Nintendo’s Virtual Boy was among the first game consoles to display “true 3D graphics” and a cherished part of many childhoods. It’s also the “coolest device” the iFixIt crew has ever taken apart and it’s easy to see why.
For those unfamiliar with the Virtual Boy, here are some of the highlights courtesy of iFixIt:
* The Virtual Boy was available in North America for only seven months — from August 14, 1995 until March 2, 1996 — with only 770,000 units sold. Compare that with the Nintendo 64, which sold 32.93 million units over its lifespan.
* Virtual Boy tech specs:
* 20 MHz, 32-bit RISC Processor
* 128 KB dual-port VRAM
* 384 x 224 pixel resolution
* 2-bit monochrome display (black and three shades of red)
* 16-bit stereo sound
* The Neoprene eyepiece completely encompassed the player’s field of vision. This not only isolated the player from the rest of the world, but prevented anyone else from seeing what the player was doing. If only the Virtual Boy could play “other” content…
* Games such as Mario’s Tennis support the use of the Extension port to hook up two Virtual Boys for multiplayer play. Regrettably, Nintendo never got around to releasing an appropriate cable.
* In order to deliver a full range of motion in a virtual 3-D environment, a method of controlling motion in the z-axis was required. To overcome this hurdle, a second D-pad was added to the controller.
* The modular construction of the Virtual Boy indicates it was designed with repair in mind. A damaged controller port or audio system could be individually replaced rather than having to replace the whole motherboard.
* Each 4-colour display unit was manufactured by Reflection Technology Inc., and featured a 1×224 pixel resolution with 32 levels of intensity. The “image” produced by the display is merely a row of red LEDs. Used in conjunction with an oscillating mirror, a full image is produced.
* The mirror oscillates and the LEDs refresh with such speed that the human eye perceives a single image across the view plane.
* To oscillate the mirror, alternating electrical current at high frequency is passed through a copper coil attached to the mirror. A stationary iron core is attached to the display unit, forming a solenoid to produce the motive force needed for oscillation.
* Because the entire image is produced by a single row of LEDs, the refresh rate is incredibly high. The pattern of LEDs displayed changes 19,277 times every second!