Monday, June 20, 2022

The Successors: Evolution of Monochrome Handhelds after the Game Boy

When the Nintendo Game Boy was released in April/July, 1989 (Japan/North America), there was nothing like it on the market.  The Game Boy was the first programmable handheld system with sufficient capabilities to play games that were similar to the home consoles of its day.  The Game Boy was intended to be an inexpensive device, so it used a monochrome reflective green screen rather than a difficult-to-manufacture and power hungry backlit color screen like its main competitors, the Atari Lynx, Sega Game Gear, NEC Turbo Express and later the Sega Nomad.  Although the Game Boy definitively ruled over the color competing systems, dominating the market until its successor, the Game Boy Color, was released in October/November of 1998, that does not mean it was the only monochrome handheld game console on the market.  Early in its lifetime it had competitors from Taiwan which tried to take away some of its market with little success.  Later, more established companies tried to get on the monochrome bandwagon, only to find that lightning does not necessarily strike twice.  Recently, as retro style gameplay experiences have found a market in the age of the Nintendo Switch, we have seen at least one or two companies try their hand at a monochrome handheld.  In this article we will trace the evolution of the consoles that tried to compete with the Game Boy or invoke its success.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

The Modern Unfriendliness of 8-bit Keyboard Layouts

Keyboards today have a standard layout.  All keyboards are based off the 104-key standard layout from the mid-1990s, and before that the IBM Model M 101 key layout.  But back before the IBM PC line introduced the 101 and brought uniformity to the home computer world, things were not standard at all.  Every home computer manufacturer had its ideas about what keys should be on the keyboard and where they should be.  This tends to cause some annoyances for emulating those computers, especially when the program relies on certain keys being in certain places.