Nintendo Power Line Header

Video games have evolved at breakneck speed since their mass appeal took off in the 1970s. We’ve gone from arcades and home consoles to handhelds and cellphones in a short matter of time. We’ve moved away from big boxy cartridges, and can now download thousands of games straight to our consoles.

Obviously, some old school video game stuff is no longer around. Did you have any of these?

1. Game/TV Switches & RF Switches

TV Game Switch

Right? Now, all of our consoles hook up via HDMI, and most of modern televisions come with enough HDMI inputs to satisfy our needs. But remember when the back of your television looked like it had nothin’ but an outie belly button?

TV with Coax Only


You had to get one of those game/tv switches so you could play your old consoles. AtariAge has instructions on how to hook up your old Atari 2600, 5200, and 7800 to a TV, and the nostalgia is fierce.

By the time the Nintendo Entertainment System came out, there was a nifty “CH3 / CH4” switch for god knows what because no one I ever knew had it set to channel 4. To this day, Nintendo still provides instructions on how to hook up your NES to your TV and VCR.

BONUS NERD POINTS: If you’re looking to hook up an old console to a new TV because you want to raise your kid the right way, check out this article from Lifehacker.

2. Game Genie

Game Genie

Nowadays, “cheat codes” are usually found across the internet, and it doesn’t seem like there are as many included in games. But if you had a Game Genie (“from Galoob!”) for your NES, you had a back door to every code, effect and hack.

Nintendo actually sued Galoob in 1990 for copyright infringement, claiming that the Game Genie creates derivative copies of their games. Nintendo lost.

Game Genie was awesome because if you got bored, you could just fudge codes for hours and have fun playing near-broken games. Then you’d go to school and be like “yo, y’all need to try EXOPAA in Mario.”

A couple months ago, my 6 year old son and I were playing LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga on the Wii and after getting stuck in a level with less than 5 tries under our belts, my son drops his controller and says “dad, just look up the code on the internet.” So, that’s where we’re at now.

And while we’re on that topic…

3. The Dream of Being a Nintendo Power Line Game Counselor

If you were a kid in 1987 that needed to know where to find the Ice Beam in Metroid, you either turned to your Official Nintendo Player’s Guide, or you called the Nintendo Power Line. The Power Line was advertised in every Nintendo Power magazine (in the “Counselor’s Corner” section!), and I distinctly remember thinking “SOMEDAY, I SHALL BE ONE OF THOSE COUNSELORS” (yes, I thought in all-caps). As a 7 year old, I thought it was incredible that I loved video games, and that someone could make money sitting in a room, playing games all day. Even those jerks with matching jackets (why?) would call you looking for NES tips:

Nintendo Power Line

Take that, you popular, matchy-jacket jerks! Now you need MY help! WHO’S COOL NOW? HUH?

Haaaaaaaaaah, whew. Okay, so that was my dream (and yours too, don’t lie). Later, I found out that the Power Line counselors had binders that they used to look up maps and strategies in, and somehow it made the job seem even more cool…

Legend of Zelda Binder

The Nintendo Power Line died in 2010, but it went automated long before that, and I’m assuming Nintendo brought all of its Power Line counselors to a Nintendo factory and dumped them into the plastic melting furnace so they could become one with the hardware.

I used to dream of telling my son that I worked as a Nintendo Power Line operator and his friends be soooo jealous. Now, I just tell him I work at the M&Ms factory and once a week, bring home a pack of M&Ms bought from the gas station specifically to keep the illusion up. Thanks, Nintendo.

4. Copy Protection Keys

Do you remember saddling up in your computer chair with a refreshing glass of Crystal Clear Pepsi and wanting to see just how pissed the residents of “Penisville” were in your SimCity game – only to remember that you lent your copy protection sheets to a friend? Without those sheets, you were unrepentantly locked out of your game.

Copy protection was low-tech when I was a kid. Sometimes you had to look up a phone number in the manual. Sometimes you had to look up a stat from an insert you got with the game. Sometimes, you had to spin a frickin’ wheel to line up pirate faces and reveal quiz answers:

Monkey Island Copy Protection

Photo from GamesRadar

Don’t Copy That Floppy“, yo.

Oftentimes, if you got one of those stat inserts, they were an annoying color and you couldn’t photocopy them. SimCity, I’m looking at you.

Thank god now you just have to be connected to the internet 24/7 in order for a game to check itself against a server and your bank account and your GPS location and cross-reference it with your Xbox Live account. Because spinning a pirate face wheel was unreasonable.

5. Cartridges

The struggle was real: when my parents divorced, I had to figure out how to get 50 NES games back and forth between my parent’s two houses. They lived about a mile and a half from each other, so for awhile, I’d just walk to the other’s house on “switch” day if my parents were at work. You ever seen a kid walking down the street with 50 NES games slung over his back?

Video Game Bin

Did your room look like this? (Photo from Flickr user Plat)

For the first 20 years of the home console industry, cartridges were the mass appeal standard. From the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972 to the end of the Nintendo 64‘s life-cycle in 2003, cartridges were still offered en masse in retail stores. That’s an oversimplified window, I know.

Over the years, my bookcase full of NES cartridges turned into a bookcase full of Sega Genesis games. Then, eventually, it turned into a Case Logic disc binder with all of my Sony PlayStation games in it. Suddenly, 50 games could be held in a disc wallet.


And welcome to the future – my son hardly even sees discs now. Almost every game he plays is downloaded; from retail games downloaded straight to our Xbox One to games downloaded to my PC through Steam, to games he downloads on his iPad. The only interaction my son gets with physical media nowadays is from my Nintendo 3DS and my Sony PlayStation Vita handhelds – and those are as much cartridges as

One good thing: at least my son doesn’t have to blow into cartridges to make them work.

What old school, nostalgic video game stuff does your kid not understand? Let us know in the comments!