Six Gaming Console Ports/Holes That Never Really Went Anywhere
(Contributor: John Teti)
At the beginning of their illustrious lifecycles, all consoles are nothing but potential. Part of the wonder of the console -- and part of what I'm going to miss once consoles are irrelevant -- is watching developers figure out what each console is capable of. The Xbox? It managed to run a fairly credible version of Doom 3. (Looked great, but was unfortunately still very boring.) The Nintendo Wii recently topped out with The Conduit. (Looked OK, but was unfortunately still very boring.) And the limits of the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3? We're still figuring out where they are, exactly.
Almost every console in history has featured a not-so-secret panel that hid a not-so-hidden port (or ports). What were these panels/ports designed for? Well, for the most part, we'll never really know, since almost every one of these panels/ports went unused during the console's lifecycle. They were no doubt designed for some plug-in or memory add-on that never got plugged in or added on; in the end, all they did was collect dust and cat/dog hair and hope.
We recently opened the CG Vault, and dragged our ancient consoles into the light, to revisit these long-lost ports/holes/portholes that turned out to not be windows into another world.
The console: PlayStation
The port: Turn your PlayStation bottoms-up and check out the Parallel I/O panel on its backside. Pop open the panel and inside you'll find -- drum roll, please -- a dark, two-inch-long socket. Mysterious? YES!!!!
Clever modders hijacked the port to run GameSharks and the like, and to run import games. As far as Sony is concerned, modding its console is akin to peeing in its Cobb salad -- so it ripped the Parallel I/O hole out of later-model PlayStations.
The console: Nintendo 64
The port: Turn your N64 over until it resembles a turtle on its back. If you can see the unit's four cute feet -- everything is so cute on the N64, no? -- you have done everything correctly so far. Notice the panel dead-center on the bottom of the unit that says "EXT." Open it up -- you'll need a long fingernail and/or a screwdriver -- and inside you'll find a three-inch, important-looking port that was supposed to allow something utterly dazzling to be plugged in. Nintendo message boards claim that Nintendo planned to bring a disk drive to American N64s. But Nintendo message boards also claim that Mario and Luigi are secret lovers and that Princess Peach is just a beard. So take it all with a grain of salt.
The console: GameCube
The port: The GameCube wins the title of Most Ports Ever with its trio of fill-in-the-blank sockets on its hairless posterior. Start popping off the secret panels. Popping them off is almost as fun as popping sheets of bubble wrap. As we promised: ports galore. One of these ports accepts the semi-obscure Game Boy Player. But what do the other two do? The world may never know...
The console: Super Nintendo Entertainment System
The port: Like its big brother, the Nintendo 64, the Super Nintendo also has a mysterious EXT. panel on its bottom. Apparently the Japanese got some attachment for this port where they could download games from a satellite in space, or some other sci-fi claptrap. Point is, the good ol' U.S. of A once again got bupkus. So enjoy prying this baby loose -- be sure to make a satisfied "ahhhh" sound while doing so, as if you've just opened a delicious Fresca -- and gaze into the darkness that is known as THE EERIE PORT ON THE SNES THAT WENT NOWHERE.
The console: Nintendo Entertainment System
The port: Maybe you are sensing a trend here. This is a pretty Nintendo-heavy list. The people at Nintendo's Kyoto HQ, well, they're dreamers. They like to stick random connectors on their boxes in the hope that maybe someday, those ports just might do something. Then, after they sell a billion Nintendos, they forget about the poor, abandoned port because they're too busy having naked money fights in Shigeru Miyamoto's backyard koi pond. The sad little NES expansion port was the first connector to fall victim to their folly. It would not be the last.
The console: Nintendo Wii
The port: The Wii initially appears to have a smooth hull. But run the tips of your fingers all over her, and you'll discover more secret panels than a library in a haunted mansion. Most of these panels serve some sort of semi-obvious purpose. For example, the top panels reveal outlets for GameCube controllers and memory cards. But what of the dual USB slots on the console's backside? Our very unscientific tests show that power does indeed travel to them, but data does not. What function could these serve, other than to intrigue, baffle, and mystify us? The answer: You can run your Crazy Japanese Cat Fan off of their power feed. Thanks, Nintendo!
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