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The top ten retro gaming secrets

Posted on 1 Oct 2010 at 14:34

4. Steering wheel controllers are older than you think

While we're shooting down myths, steering wheels weren't invented by Sony for the PlayStation in 1994, nor Nintendo for the N64 in 1996.

Forget about the force-feedback wheels of today, and jump back to 1978 for the electro-mechanical Tomy Demon Driver complete with mini-wheel, or totally bizarre Tomy Turnin' Turbo Dashboard driving simulator of 1983.

Tomy Turnin Turbo

However, for a true steering wheel controller peripheral look to the Hanimex TVG-3000 plug-into-your-telly console from the early 1980's which had an optional wheel to accompany a racing game and beat the big boys by at least a decade.

Hanimex 3000

5. The Nintendo DS was not the first dual-screen handheld

The Nintendo DS has sold in excess of 130 million units since 2004 to become the best-selling handheld video games console of all time. Yet the DS bit was far from innovative: dual-screen handhelds have been around for nearly 30 years! Nintendo itself had a range of multi-screen 'Game & Watch' devices, including the million seller 'Mario Bros' from 1983.

Nintendo Game and Watch

Nintendo wasn't alone in developing this kind of technology. The 1982 VTech 'Diamond Hunt' handheld went one better with play across three screens, as did the Monkey Kingdom handheld from Tronica which adopted a side-to-side screen approach rather than the top-to-bottom scrolling of Diamond Hunt.

VTech Diamond Hunt

6. The Game Boy was not a game changer

More bad news for Nintendo fanboys: the Game Boy, released in 1989 and selling nearly 120 million units worldwide, was not the pioneering cartridge-based handheld you might imagine. Atari fans can sit down as well: neither was the backlit colour-screened Atari Lynx of the same year.

Atari Lynx

Jump back a whole ten years to 1979 and the Milton Bradley Microvision was actually the very first handheld with interchangeable cartridges to hit the games market. It had died by 1981, a victim of being a little ahead of its time and a little short of screen estate and games to play, but did manage to put in an appearance in Friday the 13th Part 2.

Milton Bradley Microvision

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User comments

The top ten retro gaming secrets

Monty scrabble was supposed to be played with a proper board & letters.

My recollection from having owned one was that monty showed you his word and where it was to be placed.

People in turn had to enter their word on the console. There where paper scrabble boards in the box

No different to a driver having a satnav

By invalidscreenname on 1 Oct 2010

PC Engine GT

The stuff dreams were made of when I was but a child.

By heimdallsaga on 1 Oct 2010


my Blip is still working strong providing hours of retro fun. It's out lasted a dozen PCs & survived our 6 kids. Can't think of a single piece of PC hardware or software the evokes such emotion as the Blip.

By ardow on 1 Oct 2010

The truth about Monty

Monty could be played with a 'real' Scrabble board and tiles, but it was designed to be a standalone games unit.

I played it the other day, funnily enough, and it mostly shows you your letters and ask you for your word and then the next player and the next and then Monty has a go. Monty also pops up with encouragement or derision throughout the game.

If satnavs were this big they would never have taken off :)

By happygeek on 2 Oct 2010

Gaming dreams

>stuff dreams were made of when I was but a child

When I was a child we had to make do with clockwork trainsets and roller skates made of tin mostly.

I do recall, however, my delight when we got our first Atari 2600 - not the original release but the famous 'woody' a year or two later. It was a family purchase, and the decision to buy was down largely to it "looking nice next to the music centre and TV" both of which had the same faux-wood effect finish :)

By happygeek on 2 Oct 2010


I actually rather like the noise that toys such as Blip and Demon Driver make, to be honest. Just one hint of that sound and it brings tons of childhood memories flooding back.

The Tomy Turnin' Turbo driving simulator (used as the main illustration for this feature) was actually ploayed with by my own kids right up until they got old enough to discover the delights of shooting alien hoardes to pieces in delightful realism...

By happygeek on 2 Oct 2010

It was cutting edge back then

I recently dusted off my Tandy TRS80 which I bought in 1979 after saving up for it off my paper-round as a kid,and subsequently upgraded the ROM to level 2 and RAM to 16K (Yes...16 whole K !)and a green screen. It was actually a black & white monitor with a green perspex cover over it. Eventually, I managed to load 'space invaders' from the 30 year old cassette tape and was that excited that it was working I shouted my 17 year old step son to come and have a look at what I was playing with when I was his age. One he had managed to drag himself away from his Xbox, Playstation, COD, MOH etc he took one look and said..." That's f*&^%$ s£%^& that is..." and turned and walked out!

By Smudge_Smith on 3 Oct 2010

Pretty much the same reaction I get from my 12 year old (as I type this he's killing his mates on Halo Reach) whenever I get enthusiastic about some retro kit. Although he does think the Magnavox pump-action shotgun from 1972 is 'awesome' and quite seriously suggested we should go into business together making a modern version that works with Halo, CoD etc.

Mind you, it's also the same reaction I got when I insisted on proving the original version of Clash of the Titans was better than the recent Hollywood remake by making him watch it. I think he last 20 minutes before literally crawling out of the room, nearly wetting his pants with laughter at the 'totally lame effects'...

By happygeek on 3 Oct 2010

20 years pah !!!! 25 years

The Stick by lightwave leisure was a baseless joystick with tilt switches though it lacked force detection

By irturner on 3 Oct 2010

But could you play golf with it? >;-)

By happygeek on 4 Oct 2010

Barcode Battler

I had one of those!! I thought it was amazing at the time, although no one else had one so I had to fight the computer... who seemed impossible to beat.
I do remember finding a barcode on a tube of tomato puree which was a perticularly good weapon though.

By Moorezo on 6 Oct 2010

oh dear... Excuse my appalling spelling mistake - how embarrassing.

By Moorezo on 6 Oct 2010

I can imagine a version of Barcode Battler for the Wii which involves waving a tube of toothpaste and a tin of soup at the screen to fight off the invading hoardes...

By happygeek on 6 Oct 2010

Old but not forgotten, well almost

What a blast from the past, I remember many of these devices from my youth. Hell, I even had several still sitting in the attic up until I moved house two years ago. They did incredibly well on ebay. So much so that they enriched my current gaming environment with an all singing and dancing ATi card a 22 inch screen.

Though admittedly, I doubt I will fueling my gaming demons in another 25 years by selling these items on ebay!

By Autodine on 21 Oct 2010

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