Thursday, July 12, 2012

Childhood memories: PlayStation 1 and the TV set

Ah, yes, the PlayStation 1. She was the console that hammered the final nail into the cartridge format's coffin and lured me, like a siren, towards console gaming. I have fond memories of the PS1, from the day I got it, to the one summer that I left the console running for several days straight while I played Final Fantasy 7 because I didn't have a memory card. The PS1 wasn't the first console I ever played, that honor goes to an Atari 5200. I had played the Nintendo, SNES and the Sega Genesis before, but after boneheadedly trading away the latter, I had largely drifted away from console gaming, or really any kind of gaming for that matter. I don't recall what made me want a PlayStation, whenever I think about it, the thing that comes to mind is Final Fantasy 7. I remember seeing the commercial for it and drooling.

Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Metroid this was not! At any rate, my parents bought me one for Christmas, but didn't tell me.  Imagine my surprise when I woke up and my dad walked into my room carrying the box!

Now imagine my surprise when he went to hook the console up to my TV and discovered that the thing lacked RCA jacks. The TV wasn't even that old, really, I think it might have just lacked one of the jacks or maybe all three. It was a bummer that was mitigated by hooking the console to the TV in my parent's bedroom. I also lacked a memory card, because I wasn't aware that you needed one. They were a new thing, after all, and I had been out of the gaming loop. It also didn't help that the things cost like 24 bucks each at the time. The more immediate problem was having enough time to play it. Since the console was in my parent's room, I could only get my game on during the day, which wasn't helped by school. I remember more than once, I would playing a game and my dad would more or less kick me out so he could go to bed.

Eventually, the problem was solved one evening when my dad took me to buy a "new" television. If the parentheses weren't a giveaway, the TV wasn't brand new. At the time, my older brother was the manager of one of those rental stores (long since bought out by another company) and told my dad that they had a used set that they would sell him for about $90. I don't think they planned on putting it back out on the floor. I need to make a brief stop here and explain something to give this story some better context. We were not well off financially. I would say that my family had always been like lower-middle to middle-middle class. My dad at the time worked as a mechanic at a gas station/garage. I have no idea what he made per week, but it wasn't a lot and the majority of it went to bills and fulfilling our needs. My mom mostly stayed at home, looking after me and whatnot. At the time, I was getting monthly checks from the government because of a birth defect, and we used most of that to cover what my dad's paychecks didn't. One redeeming aspect of my dad's job, though, was that the owner gave out fairly decent bonuses at Christmas and so that was when we splurged on some luxuries.

With that in mind, my dad laying down $90 for a used TV (and however much for batteries for the remote control) was staggering to me and humbling. I remember telling my dad that he didn't have to buy it and then thanking him several times after he did. I didn't quite grasp the value of money back then, but I knew enough to know that that was a lot of money for us. Hell, I was over the Moon whenever my parents gave me a $20 for Christmas and my birthday and I was in sublime bliss whenever my mom gave me a $5 or, on rare occasions, a $10 to spend at the local arcade. A 5 can buy you a lot of tokens and a 10 can make you feel like Bill Gates when one token was equal to a quarter.

I kept both the TV and the PlayStation for many, many years and they were used often until the end. The former was finally replaced in 2009 by a nice little flatscreen, while the latter was supplanted by the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, before being given away.

Gone, but not forgotten.

Picture via Zombies Ate Their Way To My Heart. (NSFW)

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