Ever Wonder How The Nintendo Zapper Light Gun Worked?

Today's shooting gallery games take advantage of high-tech infrared sensors and cameras. Back in the days of the original Nintendo Entertainment System, things were much simpler.

As a child I spent countless hours firing away at video game ducks with my NES Zapper light gun, but I wasn't actually firing anything. If anything, I was just recording light levels. The fine folks at Today I Found Out put old school light gun technology into perspective for me.

The Zapper really only consisted of two working parts: The trigger, and a photodiode. When the trigger is pulled, the photodiode kicks into gear, recording light levels from your television screen (usually, at least.) Once the NES realised you were firing, the entire screen would go black for a single frame. On the next frame, the area your target duck was in flashed white. If the photodiode registered the change from black to white, that meant you were pointing the gun in the right direction. For multiple targets, multiple target frames flash in sequence, telling the game which target was hit.

It's really an elegant little system, although early versions of the Zapper could be fooled into high scores by simply pointing them towards a bright light source, something I never did when anyone was looking.

Check out the link below for more fun Zapper facts.

How the Gun on the Original Duck Hunt Game Worked [Today I Found Out]


Comments

    HOORAY!!!
    Thank you!
    Ive been wondering how it worked for years!
    Was expecting something complicated because, well, everything is these days.
    But thats quite simple.

      Really?

      I was about to be an old grouch with an obligatory "geez, thanks for the info - be sure to mail it to SEVERAL YEARS AGO when everyone didn't already know that"...

      So, i stand corrected.

      A factoid that is slightly more unknown, for all the factoid lovers out there, The Sony Playstation was originally developed as an expansion to extend the life of the Super Nintendo. A difference of opinions, however, caused a few middle-fingers to be flung resulting in Sony taking it's technolgy and releasing the tech as their debut console along with a great big "take that you sons-of-bitches" to Nintendo.
      Amusing, but true!

        I had no idea about the Zapper, but I heard that about the SNES and Playstation years ago. I honestly think that it's much better known than the Zapper thing, Chuloopa.

        See, I didn't know about the Zapper before (not that I've ever tried to find out) but I thought everyone would have known about the PlayStation thing years ago. It all depends on your social circle and perspective, I guess.

        'Slightly more unknown'? That factoid of your is about as overused as the one about 'Video Killed the Radio Star', you know the one ;)

        I remember that story being on Gamespy in a special of the 'top 10 biggest blunders' in the games industry. This was one of them, as Nintendo practically created their rival, and then held on to the cartrdige format longer than perhaps they should have.

        As for the Light Gun tech, I didn't know it worked this way. A fairly elegant way to simulate what they needed using simple technology.

        Bang on. Nintendo actually paid the designers of what would go on to become their main rivals of the next generation.
        The developers turned their technology into a console and took it to Sony after Nintendo decided to stick with cartriges and left them high and dry.

        I thought everyone knew that.

        More precisely. . . yes, Nintendo backed out of the contract literally moments before the announcement at TGS or CES, but the reason was because Sony (in the fine print) were to claim ownership of all games/franchises/IPs on the disc format.
        Imagine Mario, Metroid or Zelda all owned by Sony.
        Nintendo did the right thing.

        Damn...

        Ok i guess you all know the truth now.. i am, indeed, from backwards land!

        Doh the pain, the pain of it all!

    An elegant solution from a more civilised time. ;)

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