The NES Had A ‘Homework First’ Physical Lock

The NES Had A ‘Homework First’ Physical Lock
Image: Youtube (Gaming Historian)

Parental controls are nice and elegant these days. But what was a parent to do in the ’80s and ’90s? Well, one company came up with a simple solution: a literal, physical lock.

As outlined by the Gaming Historian, the lock was called Homework First. It was billed as “the first security system for your Nintendo” and might actually be the first form of parental controls in video games, even though it’s just functionally a larger, uglier spin on a combination lock.

The idea was to stop kids from inserting cartridges into the console, thereby forcing kids to do something else. Why this would be more effective than, say, taking away the power supply. Or the actual console.

The lock also didn’t do jack shit if your parents left a cartridge in the console. Unless your parents were epic level trolls, and bought an especially dogshit game and locked it into the console.

It’s quaint looking back at all of these accessories. The internet and interconnectivity of devices means software solutions are generally smarter, cleaner and just more effective. But it’s nice that people have gone to the time and effort to preserve little bits of gaming history like this.


  • Easy answer to the rhetorical question, speaking from experience in the 80s (tho with PCs mainly):

    If parents just took away the power supply or NES, we’d have found it. We were good at finding where parents hid various things around the house, so they’d have had to have taken them into work to stop us. A combination lock would have been a far harder nut to crack, although given time it would have been easy to brute force the combinations.

    • It’s often possible to decode these types of locks, which is a lot faster than brute force: rather than testing a maximum of 10,000 combinations you might only need to test 40 max.

      If putting tension on the shackle locks the code wheels, you can often feel the difference between a correct and incorrect position. That can let you solve each wheel individually.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!