Written by Paul Monopoli

Back in the 80s/90s AV was the way to go when playing consoles. Instead of sitting there for hours tuning in the TV you could plug in the AV cables & spend those hours playing games. That’s why AV was the way to go when it came to connecting consoles to a TV. Then Nintendo & Sega decided to change the rules…

Let’s look at the first generation Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) & the Sega Master System (SMS):

Seeing these 2 machines would bring back a few memories I’m sure. These 2 machines started what is now known as the “Console Wars”. Yes there were other consoles back in the day that were competing for marketshare, but it was with Nintendo & Sega that things started to get nasty. These days Nintendo, Microsoft & Sony fight for marketshare, but it’s not as much “fun” as the “console wars” of the late 80s/early 90s. Off topic, here’s something to think about, as of 2010 we are still in the first generation where Sega hasn’t had a console release. Anyway, back to the topic at hand.

On the back of the SMS & the side of the NES we see AV ports. In Japan the Nintendo Famicom (NES equivalent) did not have an AV port but the Sega Mark 3 (SMS equivalent) did. Anyway, the NES & SMS can be easily connected to your TV without any troublesome tuning. Let’s look at the second generation models of these machines:

Here we have the NES Toploader & the Sega Mastersystem 2. Both sleeker looking machines in their own way to appeal to the late 80s/early 90s gamers. Very nice machines, you cannot deny that. Let’s look at the back:

That’s right, NO AV OUTPUT. The only way you can tune in these modern-second-generation-up-to-date versions of these machines is to go it old school. Plug in the RF adapter & sit there either pushing buttons or turning switches to find the right tuning. I won’t mention the lack of card port on the SMS2, but I know that annoyed some people at the time.

The question I have to ask is why? These machines came out at a time that more & more TVs had AV input as standard. Why would you not include that as a feature? Japan had a slightly different set of circumstances with their machines. The Sega Mark 3 didn’t receive an update (Japan just received the Master System instead), but the Famicom AV had just that: AV. So their upgraded model really was an upgraded model.

The thing is, I can’t think of another company that has taken this backwards step. NEC, the other main 8-bit condender in Japan released the original PC Engine with RF output only, but the later Coregrafx 1 & 2 models introduced AV & SCART output. It just seems very strange of Sega & Nintendo to do this. It is widely known that these were cheaper models to produce, but what a thing to leave off…

Throughout 2 generations of the SNES (except in PAL territories) & 3 generations of Megadrive/Genesis (3 in the US, 2 everywhere else) AV was present. Did Nintendo & Sega learn their lesson? Who knows? Will we ever know why they did this? Well we can speculate, but this is probably going to remain one of those mysteries of the console world & a bloody annoying one at that.

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