We Think It Started With: The Nintendo Wii (2006)
A product so ground-breaking that we barely made fun of the name. After the first year or so.
The recent wave of motion-control systems -- beginning with the Nintendo Wii -- has made it possible for gamers all over the world to be a little more active while looking a lot more foolish.
Every time you're playing Wii, know that your ancestors are looking at you and thinking, Idiot.
The more recent Xbox Kinect is so advanced that it doesn't even need a controller to detect your movements. That's the future right there, folks.
Actually Been Around Since: The Pantomation (1977)
Actually, this particular method of losing your dignity in front of camera has apparently been around since the late 70s. The Pantomation was video equipment originally developed to read musical scores, but then its creators realized it could also be used to track body movement. By using a low-resolution analog camera and a minicomputer, the Pantomation could create computer graphics that reacted to human movement in various ways.
Like making it look like you're lifting a weight made of rainbows.
This is basically the same principle used by the Nintendo Wii or even the PlayStation Move -- only, you know, 30 years before. In other words, a few years after freaking color television became the norm, and someone invented a goddamn seventh-generation console. People were playing with this thing before they even knew what Space Invaders was.
The Pantomation did need a controller, sort of: It worked by detecting the movements of a brightly colored object, like a tennis ball or post-chipotle radioactive poop. The system could be programmed to instantly translate the object's trajectory in various ways, from drawing images on the screen to making music.
Rarely has a man pretending to wank produced such beautiful sounds.
The Pantomation was too expensive to be commercially released (at the time, not everybody had their own television studio at home), but since it was publicly funded, anyone was free to come and play around with the technology as long as they brought their own tape, comfortable clothes and no sense of ridicule whatsoever. Judging by the following video, the Pantomation managed to attract an alarmingly large amount of unemployed mimes.
Tragically, this proved to be indicative of the system's undignified fate. The video game industry was way too young to even consider adopting this technology back then ... so by the 80s the Pantomation was reduced to being used in laser light shows and pantomime performances.
If there's a lower form of art, we haven't thrown garbage at it on the way to work.
We Think It Started With: The Xbox 360 (2005)
The Xbox 360 is pretty much singlehandedly responsible for popularizing the concept of awarding achievements to gamers for completing specific challenges, such as defeating an enemy or completing a level or owning an Xbox 360 for four years without it breaking down.
"Achievement unlocked! You have just wasted $300 bucks."
The difference with in-game rewards like unlocking a hidden part of the game or finding a hidden item is that these so-called achievements have no real impact on the game itself. The "trophies" are posted directly to the player's online profile, meaning that the whole point is proving to people in the real world that, yes, you do play a lot of video games. Both PlayStation and Steam have been using the same system since 2008, and even Nintendo has incorporated it on a few games.
Actually Been Around Since: Pitfall and other Activision games (1982)
Add alcohol and 1982. Mix for excitement.
That's right, freakin' Pitfall had unlockable achievements, much like Halo or whatever, and most people who played it probably never even knew it.
It was hard to miss it with so much going on.
Back in the days of the Atari 2600, Activision would give out challenges requiring players to reach a certain amount of points or complete a level within a time limit -- for instance, getting 20,000 points in Pitfall or 10,000 in Chopper Command. But wait, how did you prove your achievement to Activision without an Internet connection? Easy: you had to take a photo of your television screen and mail it to them as evidence of your gaming expertise. You could also record the image on a VCR, probably, but then you'd have to go through the mental stress of having to choose between a VHS or a Betamax tape.
Our point being: This was a long time ago, guys.
If you met the requirements, you would then get a letter from Activision telling you how awesome you were. Oh, and some of them were signed by Pitfall Harry himself:
Via Pitfall Harry
"PS: I apologize for my shoddy handwriting, but I am currently being knocked down by a barrel."
Big deal, right? All this accomplished was proving to your friends that you knew how to use a typewriter. Well, that's not all: Along with every letter, you would also receive a special patch as a token of your achievement. There were a total of 43 patches for 33 different Activision games, and some of them were kinda awesome:
Via Atari Age
... while others would inevitably get you beat up at school.
Via Atari Age
Any child who wore this must be just now waking up from the coma.
Activision was, at some point, receiving more than 2,000 letters every day, and according to Pitfall's creator, the bulk of those letters were kids demanding their badges. Pitfall alone led to 14,000 letters in a single week. It got so ridiculous that Activision had to hire employees just to open and answer the letters. So if these achievements were so popular, how come we're only hearing about them now? The obvious explanation is that these were actually the same 10 or so players, obsessively getting as many "trophies" as possible so they could show them off to their gamer friends.
The early 80s equivalent of a PSN profile.
We Think It Started With: Sega Dreamcast's online service (2000)
The Sega Dreamcast, released in 1998, was the first console to come with a built-in modem, though their online service didn't launch until two years later. It would take a couple more years for the Xbox to really kick things into high gear by offering extra content for games like Halo 2 and Splinter Cell.
"You know what would make this better? Paying more money."
By now, pretty much every console can get online. But that's only been made possible by recent developments like high-speed Internet and Wi-fi connections ... or so we thought.
Actually Been Around Since: Atari's GameLine peripheral (1983)
Via Atari Accessories
That's right -- it could freaking fly.
The GameLine was an oversized Atari cartridge (manufactured by a company called CVC) that had the ability to transmit data through a simple phone line. After activating your account by calling a toll-free number -- and supplying your mom's credit card information -- you could connect your Atari to a central computer and download over 80 games for about a dollar each. Every game would then be playable for about five to 10 times before you had to pay to download it again. If the GameLine seems a little expensive, that's because it came from the motherfucking future.
But wait, it gets even more mindblowing: This technology was originally developed as a way for people to download songs into their homes through cable providers. Twenty years before Napster or iTunes, the planned "Home Music Store" would have made it possible for anyone to buy music online. Yes, in an era when people were trying to update their music library from vinyl to state-of-the-art cassette tapes, the "Home Music Store" would have completely bypassed CDs and gone straight to the next format. The only problem: All the major record companies refused to provide music for it, afraid to piss off retailers.
"What are they gonna do? Find a way to do this for free? Ha!"
That's when Bill Von Meister, one of the founders of CVC, acquired this brilliant but now completely useless technology and turned it into a way to download video games. But besides the GameLine, CVC started developing other online services like the MailLine (the ability to send electronic mail from your Atari 2600), NewsLine (read news headlines and weather updates, like in an RSS feed) and OpinionLine (an early version of Internet message boards). Add a PornLine and some cat memes and we've got ourselves a full Internet, decades ahead of time.
All these projects would have probably come to fruition if the GameLine had done well, but it didn't. The problem, once again, was that none of the major game developers like Activision, Coleco or even Atari wanted anything to do with it, which meant that the GameLine's impressive 80-game library consisted mostly of obscure, shitty games nobody wanted to play. Add that to goddamn ET and the video game crash of '83, and the whole company went bankrupt.
That doesn't mean Von Meister abandoned his plans, though -- it only means it took him a little longer to realize them. He went on to create another company that reused the same technology: something called America OnLine. So, basically, a failed gaming peripheral nobody wanted anything to do with revolutionized modern life as we know it.
Via Wikipedia Commons
Suddenly R.O.B. feels like such an underachiever.
And be sure to pick up our book because it is also from the future.
For more "modern" ideas that were here long ago, check out 11 Modern Technologies That Are Way Older Than You Think and 6 Depraved Sexual Fetishes That Are Older Than You Think.
And stop by Linkstorm to see the original Bear Grylls: Pitfall Harry (who is likely drinking his own piss).
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