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The Evolution of Tech: From Retro Video Games to Smartphones

Today’s technology would be nowhere without classic retro video games!

Today’s technology would be nowhere without classic retro video games!

Oh, how we miss the days of retro video games with orange guns and laughing dogs! It’s easy to get caught up with today’s shiny smartphones, drones, VR, and self driving cars, but the coolest of today’s tech had humble beginnings. Every piece of gear has a predecessor, and today, we’re taking a trip down memory lane to explore how retro games evolved into the smartphone tech of today.

Light Guns

If you’re over 25 years old then you might remember playing Duck Hunt on the original Nintendo Entertainment System (or NES). This retro video game seemed revolutionary at the time, as it was actually able to detect the exact location on the screen that you were aiming with its trademark Zapper. Many gamers had never experienced such a feature, but did you know that light guns actually date back to the 1930’s?

The Seeburg Ray-O-Lite was the first light gun game. It was made in January 1936 by Seeburg. Gameplay involved shooting a flying duck which would then drop when hit.

The Seeburg Ray-O-Lite was the first light gun game. It was made in January 1936 by Seeburg. Gameplay involved shooting a flying duck which would then drop when hit.

You heard that right. The Seeburg Ray-O-Lite came out in 1936, and featured essentially the same light gun tech that was later used in Duck Hunt, Time Crisis, Area 51, and so many other now retro video games (if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it, right?).

Today, many shooting games have moved away from light guns in favor of a much more accurate system — infrared. Infrared has a long and fascinating history, but it wasn’t put to commercial use until 1977 when it first entered our television remotes. More recently, you can find this tech in many game systems from the Game Boy Advance to the Wii.



For the first time ever, two players were able to share a game experience on two separate cartridges. Players were able to race, fight, or even trade their favorite Pocket Monsters.

Linked Up

Before there were Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs), there were these thick cables you had to use to connect your game systems, so you actually had to be in the same building as your opponent. How crazy is that?

Today, players link up to each other from all over the world via the internet, but it hasn’t always been that simple. In the past, consoles and computers had to be connected to each other via a hard wire. Although the idea of connecting computers had been around for some time, the idea of “linking up” two (or more) devices made its first foray into the hearts of modern gamers in the form of the link cable for the original Gameboy in 1989. Finally, two gamers were able to easily connect their devices to play their retro video games together, in the same room; a trend that would change the face of gaming forever.

The next iteration of the Gameboy system, the Gameboy Color, brought with it an infrared sensor that went rarely used, and many games were not supported by it. As a result, the Gameboy would revert back to a link cable for several generations to come. It wasn’t until the Nintendo DS was released in 2004 that the Nintendo first offered Wifi connectivity, which is still how gamers connect today.


Although it wasn’t until the 21st century began that handheld gamers were able to connect across the globe, computer gamers had it all figured out by the mid 90’s. In 1996, the world’s first Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG), Meridian 59, appeared on the scene. This lined up with a new era of accessible internet and created a new genre that would go on to be one of the biggest developments gaming has ever seen, paving the way for other behemoths like Everquest and World of Warcraft.

But relying on an internet connection to play with your friends brought it’s own set of problems in the 1990’s, as early dial-up internet access was limited and unreliable. This led retro video gamers back to using Local Area Connections (LAN), much like the earliest computer games interacted with one another. LAN connected gaming became a staple and is still used today in gaming contests all over the world.


With so many modern multiplayer games out there, we can hardly remember a time when cooperative play wasn’t an option, but before 1978 there was no such thing. Atari’s Fire Truck is widely renowned as the first game offering simultaneous gameplay, where two players controlled different ends of the same truck and attempted not to wreck. Although competitive multiplayer games can be traced back to the late 1950’s, it wasn’t until Fire Truck that players were actually able to join forces for a common goal, a feature that is quite common today.




HagenukGoing Mobile

The cell phone’s history can be traced back to 1974, but it wasn’t until 1994 that mobile phones began their long journey into creating an entirely new gaming industry. In ‘94, Hagenuk MT-2000 hit the marketplace, and with it came the world’s first mobile game — Tetris. More cell phone games, like the oh so popular Snake, would soon follow, but we think it’s fair to say that nobody in the mobile industry could have predicted what would happen next to mobile gaming thanks to the creation of the smartphone.

Smartphones and Modern Mobile Gaming

Ah, the smartphone. They’re the power ring to Dolphin Browser. The very reason you’re even here reading this today, and they’re only getting cooler each year.

That simple little Tetris game in 1994 laid the foundation for an entire industry of gaming which now allows players from every corner of the globe to engage and compete with each other in new and exciting ways. Today, you can play games on all sorts of mobile devices beyond the smartphone. Tablets, smartwatches, and VR devices all come from the same roots of gaming and each provide gamers with a unique experience. From Candy Crush to Fruit Ninja, Clash of Clans to the very-exciting-soon-to-be-released Pokemon GO, the mobile gaming industry is here to stay, and for that we are grateful.

 Comment With Your Favorite Retro Video Games

Whether you were into tossing barrels, crushing turtles, or invading space with your pixelated friends- what was that one retro video game you just couldn’t get enough of? Share the name of the game with us in the comments!   

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