One of Nintendo's most popular handheld gaming console's - the Game Boy - celebrates its 20th anniversary this month. Since its launch, the Game Boy series of handhelds has sold over 100 million units.

To celebrate its anniversary, I did what I always do: I tore one apart for the education and amusement of you my dear reader.

Meet the Game Boy

When Nintendo released the Game Boy in 1989, it was the first major handheld game system with interchangeable cartridges since 1979's Milton-Bradley Microvision. The thought of playing video games anywhere - in the car, at school, in the bathroom - was mind-boggling to me at the time, and I decided that I had to have one. Within a year I was playing Tetris on the pea-green-screened portable wonder.

The back


Like any great gaming system, the Game Boy is designed to induce anxiety. And that anxiety can create sweaty palms, which is why the Game Boy's back has these strategically placed ridges to help you hold on even during the most stressful moments of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Note how snugly the cartridge fits into the slot, too.

A closer look at cartridges

The Super Mario Land 2 cartridge on the left contains a small lithium coin battery to supply continuous power to an SRAM chip that stores saved games. Tetris has no such save feature, so its circuit board (not shown) is much simpler.

The source of the Game Boy's power

With four AA batteries in the Game Boy, you can play for about 10 hours. That's enough time to ensure that you'll still be seeing Tetris's coloured blocks falling before your eyes long after you turn the device off. Compared with its competitors, the Game Boy delicately sipped battery power, which was its strongest selling point. In contrast, the colorful Atari Lynx and Sega Game Gear ate batteries faster than you could shove them in.

NEXT PAGE: Getting inside the Game Boy

  1. We dissect the gaming handheld on its 20th anniversary
  2. Getting inside the Game Boy
  3. Examining the front half