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18 most important handheld gaming systems

A look back over 30 years: the flops and the successes

Three decades have passed since the debut of Milton Bradley's Microvision - the first handheld gaming console. We look back and chart the highs and lows of handheld video consoles.

The world's first handheld gaming system with interchangeable cartridges, the Milton Bradley Microvision, was released 30 years ago.

Prior to 1979, handheld electronic games were stuck with one predetermined game (or set of games) per unit.

After the Nintendo Game Boy debuted a decade later, the market for cartridge-based handheld devices exploded, inspiring hardware vendors both prominent and obscure to release gadgets for playing multiple games on.

In honour of the technology's pearl anniversary, let's take a look at some notable successes and notorious failures in the history of handheld gaming.

Milton Bradley Microvision (1979)

The Microvision may have been a pioneer, but its capabilities were primitive. Its 16x16 black-and-white LCD screen made the goal of producing truly involving games difficult for software engineers.

The Microvision shipped ready to play ball-and-paddle games with an analogue control knob.

It also contained a 12 button rubber key matrix on which the cartridge inserted into the system could configure different 'buttons'.

Overall, the Microvision sold poorly, and for the next decade few companies imitated its modular software design.

Entex Select-A-Game Machine (1981)

This obscure machine walks a fine line between handheld and tabletop.

Entex designed the SAG for potential two-player action on a table, but during single player matches, it was easy to hold somewhat upright.

The Select-A-Game included a "vacuum fluorescent display" with display elements arranged in a 7x16 grid.

Entex released only six game cartridges for this system, most notably versions of Pac-Man and Space Invaders.

Photo courtesy of Rik Morgan (handheldmuseum.com)

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NEXT PAGE: Epoch Game Pocket Computer and Nintendo Game Boy

  1. We look at 30 years and the flops and successes
  2. Epoch Game Pocket Computer and Nintendo Game Boy
  3. Atari Lynx and NEC TurboExpress
  4. Sega GameGear and Genesis Nomad
  5. Tiger Game.com and the Game Boy Colour
  6. SNK Geo Pocket Colour and the Bandai WonderSwan Colour
  7. Game Boy Advance and Game Park GP32
  8. Nokia N-Gage and Nintendo DS
  9. PSP portable and the future


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