1998 vs. 2008: A Tech Retrospective

  • Price: $200 ($351 adjusted for inflation)
  • CPU: 1.79-MHz 8-bit
  • RAM: 2KB
  • Game format: cartridge

2008: Sony PlayStation 3 40GB

  • Price: $399
  • CPU: 3.2-GHz cell
  • RAM: 256MB
  • Game format: optical- and hard-disk-based games with Internet connectivity

The Nintendo NES was a great value and the runaway-hit game console of its time, selling 60 million units worldwide. NES's flagship game title, Super Mario Brothers, holds the all-time video game sales record, and it lives on in the Nintendo Wii. Even in 2008 dollars, the NES costs less than the Sony PlayStation 3, though the PS3 doubles as a Blu-ray movie player.

There's no comparison in image quality, however. The NES was limited to 64 8-by-8 or 8-by-16 animated "sprites" on screen at one time, and just 48 colors with five gray levels; the PS3 provides realistic full-color, full-motion animation with its advanced Cell and video processors.

That said, people probably had just as much fun playing The Legend of Zelda back in 1988 as they do now playing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.

Undoubtedly another generation of consoles will follow this one, and it will offer even more-realistic imagery and more-precise control devices. Nevertheless, the biggest trends in gaming today are the growth of family content and the evolution of virtual worlds, as evidenced by the Wii and by Second Life.

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