Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
PlayStation (Games) Entertainment Games

A History of the Shrinking Game Console 107

Posted by Soulskill
from the wonder-when-the-wee-wii-is-coming-out dept.
After Sony's announcement of the PS3 Slim earlier this week, CNet took a look back at size-reducing hardware revisions over the past couple decades in console design, noting that they're gradually arriving sooner and sooner after the initial release. "Does that mean it'll creep even lower, into two-year or even yearly cycles between major revisions? Quite possibly, yes. It's worked very well with handheld gaming devices, and even some consumer electronics devices like iPods. Apple has turned out slimmer, more powerful versions of the iPod every year since 2001, and yearly events like E3 put continued pressure on console makers to show off something big. In the case of the PS3 Slim though, it could just be that the PS3 had to be pushed out to meet its launch window, and that the Slim is what Sony was going for in the first place. Advances in the PlayStation 3's core technology, like the cell processor, also underwent changes since the console launched, including changes to fabrication that have taken the chip down from 90 nanometers to 65, then 45 — the size that can be found inside the Slim. These changes meant less power consumption, smaller components, and easier cooling."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

A History of the Shrinking Game Console

Comments Filter:
  • by David Gerard (12369) <slashdot&davidgerard,co,uk> on Sunday August 23, 2009 @12:58PM (#29164425) Homepage

    It'd go something like this ... (and this would be the logo [today.com])

    Microsoft has announced its long-rumoured handheld XBox gaming console, to compete with the Sony PSP and Nintendo DS.

    "The GameBoy will be wiped out by this!" said marketing marketer Shane Kim. The console, to be named the ZuneX ("we wanted a really evocative brand that would set the tone straight away") will integrate with XBox Live Arcade and the Zune music store and have phone capabilities.

    "Weâ(TM)re also looking at instant-on, 1080p high-definition, Facebook, Twitter and Netflix deals, Project Natal, Windows 7, Internet Explorer 6, downloadable rings of death in every possible color ... nothing will hold a candle to the ZuneX. Google and Apple will be quaking in fear." The E74 error will also be updated to E75.

    The device will be two feet by three feet and weigh twenty-four pounds. "That's an important feature. Wii Fit just canâ(TM)t compete with the rippling abs the ZuneX will give you." The device is fully portable within the length of the twenty-foot three-phase 415 volt power cable.

  • by simm_s (11519) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @01:06PM (#29164467) Homepage

    The NES went on a diet in the early 90's http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NES_2 [wikipedia.org] as well. I am surprised that CNET missed that!

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @01:09PM (#29164499) Journal
      You are surprised that CNET's level of "research" didn't even pass the wikipedia test?

      C'mon, this is CNET.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        You are surprised that CNET's level of "research" didn't even pass the wikipedia test?

        C'mon, this is CNET.

        Lowensohn even got the Wikipedia citations that he did use wrong. He's labeled the Super Famicom Jr. as the Super Nintendo Jr., something that doesn't exist. No way in hell does the Jr. follow from the western SNES design, but there's still an arrow there for some reason...

        The reason for not having the NES is apparently because it's too old. No "Four generations ago".
        He should have called it "a compact history." Bloody commercial bloggers.

        • by PyroMosh (287149)

          Although the SNES2 (or Junior, or whatever) very clearly is aesthetically inspired by the Super Famicom, and not by the North American "Betty Crocker" design of the SNES - It was the SNES2, and it was indeed released in North America.

          Nintendo probably didn't see a need to re-redesign the Japanese re-design of the Super Famicom at the very end of the SNES' lifespan.

          Though looking closer at the image they used, yeah, that clearly is the Japanese Super Famicom version of the re-design.

          But as you can see, other

        • >>>the Super Famicom Jr. as the Super Nintendo Jr.

          That's trivial. There's no real difference between a S-Famicom and an SNES other than a name. HE LEFT OUT PREVIOUS GENERATIONS:

          - NES released as more-compact NES 2

          - Sega Master System released as SMS 2

          - Atari VCS/2600 released as Atari 2600 jr.

          - Intellivision released as Intellivision 2, and then the INTV

          - Commodore 64 was released as compact, lighter-colored C64C. Yeah I know it's not a game console, but nearly everyone who owned this computer us

          • >>>the Super Famicom Jr. as the Super Nintendo Jr.

            That's trivial. There's no real difference between a S-Famicom and an SNES other than a name.

            Inventing names for trademarked IP in an article self-titled as a "history" is trivial? No it's not, it's bush league.

            The real difference is the design, which is what the article is about. Not the functionality.

      • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

        by Bakkster (1529253)

        C'mon, this is CNET.

        Yup, second only to Wired in terms of "articles anyone with passing knowledge of the topic beforehand will realize are complete Bullshit". It wouldn't be so bad if they weren't somewhat aimed at the technical crowd.

    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      Not to mention the Nintendo Gameboy pocket or even the Intellivision 2, to only name these two.

      • by bhtooefr (649901) <{bhtooefr} {at} {bhtooefr.org}> on Sunday August 23, 2009 @03:23PM (#29165525) Homepage Journal

        Actually, MOST consoles. (This'll be US-centric, here.)

        Fairchild VES -> Fairchild Channel F System II
        Atari VCS -> Atari 2600 Jr.
        Mattel Intellivision -> Mattel Intellivision II
        Nintendo Entertainment System -> Nintendo NES-101
        Sega Master System -> Sega Master System II
        Nintendo Game Boy -> Nintendo Game Boy Pocket
        Sega Genesis -> Sega Genesis 2 -> Majesco/Sega Genesis 3 (and that's not even counting the Sega Nomad)
        Nintendo Super NES -> Nintendo SNS-101
        Sony PlayStation -> Sony PSone
        Nintendo Game Boy Advance -> Nintendo GBA SP -> Nintendo GB Micro
        Sony PlayStation 2 -> Sony Slimline PS2
        Nintendo DS -> Nintendo DS Lite
        Sony PlayStation 3 -> Sony PS3 Slim

        And that list is far from exhaustive. :)

    • Heretic, everyone knows there is only the one TRUE NES with the Zero Insertion Force cartridge system.

      • Heretic, everyone knows there is only the one TRUE NES with the Zero Insertion Force cartridge system.

        Hey, CNET is bad enough, leave ZIF out of it! ;)

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          I'm just bitter about switching to CD's is all. Blowing on the disk just isn't the same as blowing in the cartridges. It'd be great if the big three would come out with addons that didnt boot your game up until you blew in the "cartridge" and reinsterted it randomly.

          • Blowing on the disk just isn't the same as blowing in the cartridges.

            Japanese pr0n never was quite on the same sheet as Western pr0n. Thank goodness !

    • I am surprised that CNET missed that!

      From TFA: "Let's take a look at some notable shrinkage from the last three generations of consoles." (emphasis mine)

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      As the article's author I'll chime in to mention that there's a big note at the very beginning of the article (before we go into the individual systems) that says we're only going back three generations. If we had continued to go back, the original NES along with the various Atari iterations would have been included. Cheers.
    • by djMouton (267156)

      From TFA: "Let's take a look at some notable shrinkage from the last three generations of consoles....We're not including handheld consoles in this story, but parallels can be made between revisions to Nintendo's Game Boy and DS products, as well as Sony's PSP."

    • It didn't go on a diet, the original Famicom was already that small. They made the whole thing bulkier for US consumers.

    • by Hatta (162192) *

      They're wrong about the Genesis too.

      As for Sega's own hardware, the first and only major change for the 16-bit Genesis was to shrink in size.

      Even before the Model 2 Genesis, Sega was screwing around with the insides [sega-16.com] of the console. Most of these revisions were unimportant, but in later Model 1 Genesis's they changed the audio hardware. What was once clear and full sound from the headphone jack became thin and staticy. If you like the Genesis, you owe it to yourself to seek out a Model 1 with the "High D

  • 2600 Jr? (Score:2, Redundant)

    by rsilvergun (571051)
    Or the Genesis 3? Or later Intellivisions fer cris'sake? I've noticed these 'History of' articles and retrogames sites kinda suck now. I was listening to a retrogames pod cast about peripherals and they spent the bulk of the cast talking about the Wii & Rock Band. Is it just me, or does game journalism kinda suck now?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kaizokuace (1082079)
      this is how shit gets lost in history and events are distorted!
    • by BenoitRen (998927)

      Now? Game journalism has always sucked.

  • by Lonewolf666 (259450) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @01:28PM (#29164625)

    Games could be downloaded, or flash memory could become cheap that games are distributed on memory cards (again). Only this time in a smaller format. That alone would make the consoles of the future smaller.

    Otherwise, it depends on with how much heat to get rid of they start out. If the example of the Wii (to try something new rather than maximize graphics performance) catches on, even the first generation of a new console might be smaller than we are used to.

    • The problem with losing the optical drive is that you then lose backwards compatibility. Sony tries to forget this, but they made a big deal out of the backwards compatibility when the PS3 first came out (as did Microsoft and Nintendo).

      I know that the lack thereof is what's keeping me from buying a PS3 now that they're affordable—they dropped a fairly important feature.

      • by aussie_a (778472)

        I know that the lack thereof is what's keeping me from buying a PS3 now that they're affordableâ"they dropped a fairly important feature.

        After being a faithful gamer for the 3rd (Sega Master System), 4th (Megadrive) and 5th (Playstation) generation consoles, I skipped the 6th generation. This reason for this is a combination of growing up (and thus spending less time on consoles) and the PSX simply having such a great library of games that I didn't finish them all within the 5 years of its lifepsan. Ev

        • by Gizzmonic (412910)

          So...you're happier not playing all those games that "failed to cater to you" on the Xbox on an Xbox 360, rather than not playing the games might've "catered to you" on PS3?

          Brilliant logic! Of course, you could just get a PS2 and spend a lot less money overall on games that you might enjoy, but that would require that you have a functioning brain stem. After reading your post I'm not so sure you do.

    • by Anenome (1250374)

      The Nintendo DS currently distributes games on Flash cards ;P

      Ex: http://www.mediabistro.com/mobilecontenttoday/original/umd_gb_ds_carts.jpg [mediabistro.com]

    • This could happen in the future, but not this console generation. And, despite what seems to be going around at some forums, most definitely not for the PS3!

      I can see how the PSPgo's dispensation with the PSP's optical drive could give one the impression that such a move might be possible for Sony's home console, but the difference is much greater than what meets the eye.

      The PSPgo is not a revision of the PSP platform. Sony was made fun of for insisting that the Go will exist parallel to the PSP in the mark

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by bmatt17 (1494941)
        you have no clue what you're talking about. The PSPGo is nothing more than a optical driveless PSP. All games for the PSP are now being released in downloadable form via the PSN. They aren't releasing PSPGo exclusives it's the same thing, except you download all your games. The PSP go is exactly like the PSP as far as what games you can play.
  • by Simon80 (874052) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @01:34PM (#29164667)

    In the case of the PS3 Slim though, it could just be that the PS3 had to be pushed out to meet its launch window, and that the Slim is what Sony was going for in the first place

    One doesn't even have to have a PS3 to remember how long Sony delayed the PS3 at launch because it was waiting for enough supply of the BluRay drives. Also, lets not forget that the PS3 Slim is being released over two and a half years after the original PS3.

  • when we get a Slim version of the PS2 it tends to overheat. When they make a smaller version, they tend to leave out a fan to cool it down. Which is why add on fans to the case are designed by third parties or people put small external fans near the open areas of the case.

    Now if it was something as simple as a Commodore 64 on a joystick it wouldn't need a fan as the Commodore 64 technology reduced to a chip does not draw that much heat as an XBox 360, PS3, Wii, or modern game console.

  • by faragon (789704) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @02:08PM (#29164963) Homepage
    It is not just a hardware revision, but implies also cuts in software: Remember that Sony has cut the possibility of running Linux in the new PS3 "Slim" model, disabling the "Other OS" boot option, because of the costs of programming new drivers for virtualizing the new I/O devices through the hipervisor.

    Extra-official reply from Sarah Ewen, a Sony employee: [playstation2-linux.com]

    BY: sarahe
    DATE: 2009-Aug-21 22:23
    SUBJECT: RE: Why no Linux in PS3 Slim?

    Hi aragon,

    I'm sorry that you are frustrated by the lack of comment specifically regarding the withdrawal of support for OtherOS on the new PS3 slim.

    The reasons are simple: The PS3 Slim is a major cost reduction involving many changes to hardware components in the PS3 design. In order to offer the OtherOS install, SCE would need to continue to maintain the OtherOS hypervisor drivers for any significant hardware changes - this costs SCE. One of our key objectives with the new model is to pass on cost savings to the consumer with a lower retail price. Unfortunately in this case the cost of OtherOS install did not fit with the wider objective to offer a lower cost PS3.

    We'll see if we can get the offical OtherOS page updated with something to this effect so that an official explanation is provided. Thank you for your comments.

    Sarah.

  • by rbanffy (584143) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @02:09PM (#29164993) Homepage Journal

    I am not happy this version is no longer capable of running Linux or any other OS besides Sony's own.

    OTOH, its RAM would make for a nasty user experience when running just about anything.

    I can't believe it's hard to build a Cell-based desktop system the size of the PS3, but with plenty RAM and a nice GPU that would not play PS3 games. Software compatibility should, today, be a non-issue - there are many full-feature desktop OSs (or different versions of a couple) that can run on Cell. And since it's not a console, they could sell it for a profit. I would buy a Linux-running Windows-proof box for the price of a Dell

    In the early 90s, IIRC, Sony made a very nice line of MIPS-based Unix workstations. They could do it again.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TeknoHog (164938)

      Yeah, it's a shame that so much great hardware is going to waste, due to this closed appliance mentality. The PS3 is just the tip of the iceberg, notable because we can see it being closed, from the previous somewhat open state. At least you can still buy a 'fat' version.

      I recall that the PS2 used to have a Linux kit so that it could be sold with a lower tax as a computer, rather than a toy. I wonder if this was the case with the PS3 as well, now that the computer functionality is being removed.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        I recall that the PS2 used to have a Linux kit so that it could be sold with a lower tax as a computer, rather than a toy. I wonder if this was the case with the PS3 as well, now that the computer functionality is being removed.

        At least with the PS3 slim you still get the "computer experience"! You have to agree to the EULA on first system startup, and every system update and to play some games as well. Also games you download from PSN, you have to "install" them (again with an EULA). Ditto with some games

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by m50d (797211)
      And since it's not a console, they could sell it for a profit. I would buy a Linux-running Windows-proof box for the price of a Dell

      And there's the rub - for Sony to make a profit on it, they'd have to charge much more than the equivalent Dell. (I'm speaking of equivalent in terms of user experience - any non-x86 architecture gets you more theoretical - but less practical - bang for the buck)

      • by rbanffy (584143)

        "any non-x86 architecture gets you more theoretical - but less practical - bang for the buck"

        not necessarily. You can't run Windows, but a readily available Cell-based desktop workstation in the hands of, say, Gnome developers, would do wonders in making Gnome run better on Cell.

        Making it more generic (and applicable to Cell, Niagara and Larrabee), a readily available X-based workstations in the hands of, say, the developers of Y, would do wonders in making Y run better on X.

        • by m50d (797211)
          not necessarily. You can't run Windows, but a readily available Cell-based desktop workstation in the hands of, say, Gnome developers, would do wonders in making Gnome run better on Cell.

          Better, yes, but still nowhere near as well as it runs on x86. It would be like sparc, or itanium, or all these non-x86 machines - you have processor which is in theory faster than the equivalent-price x86, but for running real-world programs it's slower because it hasn't had the huge optimization effort x86 had.

          • by rbanffy (584143)

            I will have to disagree. A current SPARC T2 may not run Gnome as fast as the fastest Xeon, but it does let Apache serve a huge lot of pages per second, way more than I ever have with x86 boxes.

            Itanium too has its strengths: its cache is huge (was unrivaled until the most recent Xeons, IIRC) and could run some workloads entirely off it. I have benefited enormously from moving some workloads from x86 to Itaniums in the mid 2000s.

            Both these situations involved real world programs. Maybe just not your world, bu

            • by m50d (797211)
              Ok, you're right - for specific, specialist workloads, non-x86 chips can get you more bang for the buck, since that only requires one particular application to be tuned for the system. And I believe Cells are being used in scientific computing - but there most of your time is spent running LAPACK, so again the optimization effort is pretty focussed. But to make an alternative architecture as effective for general desktop usage would require dozens or hundreds of programs to get such attention, and the margi
    • by wagnerrp (1305589) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @03:38PM (#29165625)

      IBM makes Cell servers, but even those are pretty scarce on memory. You have two problems:

      • XDR memory is ridiculously expensive, and honestly, the Cell should have been built so the XDR was basically a huge L4 cache, using DDR2 for low speed memory. Developers would have had a lot more leeway if they didn't have as much XDR, but instead had access to a bunch of cheap, slow DDR2.
      • Your still stuck with an dual-execute in-order core. Most programs are not going to add support for the SPEs, so you're stuck with an expensive desktop with poor Atom-like performance.

      On the other hand you have something like the Spursengine [wikipedia.org]. It's basically half a Cell, running at half the clockrate, attached over PCI-Express. It provides something like 50GFLOPS at ~20W, but the only one I could find costs $500. You can get a dual Cell blade with 2GB of memory for only $3K, neither of which are something a consumer is going to want to buy.

      The real problem is that all this GPGPU stuff started happening around the same time, and consumers have just as much power in a cheap card that they already have in their PC. Even still, there is hardly any market for such a device. Sure, HPC users love it, but in the consumer market, we have one or two video encoders, they're not considerably faster than a decent computer running x264, and produce significantly lesser video quality.

      • by rbanffy (584143)

        Yes... There is the XDR problem... And using DDR2/3 memory would require a different version of Cell, nixing the advantage of the PS3 supplies... Unless Sony made a Cell using DDR as a cost-cutting measure.

        As for programs adding support for SPEs, one could port OpenCL to the Cell (if that's not already ported) and make more programs OpenCL-friendly.

        In the end, everybody would win, as the OpenCL'ed programs could run better on other kinds of machines.

    • With regard to RAM, the graphics memory can be used as a higher priority swap device so that sort of gives ~512 MB of usable memory but granted it's not going to be quite as fast as 512 MB of unified memory.

      As for a cell-based desktop system, it's not hard to make one. But how do you mass produce one that people will buy? Apple was the last major manufacturer to not use x86 processors for home computers, and we can see how that went - straight into Intel's arms. The real question is, how much are people wi

    • have you seen pc/netbook prices recently? the prices are cutthroat and margins are low as ever. there is no incentive to develop such a desktop. the cells is oversold, if you want such power just get a pc with a modern gpu and use that, and thats what people who do need such power do. anyways why would you want to throw your lot behind sony, even if they did build a desktop you'd have to be ready to be abandoned, look at how they went back on their word on backwards compatibility, and now linux support.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 23, 2009 @02:16PM (#29165043)

    When I got my Xbox 360, I was shocked that a product in general sale could be this noisy. Reading the specs of the noiselevel on the new PS3 indicates that it too generates a fair amount of noise. I'd be perfectly happy if the box was twice as big if it could be dead-quiet.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by AbRASiON (589899) *

      Well then you're reading the wrong articles, I've owned a 360 and a PS3 and the noise difference is night and day, so much so I'd suggest you're trolling or ignorant.
      The PS3 is VASTLY quieter than a 360, it's effectively silent unless it's a hot day where it's mildly noisy (and still less than a 360)

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        you sony fantards are so quick to go off; he said the specs of the NEW ps3. do you own a new ps3? no? well then shut the fuck up until you know what you're talking about
      • by AbRASiON (589899) *

        Ooh interesting moderation on slashdot indeed, we either have an Xbox fanboy here or someone who doesn't like my writing style.
        You can mod overrated all you like but you will still be in the wrong, the PS3 is vastly quieter and it's common knowledge.
        My condolences for your waste of a mod point, meta moderating should sort you out.

  • Where's the fan? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wdhowellsr (530924) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @02:49PM (#29165273)
    I completely agree that smaller is better for portable gaming systems but hate the fact that there is this belief that console based systems have to be so small. What really drives me crazy is when processing speed, storage size and cooling is sacrificed so it can be smaller.

    I would much rather have a kick-a$# system that doesn't suffer from overheating problems and comes with a whole lot of storage than some pretty little thing that is dumb as a brick when it gets to hot.
    • I completely agree that smaller is better for portable gaming systems but hate the fact that there is this belief that console based systems have to be so small.

      The price of urban real estate in Japan makes the Wii's footprint look a lot more attractive.

      • Good point. Have you seen some of the Japanese Hotels? It's a bed like the one in Fifth Element and everyone shares a bathroom. Still, it sucks that I had to put a 10X10X5 inch aluminum heat sink on my Dish DVR 622 to keep it from overheating because the processor and harddrive overheat.
  • by m50d (797211)
    It's not just this generation - the original playstation was much bigger than its competitors, and while the xbox was hilariously huge, even the revised PS2 felt bigger than the gamecube (it was slim but long, which took up more space on the shelf). Sony is the one shrinking its consoles for the simple reason that sony's original consoles are frickin' huge.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by macshome (818789)
      The PS2 was largish as well, but the PSX was noticeably smaller than the Saturn.
  • For the past 30 years, there's been a real technology treadmill. PCs, video games, VCRs->DVDs->BluRay, more recently flat panel TVs and digital cameras. It seems, though, like the treadmills are starting to slow. The move to 64-bit OSes (handled cleanly by Linux and Apple, Microsoft... not so much) seems like the last major transition even to be done, and high-end video cards can handle most games at beyond HD resolution. Movies and TVs could go even higher-def, but human eyesight often isn't good e

    • by brkello (642429)
      I agree with you that things are slowing down. But still think there is a lot of room to grow. While modern consoles can do graphics pretty well, they still really don't have the best graphic cards imaginable. I can see those getting better and more of the graphical capabilities being offloaded to those cards. The more cycles you can keep in the CPU, the more you can put towards AI and the ability to have more wide open areas with more enemies or more stuff going on in general.

      I would hope though that

If it's worth doing, it's worth doing for money.

Working...