Virtual Boy hardware

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The Virtual Boy hardware includes the console as well as a variety of accessories. The Virtual Boy is Nintendo's first 32-bit system.[1] The PPU is 16-bit, and the hardware control unit is 8-bit.

The Virtual Boy system uses a pair of 1×224 linear arrays (one per eye) and rapidly scans the array across the eye's field of view using flat oscillating mirrors. These mirrors vibrate back and forth at a very high speed, thus the mechanical humming noise from inside the unit. Each Virtual Boy game cartridge has a yes/no option to automatically pause every 15–30 minutes so that the player may take a break.

One speaker per ear provides the player with audio.[2]


The screens of the Virtual Boy

The Virtual Boy Console was the first video game console that was supposed to be capable of displaying "true 3D graphics" out of the box, in a form of virtual reality. Whereas most video games use monocular cues to achieve the illusion of three dimensions on a two-dimensional screen, the Virtual Boy creates an illusion of depth through the effect known as parallax. In a manner similar to using a head-mounted display, the user looks into an eyepiece made of neoprene on the front of the machine, and then an eyeglass-style projector allows viewing of the monochromatic (in this case, red) image.

The Virtual Boy uses an oscillating mirror to transform a single line of LED-based pixels into a full field of pixels. Nintendo claimed that a color display would have made the system too expensive and resulted in "jumpy" images, so the company opted for a monochrome display.[1] To achieve a color display, Nintendo would have used a combination of red, green, and blue LEDs. At the time, blue LEDs were still considerably expensive and would in turn raise the price of the final product. This in combination with the other drawbacks helped influence Nintendo's decision to release the Virtual Boy as a monochrome device.


The Virtual Boy was meant to be used sitting down at a table,[3] although Nintendo said it would release a harness for players to use while standing.[1]

The Virtual Boy, being a system with heavy emphasis on three-dimensional movement, needed a controller that could operate along a Z axis. The Virtual Boy's controller was an attempt to implement dual digital "D-pads" to control elements in the aforementioned 3D environment. And, until the Nintendo 3DS's Circle Pad Pro accessory was released, the Virtual Boy was Nintendo's only handheld that had a second directional input.

The Virtual Boy controller

The controller itself is shaped like an "M" (similar to a Gamecube controller).[citation needed] One holds onto either side of the controller and the part that dips down in the middle contains the battery pack. There are six buttons on the controller (A, B, Start, Select, L and R), the two D-pads, and the system's "on/off" switch. The two directional pads are located on either side of the controller at the top. The "A" and "B" buttons are located below the pad on the right side and the "Start" and "Select" buttons are located in the same spot on the left side. What would normally be called "shoulder buttons" ("L" and "R") are located behind the area where the pads are, on the back of the controller, functioning more as triggers.

In more traditional 2-dimensional games, the two directional pads are interchangeable.[citation needed] For others with a more 3D environment, like Red Alarm, 3D Tetris, or Teleroboxer, each pad controls a different feature. The symmetry of the controller also allows left-handed gamers to reverse the controls (similar to the Atari Lynx).[citation needed]

One of the unique features of the controller is the extendable power supply that slides onto the back. It houses the six AA batteries required to power the system. This can be substituted with a wall adapter, though a "slide on" attachment is required for the switchout. Once the slide on adapter is installed, a power adapter can be attached to provide constant power.


The underside of the Virtual Boy showing various inputs and outputs

During development, Nintendo promised the ability to link systems for competitive play.[4] The system's EXT (extension) port, located on the underside of the system below the controller port, was never officially supported since no "official" multiplayer games were ever published, nor was an official link cable released. (Although Waterworld and Faceball were going to use the EXT port for multiplayer play, the multiplayer features in the former were removed[5] and the latter was canceled.)[citation needed]


Hardware specifications
Processor Customized NEC V810 (NVC, P/N uPD70732)
32-bit RISC Processor @ 20 MHz (18 MIPS)

1 KB instruction cache

Memory 128 KB dual-port VRAM
128 KB of DRAM
(× 2)
Reflection Technologies Inc. SLA Model P4 – monochromatic red, LED display
384 x 224 pixel resolution (produced by mechanically scanning each 1 × 224 LED array)
Four simultaneous shades per 4-pixel column (black + 3 red, of approximately 128 levels of intensity)
50 Hz[6] double-buffered frame rate
Power 6 AA Batteries or 10VDC at 350mA AC Adapter/Tap
(third-party Performance Adaptor DC 9V 500mA)
Sound Custom "Virtual Sound Unit"[7]
Five wave channels
One noise channel
10-bit stereo output
Controller 6 buttons and 2 D-pads
uses NES controller protocol
Serial Port 8 pin cable with 8-bit serial transfer
VUE-001 Virtual Boy Unit
VUE-003 Stand
VUE-005 Controller
VUE-006 Game Pak
VUE-007 Battery Pack
VUE-010 Eyeshade
VUE-011 AC Adapter Tap ("Use With Super NES AC Adapter No. SNS-002 Only")
VUE-012 Eyeshade Holder
VUE-014 Red & Black Stereo Headphones
Weight 750 grams
Dimensions 8.5"H × 10"W × 4.3"D


Cartridge specifications
128 megabit addressable ROM space (4–16 megabit ROM used in released games)
128 megabit addressable RAM space (0–8 kilobyte Battery Backed RAM in released games)
128 megabit addressable expansion space (unused in any released games)
CPU interrupt available from the cartridge
Left and right audio signals pass through cartridge
60-pin connector


  1. ^ a b c Kevin Rafferty. "Super Mario Takes Leap into Three Dimensional Space." The Guardian (pre-1997 Fulltext): 0. Nov 16 1994. ProQuest. Web. 8 July 2013.
  2. ^ Powell, Doug. "A Virtual Backlash." Computing Canada Dec 21 1994: 1,1,4. ABI/INFORM Global. Web. 24 May 2012.
  3. ^ John Markoff. "Nintendo Counts on a New 'Virtual' Game." New York Times (1923-Current file): 2. Nov 14 1994. ProQuest. Web. 8 July 2013.
  4. ^ Rafferty, Kevin. "Super Mario Takes Leap into Three Dimensional Space." The Guardian (1959-2003): 2. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Guardian (1821-2003) and The Observer (1791-2003). Nov 16 1994. Web. 24 May 2012.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Guy Perfect (2013-01-04). "Virtual Boy Sacred Tech Scroll - Virtual Boy Specifications". Retrieved 2013-01-21.
  7. ^ Guy Perfect (2017-03-14). "Virtual Boy Sacred Tech Scroll - Virtual Boy Specifications". Retrieved 2017-03-14.