The Awesome Nintendo Power Glove video game controller from 1989!
Episode 8 of Jay Wont dart's podcast.
The Nintendo Power Glove is by far the coolest video game controller of all time, I wouldnt waste my time doing an episode about that dumb Xbox and its huge fat controller, just the Power Glove for the ancient NES or FamiCom video game systems.
As I read this, Im wearing my very own Power Glove, that I recently bought on eBay, my one is Japanese, and came straight to me from Japan, never even taken out of the box. I'll explain this later on. Its damn hard to use the mouse with it on my right hand and typing sucks too. It does have holes in the tip, like fingerless gloves, so you can just poke the tips of your fingers out, not very noticeably, but its still horrible for typing with it on! So why am I doing this? So that some of the coolness gets passed on through my podcast, of course!
The Power Glove works as a video game controller, its really the precursor to the Nintendo Wii, same company. The Power Glove is worn on your hand, and part of your arm, it has an cornered sensor unit, that goes on the top of your television, it goes on the top and around the right side of the screen. This has sensors on it, little microphones really, and thats plugged into the NES or FamiCom game machine.
The Power Glove on your person is also connected by a wire to the machine, its not wireless like the Wii controller is.
On top of the Power Glove, it has two ultra sonic speakers, lets say they make a "ping" noise like a submarine sonar system, and the sensors that go on and around the tv pick it up and measure where its coming from. The sensors can tell roughly how the Power Glove moves, up, down, left right etc. Unlike the Wii, it doesnt know how far away the Power Glove is, it cannot measure the distance from tv to Power Glove.
In games, you could steer a car by moving your arm, held out pointing at the tv, left and right, sort of pointing the direction you wanted to go. In an Ad I'll play very soon, a Tom Cruise looking guy plays a boxing game by doing an uppercut gesture, punching up into the air to hurt the enemy.
The Power Glove even sensed your fingers, you could move your fingers into a curled position, and it could tell kinda how far, according to the Wikipedia article it could sense four positions for your four fingers, each finger being bent could be picked up and measured roughly, position 0, 1, 2 or 3. I dont think this was ever used though, but if it worked well enough, it could be that you curl one finger for the acclerator on a car, the more you curl your finger as if making a fist, the harder you supposedly step on the gas pedal.
The Power Glove is basically a glove made out of rubber and synthetic materials that goes on your arm, its close to 30 centimetres, or 12 inches for american listeners in length.
I've done so much technical describing, its time for a Power Glove ad. Its the one I mentioned with a knockoff Tom Cruise guy, not sure if Tom Cruise was well known in 1989, it would be someones first thought now, "is that tom cruise?". He walks into some tough looking warehouse, the ads set at midnight I would guess, but hes so cool and strong, he has the Power Glove to protect him from the gangs. He does some pointing and arm moving, and some punches in the ad. Enjoy!
the video says "available Summer 1990" ha.
The Power Glove is remembered in popular culture, ok, nerd culture, as being this over promoted wacky looking glove thing that didnt work like advertised. In truth, its meant to have never understood what you were trying to do, in ads you pretended to have one hand on a steering wheel, and moved left and right to steer, but in real life it seemed to have had major problems with simple movements. Only two games were ever made just for the Power Glove, one Super Glove Ball where you catch and throw a bouncing ball to break blocks, sounds cool, and "bad street brawler" ooh, sounds tough, where you punched with the Power Glove on to fight in the game. It did work with all over games though, as a novelty controller. I dont think you could really set what buttons and movements did what, you just picked a program that was closest to ok. I could be wrong there.
I decided to get a Power Glove in late 2008. I have absolutely no use for it, I dont have the Nintendo Entertainment System (called the NES normally) that the American version of Power Glove works with, or the FamiCom, (Family Computer) that my Japanese Power Glove requires. I paid a little over 100 New Zealand dollars, over a tenth of a grand for this awesome device, because its just awesome! At times you can get them in America secondhand, fresh from the attic for 20 american dollars or so, that would be about 40 New Zealand, plus shipping. I'm in New Zealand, the bottom of the world, so I will always get screwed by shipping, I did everything I could to save money, it took about six weeks to arrive, and still cost me 50 dollars, some shipping options from Japan were going to cost OVER ONE HUNDRED NEW ZEALAND DOLLARS in shipping alone! ouch.
Still, 100 dollars is what a modern video game controller costs, and they are nowhere near as cool. I've got my PS3's Dual Shock 3 controller on the desk now, it cost a little under 100, but compared to my Power Glove, it doesnt deserve to exist on the same planet as my wearable retro controller.
The cost of getting it doesnt bother me really, its just so cool, so I dont mind seeing how much money I could have saved getting a secondhand one from America if I also lived in America etc. I tried getting some secondhand American ones, because they also have an English manual, but the American sellers were, as a rule, very unhelpful with sending to another country. I'm not saying all Americans are xenophobic, and hate other countries, but the ones I were dealing with generally were not interested. Some were, most werent.
But, whats cooler, a used 20 year old american version of a Japanese product, or the real Japanese product, from Japan, in the sealed box? And they would both cost the same to me!
I've seen many fan sites to the Power Glove, but no podcast episodes, so thought I should be the first to put one up on iTunes. Theres a band who call themselves PowerGlove, they do retro game tributes, and soon there's going to be this podcast episode too.
Making an audio podcast is a bit of a shame since you cannot see what the Power Glove actually looks like, but its very easy to search for, just type in Power, leave a space, Glove, into google and you will find plenty of photos. I'm mentioning the sites I use as always in the show notes here.
I'll describe the Power Glove in detail now. On the top its made out of rubber mostly, it has segments on the fingers, and some ribbed lines where your wrist is. At the back, up your arm part, its sort of squared. On top of the Rubber are two main plastic boxes, the first at the base of your fingers, the second behind your wrist The fist part has the ultrasonic emitters, that make a sound we cannot hear. On top of that bit, the Power Glove has its name in metallic green, and the Japanese version like mine has PAX, P A X, in a circle, in the same metallic green. PAX was the company who made the Japanese version, I'll bring them up in due time.
The second box on the top has a full control pad, like any other controller for the NES or FamiCom game system. It has a direction keypad, select, start, B and A buttons. Above that it also has numbers 0-9 in two rows, and program and enter buttons. Those numeric buttons are for selecting the control program for a particular game, maybe all car racing games use program 1, all fighting games use program 2 etc. So you would tell it what kind of control setup you wanted to use for the game you were playing. Theres also the centre button, spelt cent E R in the american way, grrr! This was to focus the controller, you pointed the Power Glove at the centre of your television and pushed the centre button, so it knew where the middle of the screen was. This helped it work out what way you were moving, left of centre, up, down etc.
Those two top boxes are connected with a very short, very rugged looking cable.
Underneath, the Power Glove is spandex type material for the palm, it looks so small, but it just fits my large hand, and at the back, its got some foam blocks, best way to describe those, that sit on your arm. You strap the Power Glove around your arm at the back, and the stretchy spandex glove holds it on at the front.
I've got plenty of Power Glove clips to come up soon, including one of Video Power, a tv show about video games that I can remember watching when I was very little. Its so funny to watch it now, its incredibly dated, its like its a joke of what 1980's television looked like. The things that the host says are just so stupid, he must be so embarrassed now.
I've got a text to speech read article about a contestant who to go on Video Power, very cool.
Then theres one of the head Power Glove guys, from Nintendo I guess, he goes on to Pimp the Power Glove on the show, its a little painful to listen to, they made the Power Glove out to be so awesome, more wanted than World Peace at a Miss America pagent.
Also are a lot clips i've used from YouTube, making fun of the Power Glove.
In America, the Power Glove sold well, with around 100 000 being made by Mattel, the toy company. It was probably advertised fairly well, and Americans would have been fairly well off at the time it came out. So it could be a reward for little Jimmy getting good grades, "oh boy, a Power Glove! you're the best MOM ever! I'm going to be the coolest kid on the block when I have my Power Glove, just like that Tom Cruise look alike in the ads!"
As I mentioned though, it didnt work very well and would probably be a definite let down.
An infamous movie was made semi-starring the Power Glove itself, the movies called "The Wizard", and its about Jimmy, a young boy who's all depressed since his twin sister drowned. He likes to build things, and always carries his lunchbox with him. Jimmy gets put into a mental hospital or something, when he gets illegally rescued by his half brother Corey. The plot of The Wizard is Jimmy trying to enter a Nintendo Video Game championship held at the other end of the country, Los Angeles, and win the first prize of FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS. Along the way they face troubles they have to overcome, yada yada ya. Im not making that plot up, it was a real movie!
The main villain, because hes the main competitor for Jimmy, is Lucas Barton, a grown up scary 12 or so year old, with a little gang of his peers. In the clip I'll play, you'll learn about Lucas's Power Glove, and a often remembered quote from the movie, " i love the power glove, its so bad".
I Love the Power Glove, Its so bad, great quote eh? It does get beaten by this clip though, Jimmy is going to be taken away from his new friends, oh no, hes not going to make it to the tournament, so the main girl screams and accuses the guy taking Jimmy back to the hospital of touching her.........holy shit dude! Imagine all the little girls pulling this trick after seeing it in the movie!
In the end, Jimmy gets to the championship and beats the distant third place competitor, a nerdy girl, and its just Lucas and Jimmy. Its the brand new Super Mario Brothers 3 game, its built into the wall, giant arcade machines with a 100 inch screen or something, the screen is covered by a fancy spaceship kinda doors that open. Despite the game being so brand new, that nobody would have seen it before, the crowd yell support, someone says something like "find the warp zone jimmy!" which , you guessed it, he does, and beats Lucas by a tiny amount right at the end. Lucas would have won for sure if he could have used his Power Glove.
On the way home, the kids get driven past the Cabazon Dinosaurs, they are this big tourist trap in California you should have seen before, they are in that Pee Wee Herman movie. C A B A Z O N Dinosaurs, I have the wikipedia page in the show notes, that you see by going to the lyrics to this episode.
When Jimmy sees the Dinosaurs, he starts saying "California" , he jumps out and runs to the Dinosaurs. He leaves his lunchbox inside one of the Dinosaurs, its full of pictures of his sister who died, he remembers visiting the dinosaurs with her. aaaaw, isnt it sweet?
The Wizard has all sorts of errors, things like the video game scores and points etc, not matching whats happening in the movie, the games were played by pros of course, and then the kids are just lip synching so to speak to the recorded game.
The only things really interesting about The Wizard are how bad it was, and the two quotes, " I love the powerglove, its so bad" and "arrgh! he, touched, my , breaaast!"
The Power Glove in the movie was built up to be this invincible thing when Lucas used it, it comes out of a fancy silver case, members of his little kid gang bring it over and set all the stuff up. This would make the children in the audience go nuts right, they would want a Power Glove after seeing it in the movie, thinking it would really make them as cool as Lucas.
A hillariously retro television show I remember, Video Power came up in my research for this episode. Im sure I remember Video Power, I dont remember much about it, and its weird that it was on New Zealand tv, but I really seem to remember all the little sets used and watching the show. Video Power was a video games tv show, it sounds really hard to imagine, watching people play video games, little kids, and its on international tv. But it was!
I think the whole thing was just a huge ad for the games companies, they would hype all the big video games and make kids beg their parents for them.
The host, called Johnny Arcade, he looks to be about 10 himself, but talks like a used car salesman, trying to sound confident, really cocky too. He sounds a lot like the guy who played Malcolm, from Malcolm in the middle, Frankie Muniz I think is how you say his name.
The Video Power sets were all neon lights, lots of MDF and formica desks and surfaces, its so 1980's that its hard to believe this was a real program and not some joke. Weird shapes cut out of formica, triangles and circles and stuff, and not many colours, pink, red, yellow, lots of grey, and people on the show wore highlighter coloured tops. Fluro clothing must have been the in thing!
Heres a 2 minute Power Glove clip from Video Power, at the start the guy demoing the Power Glove cant seem to get wear it comfortably, it keeps pulling it down, wiggling it, for probably 20 seconds. Listen at the very end of the clip for a REALLY funny line
"alright buds, just one more thing, if you play with drugs, you play on the losers team, see you tomorrow, thats video power" HA! I might make that into a ringtone. "a joystick made out of meat" too
This is a close to 10 minute sound file I made from a website article, hope you dont mind long clips, send me an angry email if you do, I just had to use this in its entirety, its about a guy who got the chance to actually go on Video Power as a little boy, and what he thought, and still remembers of the experience! Really amazing, in New Zealand we had the Jason Gun show, with Thingey remember kids? I tried to enter into a competition everyday after school to win a BMX.