Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Day 4

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On the fourth day of Christmas my memories gave to me…

Four AA Batteries!

I know they don’t look like much, but these little capsules of power are responsible for oh so many smiles and tears to gaming children.  In the early 90s, everyone wanted a portable gaming system of some kind – Gameboy, Tiger handheld, maybe even an Atari Lynx – and they all had one thing in common: they needed batteries.  Stories of whether or not any of these devices came with batteries are often passed around anecdotes of suburban myth, but regardless of that fact no child could survive Christmas weekend on one set of batteries alone.  I know for a fact that the Gameboy did come with batteries, but any of the others is anyone’s guess.  Either way, it was the beginning of a time where frantic holiday shopping parents coming to terms with $100 price tags were greeted with reminders to purchase bundles of batteries and most passed.  Then on Christmas morning these parents realized how poor a choice that was.

Nothing ruins a parents day like getting children a new toy, an electronic toy no less, that cannot run.  In many cases the portable console would be the only thing they received for Christmas, and if not then various games may be the only other gift(s).  As expected, there was almost nothing open on Christmas day – in 1990 in the suburb of Chicago I grew up in there weren’t even 24 hour Walgreens or gas stations nearby that opened on Christmas.  If you didn’t have batteries and needed them, you were essentially screwed.  Thankfully most remote controls used AA back then rather than the AAA they use now so it was a scavenger hunt for anything with a remote.  If you were lucky enough to snag all 4 AAs, however, the batteries in those remotes were probably on the verge of death because the same type of parent that didn’t buy batteries at Christmas were also the kind that didn’t replace them until the remote was near death for at least a month.  If you were lucky you got an hour out of the device before it died again.  In the end it was a lesson that parents quickly learned, but the child gamer paid the price.

 Thankfully by 1995 most stores and parents knew the best option was a rechargeable battery pack, AC adaptor, DC adaptor, or even a kit with everything for a low price.  In fact, by 2000 many of the available versions in stores were bundles that included said kit as a way for the store to generate a profit on the console sale (if you’re unaware, most retailers make no profit on the sale of a console itself).  Thankfully my parents also learned this lesson, but I still remember getting handhelds I couldn’t play right out of the box.

<- Go back to the third day                                            Go on to the fifth day ->

Written by Fred Rojas

December 17, 2011 at 12:12 pm

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