I’m not much of an inventor, but I’ve always admired inventors, ever since my first glue experiments as a five-year-old. The purpose of the experiment was to see which one of three glues dried up the fastest, and I remember how carefully I held the piece of paper with the samples on my lap on the back seat of our car, on our way to my grandparents’ place, and the playhouse that was my laboratory.
I took the glue samples in, and then promptly forgot about them when I got excited about other things. Such as a football.
A few years later, I carried with me a red hardcover Gyro Gearloose’s Guidebook everywhere, whenever I wasn’t sitting on our balcony with Mom’s old typewriter, copying passages of the guidebook into a book of my own. Turns out I didn’t get any inventions into my brain that way, but it may have put me in a writer’s frame of mind. Also, it was nice out there on the balcony.
Fact: I can’t build anything, and I can’t fix anything. I don’t understand how an engine works, and I don’t know how you can build a bridge across deep waters (although that’s never stopped me from writing about those things) but the desire to invent something is still inside me.
A couple of weeks ago, the rest of the family was at a flea market supposedly selling things we don’t need anymore. But, as always, they came back with more stuff. Son bought an old Nintendo Gameboy, and a Nintendo NES, both vintage 80s video games. He also bought an orange gun for “Duck Hunt”, a game in which you, well, hunt for ducks.
The 30 SEK deal that Son had made at the flea market was a little bit too good to be true because the NES didn’t have any games, controls or even a power cord. That was easily fixed, though, with money.
I told a colleague about Son’s new vintage games, mostly to get a chance to brag about how good I thought I once was at Duck Hunt. They used to have Duck Hunt at the local rink so I played it before and after every hockey game and practice for about a year. Or at least for nine months.
“So I’m pretty good at Duck Hunt,” I told him with as much modesty in my voice as possible.
“I think that the Duck Hunt is the only one of those old games that doesn’t work with the new technology. You need an old TV set for that, these flat screen TVs use a different technology … or something,” he said.
“Oh, that’d be a shame,” I said.
Naturally, that whole thing was just hearsay, a rumor, something a buddy sort of knew, so I didn’t worry about it too much, but when I got back home, I did mention it to Son. But that was a bridge we were going to cross when we got it. First we had to get Super Mario to work. For some reason, when Son put the game cartridge in, nothing happened. No images on the screen, nothing.
Now, I may not know how to build a bridge or change the oil in our car, but I do know how to connect a video game to a TV because that’s something I’ve done all my life, thanks to Dad working at a store that sold TVs all his life. I had a look at Son’s setup and noticed that one of the cables he had bought had only audio inputs, so … long story short, we bought new ones.
And then we sat on the floor, with the cartridge in, everything plugged in, including the new power cord we also had to buy, but still nothing happened. Well, nothing’s not really true because we had gone from a “no signal” sign on the screen to a big, gray box on the screen.
“Just let it warm up a bit,” I told Son, “these 80s things are special.”
And he did. He lay on the floor for ten minutes. Nothing happened.
So I slammed the console a little bit. And then again. Just a little.
“Stop it, violence is not the answer,” said Son, and I told him he was right, but that some[slap]times … and right then, we saw colors on the TV. I put my hand on the cartridge and pushed it a little, and fiddled with it a little, moving it from side to side, and like magic, Super Mario appeared on the TV set.
Son and I did Snoopy’s happy dance.
After a couple of rounds of Super Mario, Son wanted to try the Duck Hunt (and I wanted to show off my 80s game skills) so we switched. Unfortunately, my friend had been right, and the gun didn’t work with our TV. The result: every shot missed. Good for the ducks, and good for my already bruised ego, but not so good for Son’s mood.
Now, since I knew the game might not work, I had given the matter some thought. I hadn’t googled anything, but my friend’s words about the light points being different had stayed with me, so I decided to try something. If the old TV sets had one kind of lights that lit and shut off, and the new TV sets had another … well, based on everything I knew – which was possible less than zero – maybe you could fool the TV somehow?
Maybe… what if … could it be?
These inventor questions were bouncing off inside my brain, and I had an eureka moment.
“Now, wouldn’t it be something if this Finnish dude in little Sollentuna came up with a solution to The Duck Hunt Problem,” I said to myself, having already made it a capital letter problem.
I ran upstairs, into the kitchen, and pulled out a roll of plastic wrap. I cut a piece, about a meter long, and ran back downstairs.
“What’s that?” asked Son.
“You know, the old TV sets have a different system and the new ones don’t blink [I made that fact up on the spot], so we have to trick ours a little bit,” I said.
“Oh… kay…,” said Son.
“Now, wouldn’t it be something if this Finnish dude in little Sollentuna came up with a solution to The Duck Hunt Problem,” I told him, as I placed the plastic film over our TV set, and tapped it a little bit.
“There ya go, let’s try it,” I said, and asked Son to start the game.
He did, and raised the orange plastic gun. The first ducks flew across the screen, Son fired, but missed. Next two… two misses.
“Let me try,” I said, thinking that I was a better shot than Son, and still thinking that my plastic fllm invention might actually work.
Son gave me the gun, I aimed, and shot. And missed. I took a step closer to the TV set, pressed the gun against it and waited for the next duck. When it flew across the screen, I placed the muzzle of the gun right on the bird, and pulled the trigger.
It kept on flying. The dog raised his head and chuckled.
“I guess it didn’t work,” I told Son.
I lowered the gun, and my head, and pulled the plastic off our TV.
I went back upstairs and Wife saw me throw the plastic film in the garbage. She asked what I had been up to, and I told her the whole story.
“Hah, that’s like the old April Fool’s joke about turning a black and white TV into a color TV by pulling a pantyhose over it,” she said.
“Yeah,” I said. “Just like that.”