featured image: Miltos Manetas, MY FLOOR (Zip Drive and legs), 1998, Oil on Canvas, 82x72inches, Courtesy The Artist and APT LONDON, London, UK
Being a child of the 80s, I was lucky enough to be privy to many amazing things that children nowadays don’t get to have. We had the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, The Goonies, and basically the birth of console gaming. With that birth came an obligatory umbilical cord, the umbilical corded controller. Kids today don’t get the joy of sitting three feet from their tubed television because the cords wouldn’t reach any farther. You had to be a clever child, balancing your Nintendo on the television while maintaining some slack so that reactions to on-screen stimuli wouldn’t yank your coveted machine to the ground. Some friends never mastered that technique, and many a console were lost before their prime.
There was also the huge fear that an adult may walk by, not see the cords, and tear everything out: the controllers, the power cord and so on. This would cause you not only to lose your save and game progress, but may have resulted in parent injury or possible console breakage. Both of which are terrible for a pre-teen with no access to money or any form of medical training for the parent. Some of my friends also lost their controllers due to animal teeth. Luckily I was not one of those, but many a dog ate some Sega and Nintendo controllers out of boredom, or perhaps for attention. These cord problems continued through the PSX, N64 and Dreamcast era, all the way through to the PS2, Xbox and GameCube era. Improvements were made as each generation passed. Sega was smart and made the Dreamcast cord very long, and even gave gamers the choice to let the cord hang down normally or let it snap to the back to give the controller a feel that the cord came out of the top. Then in the Xbox era the engineers got smarter, the Xbox controller had a breakaway cord so that if someone did happen to walk through your game, the cord would just snap apart causing no damage but embarrassment. Nintendo also invented the WaveBird which was their first foray into wireless controllers. The WaveBird consisted of two pieces: one being the controller itself, and the other a receiver that was plugged into one of the controller ports on the GameCube. There was no lag at all between the controller and the receiver, and battling as Link was just as easy and comfortable as with a tether. Thankfully this generation and the soon to come one have perfected the wireless controller. One cannot fathom the heartbreak should a parent trip over a 500 dollar Xbox One cord causing it to crash down onto the floor. That would be devastating. Kids today have a great console world to play in, so they should be very lucky to have it. But one day I’m sure they’ll be thinking… remember when?