July 31st marks the 20th anniversary of the Game Boy's North American release.
The Game Boy was designed by Gunpei Yokoi, the same guy who created the NES Zapper, the Game & Watch, the directional pad, Metroid...and, um, the Virtual Boy, which was somewhat less successful and led to him leaving Nintendo 2 years before his death in a hit and run.
Gunpei had been with Nintendo since the 1960s, back when they were a dying playing card company. He moved up from maintaining the assembly lines to becoming one of Nintendo's principle idea men, when he came up with an idea for an extendo-grip toy called the Ultra Hand. It was a big hit. Nintendo went on to focus on children's toys, and later, electronics.
He followed a philosophy of using mature technologies in innovative ways, in order to keep costs low and products less buggy. He called it "Lateral Thinking of Withered Technologies". The Game Boy's green screen wasn't cutting edge even in 1989, but it allowed it to run on 4 AA batteries for many hours at a time. Competing game systems like the Lynx and Game Gear couldn't touch it.
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