How the Nintendo NES Zapper gun worked (and why it doesn't on today's TVs)

My 10-year-old son Lux is a retro videogame historian who collects and studies 1980s consoles and games with the gravitas of a PhD student working on his thesis. Last year he acquired Nintendo's NES Zapper gun controller from 1984 that was used to play shooting games like Duck Hunt. (Below, a TV commercial for the NES Deluxe Set including the Zapper and R.O.B. The Robotic Operating Buddy.) Unfortunately, the NES Zapper doesn't work with modern LCD televisions. The video above from "Today I Found Out" explains the clever technology behind the NES Zapper gun. And here's a great text explanation from How-To Geek about why it doesn't work on non-CRT screens, something my son already knew but, of course, wanted the Zapper anyway for, er, display purposes:

First, it requires extremely precise timing between the trigger pull on the Zapper and the response on the screen. Even the slightest difference (and we’re talking milliseconds here) between the signal sent to the NES and the signal displayed on the screen can throw it off. The original timing sequence was based on the very dependable response time of a CRT hooked up to the analog NES signal. Whether the old tube TV was big, small, cutting edge or 10 years old, the speed of the signal via the CRT display standard was reliable. By contrast, the latency in modern digital sets is not reliable and is not the same as the old consistent delay in the CRT system. Now, this doesn’t matter in most situations.

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Emulator lets you turn NES games 3D

Super Mario Bros and other classic games can be run through 3DNes, a nifty 3D emulator. Read the rest

Swiss Researchers solve side-scrolling immersion

Researchers at the ETH Game Technology Center of the Swiss national technical institute in Zürich, have applied their considerable talents to the critical problem of immersion in 2D side-scrolling, 8-bit era games. Witness in this video the splendor of a 360° projected Mario world that unrolls across the walls as players reveal each subsequent tile of the game map.

Robert Sumner, founder of the GTC explains:

 ...we observed that the 8-bit era of gaming had a huge collective influence on so many people, but the actual gaming experience was typically an individual one. We wanted to turn this idea upside down, and elevate the NES console experience into a group experience where the game surrounds a large event, allowing multiple people to play in a collaborative setting. The panoramic stitching and 8-way controller multiplexing hardware were the main ways we accomplished this task.

The group submitted the paper "Unfolding the 8-bit Era" to the European Conference on Visual Media Production, and then built the system to unveil at the Eurographics Conference. Utilizing a vintage 8-bit Famicom/NES system and a PC with a point-correspondence vision tracking algorithm, the researchers developed methods to detect the edge of each screen segment, adding it to a continuously expanding texture map in real-time. This panoramic texture is then seamlessly displayed on eight aligned projectors. The vision algorithm requires no prior knowledge about the game, so it is possible to play any side-scroller on this system, such as Super Mario Bros., Castlevania, Metroid, and the like. Read the rest

Would you pay $499 for a beautiful aluminum NES?

AnalogNT is an 8-bit gaming console precision-crafted from a single block of aluminum, resulting in something beautiful but no more capable than thrift store tat. The Verge calls it the Leica of game consoles.

This has little to no bearing on how the Nt actually functions, of course. But Analogue believes that it’s energy worth expending. "For us, the quality and aesthetics of a product should be carried all the way through," says Taber. "Putting this much effort into designing something that most customers will never end up seeing may seem superfluous — but we couldn’t imagine making something any other way."

I like their Arcade system much more; a more straightforward refinement of a classic gaming experience to a place of timeless quality than making the NES good for "videophiles." Read the rest

Brain Rot: Nostalgic Memories of the NES

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