[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Nintendo Smartwatch

September 15th, 2014 by Benj Edwards

Nelsonic Nintendo Game Watches Zelda Watch Super Mario Bros. Watch Service Merchandise catalog advertisement - 1989Why not put LZDN1WBF and LSMN1WBF on your Xmas wishlist?

As you probably know, Apple recently introduced the Apple Watch. That got me thinking about other nerdy watches of yore, and I remembered something I recently found in my mom's attic.

Last month, my mother and I searched through boxes and boxes of my grandmother's old dishes to see what might be of use to me now. The dishes had been sitting in my parents' attic untouched for two decades. Many of them were padded with old newspaper from eastern Tennessee, which is where my grandmother lived until she died in 1992.

Among the usual black-ink-on-yellowing-paper fare, I found a handful of gloriously full-color advertisement circulars. A December 1989 mini-catalog for Service Merchandise caught my attention immediately because it featured a pair of Nelsonic Game Watches licensed by Nintendo. (That segment of the circular is what you see scanned above.)

Each of these two watches, which sold for ($19.97 a piece — or $38.37 today when adjusted for inflation) played a simplified prefab-LCD interpretation of its console namesake. If you remember Tiger's LCD handheld games, you're on the right track. In the Zelda watch game, you were forever trapped in a dungeon, and in Super Mario Bros. you were forever hopping between platforms.

While these watch games were limited at the time, it was amazing to think you could fit a portable, battery-powered "video game" on your wrist and play it wherever you liked. I personally recall seeing more than one of these watches getting confiscated by teachers during my elementary school days.

That desire to carry functional video games with us has never abated. Heck, I bet that within days of the Apple Watch's release next year, someone will hack it to play emulated versions of Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda — allowing us to finally have the full NES experience on our wrists. It may be 25 years too late, but it will be amusing to see how things have come full circle.

[ From Service Merchandise Circular (IE499J), Dec 1989, p.11]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever owned a watch that played a game? Tell us about it.

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Nintendo Power Pad

November 13th, 2012 by Benj Edwards

Nintendo NES Power Pad Nintendo Power Ad - 1989Nothing says fun like a nice hot bowl of chunky butter cubes.

With the Wii U launching next weekend, it's worth taking a look back the Power Pad, one of Nintendo's first experiments in motion-based game control.

In this case, the controller (which decidedly lacked a second screen) took the form of a large vinyl mat with enormous soft buttons that one would lay upon the floor and beat with one's fists stomp with one's feet to simulate running in an on-screen video game.

It didn't work too well, but I personally had a blast playing World Class Track Meet tournaments with the Power Pad at the neighbor's house up the street. I recall playing in improvised teams of two, where one player from each team would stand and run on two of the forward facing buttons, and another player on each team would sit behind them on the floor and pound the rear buttons simultaneously in an attempt to make their character run faster.

This was apparently possible (I'm working from memory here — I haven't used a Power Pad in a long time) because each column of buttons is linked together electronically in the Power Pad, so that a push on any one button in any one column is like a push on any other button in that column. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. I can't test it because the Power Pad I happen to have doesn't work.

By the way, I apologize for the uncharacteristically poor quality of the source material here. This came from a particular issue of Nintendo Power that I must have read hundreds of times, literally, so the creases are a natural byproduct of my youthful Nintendo-fueled enthusiasm.

[ From Nintendo Power, January-February 1989, rear cover ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Tell us your Power Pad memories. Have you ever used one?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] My Robot Watch

September 12th, 2011 by Benj Edwards

Benj's Dirty Transforming Takara Kronoform Robot Watch - circa early 1980sIt's like a Transformer on your wrist.

I don't remember where this watch came from. Maybe my parents bought it for my brother before me. Maybe I begged for it when I saw it at a local Revco drug store (as I did with many toys back then). What I do know is that I played with it as a three-year-old kid, and I was completely distraught when I lost part of it in my back yard.

You see, this digital watch isn't just a watch — it's a transforming humanoid robot. The center piece detaches from the wrist strap and unfolds into a tiny robot man. It was first sold in 1984 by Takara, the company responsible for originating the popular Transformers toy line in Japan. At some point I lost the robot part of my watch, and I figured I would never see it again.

A few years later, my mom stepped in from the back yard and presented a dirty piece of plastic in her soil-stained hands. Joy swelled in my heart as I recognized what she had found while digging in her garden bed: my missing robot watch.

It was dirty, of course, and the clock portion no longer worked due to years of weather exposure, but I was still ecstatic. If you ever lost a favorite toy as a child, you know how painful it is. Rarely does one ever find such a missing toy again. This was the one that came back, the one small victory for lost toys everywhere. That tiny hole in my heart, the one left vacant by my missing robot buddy, had been filled.

Ironically, I probably just put the watch in a box and forgot about it. Decades passed. While looking through some childhood knickknacks recently, I found it again and thought you might enjoy the story. It still feels good to know, as I hold this toy watch in my hands, that not all things we lose are gone forever.

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's the coolest digital watch you've ever owned? Did you ever own a robot or game watch?

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