion port cover removed

Here's the bottom of the thing. It has a removable hatch, removed here, that exposes an opening in the casing (covered by a breakaway piece of plastic) that opens to an expansion port for which an expansion was never made.

sticker on the bottom of the NES, detailing model numbers, electronic specs, patents, et cetera

Here's the manufacturing information on the sticker. This particular machine is from 1986, three years before my birth.

close up shot of the controller

Indestructible, simple, stylish: all anyone needed to control any game. D-pad, A, B, select and start. This was the key to entire worlds of gaming, and is to this day. No matter what anyone says: if people complain of their fingers hurting after a while it means they are weak. This thing is perfect and I'll die knowing that.

top/side view of the NES, with the cassette bay door opened and a game inserted

This was the age of cartridges - none of that spinny disk nonsense here. Nintendo called theirs 'game paks', although the word 'cart' was more commonly used.

23 NES games laid out

The NES has a library of some 700 games - and what games! This is the console that gave birth to Metroid, Mario, Legend of Zelda, Mega Man, and countless others that have become icons of video gaming. Of Super Mario Bros. alone over 40 million copies were sold; it was the best selling game of all time until it was knocked from its pedestal by Wii Sports. I bet Nintendo wasn't too sour on that one.

the NES Game Genie and its big book of cheat codes

Whenever I'm in the mood for a frustrating but beautiful game of Little Nemo or Metroid, I inevitably end up breaking out the Game Genie. It attaches to the game cartridge like so:

the Game Genie inserted into a game cartridge

And then the combined beast is inserted into the console like this:

the cartridge and Game Genie inserted into the NES

The book pictured above contains codes that allow one to play a multitude of games with such advantages as extra lives, immortality, higher jumps, faster dashes, and so forth. In the case of an easier game like the magnificent Kirby's Adventure it also allows the user to make the game more difficult. Good times!

the NES Zapper

I own a few offbeat third party controllers for the NES, but I suppose the most famous alternate controller for the system is Nintendo-made: the Zapper. Oh, joyous day, when we would shoot ducks on our television, wondering how it worked whilst its secrets lay far beyond the capability of our little brains... Now I know, but is my life better? With its magic dispelled into the dark lanes of the forgotten, has my world grown more wondrous?

The Universe is a cold, dark place that knows only little mercy and little love. Keep your Zapper close.

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