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Published in TidBITS 19.
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Gold Brick

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The first of the video game decks to attain massive popularity was the Atari VCS, but it died down and was replaced several years later by the Nintendo Entertainment System. I've never seen one of these decks, but even the videotape rental stores around here now carry Nintendo games, so I suspect their popularity may surpass that of the Atari VCS. "Thanks for the history, but why does he care?" you ask, quite reasonably.

Well, a company called Transfinite Systems has introduced a little ADB device called Gold Brick, which provides translations between a Mac or Apple IIgs and various Nintendo-compatible controller devices. (Luckily, Transfinite Systems sent us the Gold Brick manual, because the concept of a controller interface is not one that is inherently obvious.) Nintendo-controller compatibility is an interesting ability, because some Nintendo games support 2D and 3D motion using a number of different controllers. Again, I haven't seen any of these devices, but Gold Brick can translate controller input from the Brderbund UForce[tm], the Nintendo Power Pad[tm], the Enteractive[tm] Roll&Rocker[tm] and the Mattel Power Glove[tm]. (Game companies are very serious about trademarks, as you can tell.) Of these, the only one I know anything about is the Power Glove, because it is a commercial version of the Data Glove used in the virtual reality experiments. With the Data Glove (or presumably the Power Glove), you can move virtual objects around in a virtual space (viewed through a head-mounted display system).

Transfinite Systems has chosen an interesting method of marketing Gold Brick. By designing it to work with inexpensive and commercially available controllers, Transfinite is using an existing market to create a potentially new one. The first applications of Gold Brick will no doubt be ports of Nintendo games or even communications between the game deck and the Mac through Gold Brick. However, after some games have broken the ground, we expect that drivers for the 3D graphics applications like Swivel 3D and Super 3D will be written. Rotating a 3D solid with a Power Glove should be a lot easier than doing the same thing with the mouse. After that, our imagination is the limit for new methods of controlling virtual objects. Gold Brick's sub-title is "The Cyberspace Interface," which hints at the cyberspace environment of William Gibson's "Neuromancer" and "Mona Lisa Overdrive." For standard applications of today, though, the user can specify 2D motions or keystrokes for the Gold Brick translations, allowing people to explore and design alternate forms of interface manipulators. One way or another, Gold Brick sounds like it might help introduce the next generation of controllers.

Transfinite Systems -- 617/969-9570

Information from:
Transfinite Systems press release
Gold Brick propaganda sheet
Gold Brick manual
Adam C. Engst -- TidBITS Editor

 

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