Jump to content
redsteakraw

Why were the controller ports on the back?

Recommended Posts

Does anyone know why the controller ports are on the back of the machine. It seems to be an interesting design decision that was not emulated really by any other companies unless you count the PC. Did it serve a purpose other than to make room for the woodgrain. Even the Atari 2600 Jr still had the back controller ports but no woodgrain. What gives?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There was going to be an internal speaker, too. Hey, at least they didn't use coiled cords like Intellivision and Colecovision. And it's "nice" that the RF cable is approximately seven miles long.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There was going to be an internal speaker, too. Hey, at least they didn't use coiled cords like Intellivision and Colecovision. And it's "nice" that the RF cable is approximately seven miles long.

The internal speaker sounds like a dumb and pointless idea, TVs always had speakers, and this just brings up more questions. This however doesn't excuse the 2600 jr. where they knew it wasn't going to have a speaker.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Could get stereo sound. Most tvs had one speaker.

 

That wouldn't make any sense as the VCS didn't have any decent sound chips and hardware to take advantage of stereo sound. It is hard for the VSC to have a decent melody let alone a good music track. Even if they had the hardware I doubt any inbuilt speaker setup would be decent (not sounding like a tin can) and it's close proximity eliminates any advantage of stereo.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Its cheaper and easier to not mix audio and video together before hitting the rf modulator

Maybe so, that means composite only output would have been cheaper. I wonder why it was never a variant with composite when they were trying to cut costs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In the optimal setting of the time, the console was between the seats in the living room, so having the ports on the back made sense.

It's also why the video out was a mile and a half long.

 

Most people ended up putting the console on the coffee table or the TV furniture, so front access became the norm.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1st of all, consumer video products used RF unless they were expensive devices that needed to be more flexible. VCRs could handle composite because they could be linked together. Video games had RF because everything supported it. Even by the mid '80s, only premium TVs had AV jacks. The NES got people seriously considering TVs with this feature. The 2600 was a cheap legacy product in 1986. It's no surprise they didn't add features that late in the game.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Having the switches on the console means having it close to the players. The long RF cord allows for a coffee table set up. I suspect the controller ports at the back are more about aesthetics though it also makes it more logical when you look inside the console and see the PCB is mounted at the back of the system.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, as far as the ports go, I think they were trying to hide things that might be considered unsightly on an appliance. Remember that this was likely the consumer's first video game device. So, wood and silver switches on the front, and ports on the back.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

The NES got people seriously considering TVs with this feature.

That why I chose my first TV with this feature.

 

What an upgrade it was, from an old b&w 9" TV to a 14" flat CRT with composite. It also worked with my 64c!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Although the sound was not exactly stereo, some early games like Combat did use the 2 sound channels as a feature of the game. The left tank makes sounds on the left speaker and similar the right tank. Probably this feature did not have a lot of selling value as most games did not use it so the speakers were nixed and the sound added in to the rf signal. Also, remember that stereo was not defined like we know it today. Anybody remember the first car stereos from the '60s that used one speaker in front and one in back?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Although the sound was not exactly stereo, some early games like Combat did use the 2 sound channels as a feature of the game. The left tank makes sounds on the left speaker and similar the right tank. Probably this feature did not have a lot of selling value as most games did not use it so the speakers were nixed and the sound added in to the rf signal. Also, remember that stereo was not defined like we know it today. Anybody remember the first car stereos from the '60s that used one speaker in front and one in back?

Does rf transmit stereo correctly?

 

Most CRT were not stereo. I still don't own one. Lol.

 

Combat was an awesome game. It's on my get list.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In the optimal setting of the time, the console was between the seats in the living room, so having the ports on the back made sense.

It's also why the video out was a mile and a half long.

 

Most people ended up putting the console on the coffee table or the TV furniture, so front access became the norm.

 

WTF? How old were you in 1982? The right way to play Atari was to sit on the (carpeted) floor in front of the television!

  • Like 10

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

WTF? How old were you in 1982? The right way to play Atari was to sit on the (carpeted) floor in front of the television!

That's how we played at my place... But my uncle had the back seater setup where you didn't have to stand up to change carts. When you see it like this, rear ports makes lots of sense.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

lol who knows.. There wasn't much home video game console precedent set before that, so designs were whatever the heck they wanted it to be. Maybe it mostly an afterthought since the cords were long enough so it didn't really matter. And again let's not forget.. this is the freewheeling mid-70's :lol:

 

 

post-31-0-91186800-1522701626.jpg

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Does rf transmit stereo correctly?

 

Most CRT were not stereo. I still don't own one. Lol.

RF is a generic term for broadcasting something using radio waves. The actual content is delivered via the content encoded in NTSC (or PAL) within the radio waves.

 

And yes, NTSC can carry stereo signals in the audio subcarrier. It also could carry a completely separate audio stream in another language (SAP).

 

Stereo (and SAP) capable CRTs showed up in the late 80s, early 90s. My parents had one that was capable of both when I was growing up.

Edited by nick3092

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Does rf transmit stereo correctly?

No. The channels are mixed and sent as normal mono audio.

 

Combat uses one TIA channel per tank because, well, that's how you'd probably write the game anyway.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Does rf transmit stereo correctly?

 

Sure RF does, but https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multichannel_television_sound

 

Multichannel Television Sound was adopted by the Federal Communications Commission as the U.S. standard for stereo television transmission in 1984.

 

So a video game console designed in the 70s would not know how to transmit stereo to a television.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Does anyone know why the controller ports are on the back of the machine.

 

Ask Joe Decuir, Steve Mayer, Ron Milner, Jay Miner, Doug Hardy, or Fred Thompson. They designed the thing.

 

But anyway, why not? It looks cleaner, and it's not like the console would have been very far away anyway. You've gotta remember that the role of the console itself in game-playing has changed over the years and became less and less integral to gameplay since the mid-1980s; it's been many years since a game console required any physical interaction other than maybe pressing a power button. In the '70s, most of the baseline functionality (start, reset, power, difficulty, etc.) was tied to hardware; this, combined with the style of games prevalent at the time, dictated that players were going to be reaching for the console frequently anyway. If not to fiddle with switch settings, then to swap cartridges.

 

Today, you don't ever need to even touch the console at all, even to power it on.

 

The irony is that, with the variety of controllers required for different games, the 2600 would have benefited from convenient, front-mounted controller jacks more than systems that actually had them.

 

It seems to be an interesting design decision that was not emulated really by any other companies unless you count the PC.

A sampling of systems with rear-connected controllers:

 

Odyssey 2

Bally Arcade

Channel F System II

Intellivision (sort of...hardwired control cords protruded through the rear-center of the top of the console)

Arcadia 2001

APF M/P1000

Famicom

SG-1000

DINA 2-in-One

 

I know some astute poster out there can come up with a few more.

 

Did it serve a purpose other than to make room for the woodgrain.

What difference would that make?

 

As the Tandyvision system taught us, there's always room for woodgrain.

 

Even the Atari 2600 Jr still had the back controller ports but no woodgrain.

If you open up a 2600jr., the inside of the shell is actually lined with actual wood. For buoyancy, so it wouldn't get lost when used in the bath. (In an effort to regain market dominance in the late '80s, Atari Corp. briefly tried to re-market the 2600 as the first bathtime video game system, but was unsuccessful.)

 

The 2600jr. was essentially just a 4-switch motherboard in a smaller case, mounted flat inside the case instead of at an angle. That's why the jacks are in the same places.

 

What gives?

Atari probably just thought it would be funny to confuse people 40 years later.

 

If the theory that all points in time exist simultaneously is correct, the 40-years-ago Atari people are laughing right now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It made sense at the time. With the exception of headphone jacks, locating connections on electronics in the back was just the way it was done. Atari probably didn't see any reason to do it differently when the VCS was being designed. It took a while for controller ports in the front to become standard. Off hand, the 5200, the Atari 400 and 800 computers and the Vectrex are the only early consoles I can think of with ports in the front.

 

Edit: the Sear Video Arcade II had ports in the front as well.

Edited by KaeruYojimbo
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...