Gaming History 101

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RetroActive Podcast: 8-Bit Tech

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This week Fred discusses the technology behind the 8-bit generation of consoles (NES, SMS, TG-16). He discusses 8-bit processing power, how the architecture of the consoles is set up, and how video signals and broadcast standards played a role.

Photo courtesy of Evan Amos (wikipedia).

Opening Song: “Pure Stone” from Zillion (SMS)
Mid Song: “Character Selection” from Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES)
Closing Song: “Boss Battle” from Keith Courage In Alpha Zones (TG-16)

The 8-Bit Guy on Assembly Language:
Displaced Gamers Channel:
My Life in Gaming Channel:

Written by Fred Rojas

February 20, 2023 at 8:00 am

Buying Guide: Sega Master System

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We all love our retro consoles, but in many cases the consoles we are buying are because they are cheap enough or we have enough money to purchase what we never were able to in our youth.  Unfortunately the business of making used retro items available to the masses can at times be a money grubbing market where consumers are deceived by people they will never meet in real life.  As an individual who has spent the last decade scouring the local area, conventions, eBay, and the internet as a whole I have learned many valuable lessons.  For that reason I present my buying guide series, which is a handy quick guide to knowing what to purchase and what will cost an arm and a leg to replace.

Oh the Master System, the red-headed step child of the 8-bit era.  Not only were Sega products unknown to American markets – Japan had seen several iterations of the Sega Mark consoles, the Master System known as the Mark III – but it released alongside the NES in America and had nothing to show for it.  The two biggest problems with the Master System today is that it’s relatively expensive for a working consoles itself, there are ways to play many of these games on the Game Gear or Genesis (with the Power Base Converter), and not too many good games (many arcade games also got ported to Genesis with better quality).  For those that aren’t aware, Nintendo also had developers and publishers locked into license agreements that didn’t allow games to be released on another console and basically had the Master System in checkmate in the US.  Still, I have the console and love some of the games/ports that are available on it (like Ghostbusters) and plenty of collector’s are curious what the console looks like.  Aside from the video provided below, make sure the consoles you get have the following:

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Written by Fred Rojas

December 17, 2012 at 12:57 pm


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So now you want to import consoles and games, do you?  Well you’ll be happy to know that it is entirely possible on most consoles, however there are some things you’ll have to be aware of before you do it.  This article discusses the different things you have to do to both the electric and video signal of various imported consoles.  It will also briefly discuss how to get foreign games to play on US consoles, if possible.

Electricity Differences
No matter what console you are using, it’s important to know the differences between electricity in the US, Europe and Japan.

Japanese Consoles in the US
As you’ll see plenty of times in this article, Japan is quite similar to the United States in many ways, including power.  We use 120 volts as our standard for power.  Japan doesn’t appear to use a ground (or at least none of the Japanese consoles I’ve ever gotten do, never been to Japan itself), so all plugs from Japanese consoles will be two-pronged and fit in an US outlet.  Also fortunate is the fact that most consoles, especially retro ones, will use AC adaptors that work in the US.  Never interchange US power supplies into Japanese consoles, you could fry the console or worse.  For example, if you import a Famicom, use that console’s AC adaptor and not an US NES one.  For newer consoles like Japanese PS2s and PS3s, you may want to check the back of the console, but I think those are good for AC 100-240 volts for worldwide distribution, but I could be wrong.  Basically if it generates heat, be very careful and do a search for advice from a reputable source (no, Yahoo! Answers is not a reputable source).  Also if you want to be completely safe, there are Japanese voltage converters that allow use of Japanese products here.

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Written by Fred Rojas

December 29, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Generation Gap Pt. 2: 8-Bit

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Amidst the video game crash of 1983, it seemed pretty unlikely that home consoles would have a future.  Fortunately a Japanese toy maker had figured out how to re-sell video games to the masses despite the world economy turning its back.  That company was Nintendo.

8-bit Generation (1985 – 1995)

Nintendo Entertainment System – Launch Price: $200 – Released: 1985
Depending on your age, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) probably needs the least introduction or background, but there were many things going on behind the scenes that assisted this console in becoming the giant it was.  Initially Nintendo had to figure out how to overcome the world economy’s opinion on video game consoles, which the Famicom/NES clearly was.  In Japan, where personal home computers were all the rage, it was marketed as a computer for your family, hence the name Famicom (for “family computer”).  In America the better way to sell it was as a toy, which everything from the console’s marketing to the simple boxy aesthetic suggests.  It worked and in both regions this little 8-bit system assisted Nintendo in virtually running the 8-bit era.

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Written by Fred Rojas

October 21, 2011 at 12:18 pm