Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Sophisticated TV Sent from the Past: The HERNIATOR


Progress ain't all it's cracked up to be.

Sure, penicillin, fire, and solar calculators are all great, but they've also hindered our ability to bounce back from syphilis, digest raw chicken, and solve simple equations in the dark. And what's so great about that?

Same goes for that 70" 3D LCD TV in your living room. Yeah, Tron Legacy on Blu Ray should come with a change of light cycle shorts, but your classic games (just like the ones you'd find at Flynn's Arcade) look seriously derezzed.

If you've ever tried plugging your NES into your space TV, then you know exactly what I'm talking about: that fuzzy, blurry picture you can only assume is Bump 'n' Jump looks more like Bump 'n' Dump. Yeah, that just happened.

Yikes. Red beans and rice did miss her.

The reason for this is two fold: first, imagine drawing a smiley face on a deflated balloon, then blowing up the balloon. Sure your smiley face is still going to look something like a smiley face, but in the same way that 1985 Michael Jackson looked something like the 2005 Michael Jackson. Yuck. At 1920 x 1080 resolution, your TV of the future is effectively doing the same thing to your old games. And you don't want your games looking like the moonwalker...unless you're playing Moonwalker.

Second, you're asking your digital TV to read an analog signal. You know how that goes--we didn't all pass Spanish 1. Some TVs are better at this than others, however, in my experience, none of them are great. If your TV can ask where the library is and sing Feliz Navidad, then you're doing okay.

My solution? Simple! Get an old tube TV! Remember those things? They're still around and they're cheap, cheap, CHEAP on Craigslist. If you have the space and the lower back strength, you owe it to your classic games to add one of these analog boat anchors to your game room.

Melty Blood (PS2)

Here's mine: it's a Sony Trinitron KV-32HS20--one of the last great tube TVs (lovingly referred to as the HERNIATOR). Just like Genghis Kahn and William Taft, you know it's great because it's super, super fat. She weighs 145 lbs. Baby got back (although technically, baby got front, since that's where all the weight is).

Heft isn't the only reason I love this thing; it also can display all the way up to 1080i, but it still has that old school 4:3 aspect ratio, which is what you want for those NES and SNES games. No black bars; no shrinking, stretching, or otherwise distorting the image. Just pure retro gaming goodness at its absolute best.

Another plus? Since that flat 32" picture tube makes makes such a mighty footprint, the fine folks at Sony found enough space in that big gray box to fit in a decent set of speakers. This thing pounds! The pair of 15 watt speakers really shine on Neo Geo games, where sharp and bassy soundtracks were used to attract kids from across the arcade.

Tournament Fighters (SNES)

Sure, transporting the thing was an absolute nightmare, doing considerable damage to both my lower back and my hatchback, and finding a suitable piece of furniture to put underneath it has been a real challenge (more on that in a future post), but all of the hassle has been worth it. I'm getting a lot more mileage out of my classic games and that makes it all worthwhile.

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