Global Game Industry News Blog

Friday, March 03, 2006

Gamespot has an interesting flashback or retrospective on the NES which was posted about a week ago. I hadn't really realized that it's been 20 years since the introduction of the NES, despite it's rather pivotal place in the lives of so many people my age. It also got me to thinking about the role of the NES in my research, and how in many ways, the NES marks the beginning of my research.

I recently presented a talk at MIT for the STS Graduate student conference. My talk, oddly enough looked at the NES, and some of the technology in it. Here is the abstract of that talk:

The Nintendo Entertainment System and the 10NES Chip: Carving the Video Game Industry in Silicon

In 1986 the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was released in the United States. The NES differed only slightly from it's Japanese predecessor the Nintendo Famicom (Family Computer), however, one difference in particular is important to address, and this technological innovation marks "the beginning" of my dissertation's historical context.

The NES and all cartridges capable of being played on it contained a small semiconductor commonly referred to as the 10NES lockout chip. The 10NES chip represented a departure from the previous decade of console game development, a period in which anyone with the technical know-how and access to the requisite hardware tools could produce a video game.

All major console video game manufacturers since the introduction of the NES use methods similar to those implemented in 1986. Indeed, even those that differ in method of implementation and become patented reference the original NES patent (Nakagawa, 1985). Every single major game console released from this moment forward has been locked in a way that demands that those developing or distributing games collaborate with its creators. Even systems described as using a "general CD-ROM" format, like the Sony PlayStation (PSOne) actually make use of proprietary (indeed patented) mechanisms of locking those CD-ROMs (Nakajima, Kitada, & Ogawa, 1998). While the PSOne did support use of the CD-ROM format for music and photos, it is inaccurate to say that it would load games or run programs from those "general CD-ROM's".

Nakagawa, K. (1985). United States Patent No. 4799635. U. S. P. Office.
Nakajima, H., Kitada, T., & Ogawa, H. (1998). United States Patent No. 5832088. U. S. P. Office.


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