Recently, the internet has watched in disbelief at people who horribly compress movies so they can adapt to outdated technologies, including Shrek hurry on a 1.4 MB floppy disk, and Principle smooshed on five GBA cartridges. But as horrible as these viewing experiences may sound, watching TV shows on Game Boy Advance for a short period of time was the best tool I had to endure long bus rides.
Released as a major upgrade to the original Game Boy in 2001, the Game Boy Advance had more processing power than the Super Nintendo (many SNES games would be ported to the GBA over the years) plus a color LCD display. that can display up to a whopping 32,768 simultaneous colors. In comparison, the Game Boy could only muster four shades of green. Nintendo released the GBA as a foremost gaming machine, not a handheld designed for media consumption, but eventually a series of Game Boy Advance video cartridges were released that pushed the console hardware and rendered episodes of 20 minutes of highly compressed cartoons playable on laptop.
After graduating from college, I lived in the downtown area of a sprawling metropolis where owning a car was a virtually unnecessary expense. I saved a lot of money (and stress) by relying on public transport, but the tradeoff was that whenever I wanted to get out of town without splurging on a flight, I watched many boring hours on board. from a Greyhound bus. At that time, I owned a laptop with DVD capabilities, but it was a beast from Dell (which cost me almost $ 4,000 at the time) and its battery life was horrendous. And the alternatives, including portable DVD players, color-screen PDAs, and the first generation of smartphones, were luxuries I refused to splurge on.
The remedy for my boredom turned out to be my GBA SP – the second folding version of the Game Boy Advance which introduced a side-lit display – and a special cartridge called the GBA Movie Player that I imported from overseas. . It was much larger than a standard GBA cartridge because it included a slot for a compact flash memory card (the most affordable form of flash memory at the time) that I could fill with compressed videos using a Windows application included. To say the software wasn’t user-friendly would be generous, but it worked very slowly and after hours and hours of rendering I was able to shrink a handful of videos and squeeze a few hours of entertainment into my 256MB CF card.
If you are obsessed with the quality of the video and picture on your smartphone and refuse to watch less than a 2K stream in HDR, you will probably want to skip this next part. The GBA SP’s screen had a resolution of 240×160 – only 38,400 pixels in total – but I regularly compressed video files to half that resolution to make them as small as possible while still technically passing as observable. I mostly stuck with reusable animated series like Sealab 2021 and Harvey Birdman, lawyer which compresses very well, as opposed to feature films.
I wholeheartedly admit that my setup was pretty much the worst way to enjoy these shows imaginable (unless I played them on a Monochromatic Handspring visor) but it worked great for my needs which was to find a way to keep my brain distracted for as little money as possible.
Eventually, as I saved enough money to feel comfortable splurging with gadgets, my substandard portable home theater was replaced with a PDA – a Compaq iPaq – and then a slew of smartphones from companies like Sony and Nokia who quickly became more successful. Eventually these were all replaced by the smartphones we all use now, with the iPhone in mind. If I remember correctly, shortly after upgrading to the original iPhone I put a full copy of jurassic park on it, with the compression settings maximized to full quality, but today thousands of movies and TV shows can be easily streamed to services like Netflix and Disney + from a phone, resulting in to my GBA setup an incredibly outdated feeling.
Without access to a compact flash card (which are, unsurprisingly, hard to find cheap these days), I haven’t touched the GBA Movie Player cartridge in over 15 years, but the Game Boy Advance remains. still one of my favorites. consoles of all time. Even though I rely on devices like my smartphone, tablet, and e-reader to help maintain my sanity when I travel now, I always make sure there is room for a GBA in my room. carry-on baggage every time I travel.