Sunday, November 29, 2020
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Frankenstein’s Console: The mechanical beauty of the SNES power switch

Which console features from yesteryear are you super fond of? Given that there are new machines out soon – and given that it’s almost Halloween – we thought we would spend the week picking and choosing our favourite elements from our favourite consoles and stitching together our perfect Frankenstein’s Console. Inevitably it’s going to look a bit like that car Homer Simpson designed, and equally inevitably it’s going to say Giga Power Pro-Gear Spec when you boot it up. Anyway – join us! And have a think about what your own Frankenstein’s Console might look like. If you dare…

It’s fair to say that I care about switches more than most people. As long as it turns the thing on and off, what does it matter? My friends, it matters a great deal. Power switches are commands. They are points of contact (literally, in a circuit – or at least they used to be, but I’ll get to that). They are bridges between worlds; they are the most fundamental connection between the human world and the electronic one. They bring the electronic world to life.

Personally, I think that bringing an entire universe to life ought to feel good. It ought to feel momentous! At the very least, it should be something that you can only do intentionally, and you should know when you’ve done it. The platonic ideal of powering up a piece of electronic equipment, for me, is the levered switch on an old hi-fi amplifier, maybe a Sansui from the late 70s: a delicately weighted, short-throw lever that flicks into place with a low hum and a little wake-up kick from the woofers so low-frequency you can barely hear it. It’s electronics, it’s just current in wires, but it’s also physical – an action you can hear and touch and feel.

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Which console features from yesteryear are you super fond of? Given that there are new machines out soon – and given that it’s almost Halloween – we thought we would spend the week picking and choosing our favourite elements from our favourite consoles and stitching together our perfect Frankenstein’s Console. Inevitably it’s going to look a bit like that car Homer Simpson designed, and equally inevitably it’s going to say Giga Power Pro-Gear Spec when you boot it up. Anyway – join us! And have a think about what your own Frankenstein’s Console might look like. If you dare…

It’s fair to say that I care about switches more than most people. As long as it turns the thing on and off, what does it matter? My friends, it matters a great deal. Power switches are commands. They are points of contact (literally, in a circuit – or at least they used to be, but I’ll get to that). They are bridges between worlds; they are the most fundamental connection between the human world and the electronic one. They bring the electronic world to life.

Personally, I think that bringing an entire universe to life ought to feel good. It ought to feel momentous! At the very least, it should be something that you can only do intentionally, and you should know when you’ve done it. The platonic ideal of powering up a piece of electronic equipment, for me, is the levered switch on an old hi-fi amplifier, maybe a Sansui from the late 70s: a delicately weighted, short-throw lever that flicks into place with a low hum and a little wake-up kick from the woofers so low-frequency you can barely hear it. It’s electronics, it’s just current in wires, but it’s also physical – an action you can hear and touch and feel.

Read more

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