Playing with a video game console, or a part of interesting story caught for all to enjoy

The dreams of children who were born in the 90s were modest: a Barbie doll, a box of ‘Kinder Surprise’ and a ‘Dendy’ video game console. To get the latter we tried to get excellent marks at school, to brush our teeth before going to bed and fall asleep after the ‘Good night, kids’ TV programme. But not every parent could afford a child this electronic device and others could not find it on sale. My childhood is gone but some of my peers continue to dream about the console. In order to find out why modern people need old electronic toys, I visit a Minsk collector, Alexey Pinyagin.
By Yekaterina Ponamareva

Everything is in the mass
“Think back to the days of ‘Mario’,” says the 24 year old guy, as we meet.

We walk into a small room. The number of devices arranged on the floor is impressive: ‘Sega’, ‘Nintendo’, and ‘Sony’. This was the dream of boys and girls of my generation.

“I’ve got about forty of them”, the young man says. “It all started with a ‘Dendy’, which I bought three years ago at a flea market for $8. The purchase was spontaneous. I wanted to play ‘tanks’, like in high school. Later, I got met collectors of these devices and decided that I would collect them myself.”

Alexey attaches his ‘Dendy’ to the computer and the monitor displays the familiar ‘seagulls’ logo.
I enquire as to where he finds the consoles.

“Many people respond to advertisements posted on the Internet. I’m looking for models that were popular in my childhood and earlier, prior to 2002. People basically offer the latest generation devices. However sometimes there are surprises. One Minsk resident once wrote: ‘I have an unwanted console. Come and take it’. The device turned out to be from the 70s. And if you consider that consoles only appeared in the early 1970s, the discovery can be considered a rarity.”

I notice several Japanese devices in his collection.

“Here is the original console made in 1988, called the ‘Sharp TwinFC’, says Alexey. “They were distributed only in Japan and only occasionally can they be found in other parts of the world. As a result, it is very difficult to get them. This one was delivered to me by mail and took two and a half months to arrive. I was very worried not to lose it while the parcel was travelling through Russia. At the same time, a fellow collector got a bottle of mineral water from Tver instead of a console. It was impossible to find the lost item. Fortunately, I was luckier, nothing happened to mine.”

It is interesting that in Japan there were consoles, where a microphone could be inserted into one of the joystick sockets. This way, they could play the special karaoke cartridges that were sold.

“And this is the famous ‘Nintendo Famicom’. It was this that the Chinese copied the favourite toy of children of 90s, the ‘Dendy’,” says the collector. “Later, these fakes were supplied to Russia. And vendors portrayed them as the latest development. However the ‘original’ at that time was about ten years old. By the way, our market received about 90 percent of these fakes.

A wolf instead of Mickey Mouse, and Chip and Dale with a grenade launcher
My attention is drawn by a greenish keyboard shaped console.

“Games like this appeared somewhere in the mid-1990s, but mine dates back to the beginning of 2000,” says the collector. “It has a full computer keyboard, a mouse and a special cartridge with tutorials, text and graphics editor. And here it was unique. With this console you can even learn basic programming language.”

Another curious example I noticed was a console with an antenna.

“With its help, this device could connect wirelessly to a TV,” says Alexey. “Interestingly, external antennas were available for other consoles, but this is the only on-board one I have seen.”

Forgetting completely about ‘Mario’ I ask if he has any Soviet games.

“Our children preferred to visit halls with slot machines”, says my host. “Among the electronic devices connected to the TV in the Soviet Union were ‘Videosport Electronics’ and ‘Electronics Eksi-Video’. But they were produced in small amounts, and it is very difficult to get them now. The most common were pocket ‘Electronics’ with ‘Nu, Pogodi!’ and ‘Autoslalom’. It was rumoured that if you completed the game, a cartoon would be shown. They were produced under Japanese licenses, but instead of western characters, such as Mickey Mouse, our screens showed a wolf. “In the USSR we were playing on computers like the ‘ZX Spectrum’, where the games were loaded from video tapes. Many craftsmen made similar models with their own hands but because of the lack of resources, instead of a keyboard, they used a panel filled with accordion buttons.”

I ask him how people react when they find out about his hobby.

“One day we were sitting at work, and one of the guys began to boast that he had bought a Japanese pocket console. I decided to cool him down and said: ‘I have a unit from the same company made in 1984’. He was taken aback and asked: ‘Have you played on it? Can I shake your hand?’ But most people are surprised. They ask me why I need them.”
I ask him the same question.

“It is part of a story that I got caught up in,” he says. “Besides, it seems to me that at that time, the games were made with love.”
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