A Brief History of Wireless Game Controllers

People like to be in control when the situation affords them. This desire plays into how video games were marketed back in the ’80s, during the so-called 8-bit era when many classics were established and written in the history books. It was still a time when the industry was still in its infancy, not even being a decade old. The marketing back then was that the consoles allowed you to manipulate the images on your TV screen. The boob tube offered mostly one-way entertainment, and video games added a new way to have fun.

For a long time, the standard input peripherals for video game consoles were on a wired connection. Being physically connected gives you the least amount of input lag. But today, due to the miracles of modern wireless technologies, cordless controllers have become the norm. Since then, gamers seem to have enjoyed the type of freedom they have always wanted to achieve.

The Joy of Gaming, Untethered

One of the options that you have with a garage door installation is having it open automatically using a motor or use a manual mechanism. The latter would need to have someone push it open while the latter can be controlled at the push of a remote control button. Many people are choosing the latter because of the convenience it affords them. This is the kind of satisfaction that gamers experienced when the consoles finally went with wireless controllers.

Playing video games using wireless controllers means that you no longer will have to worry about your little sibling tripping over cables and then make your console fall from where it is situated. Having no wires is also one less movable part or point of failure. Its only downside is that if you are using one that has built-in batteries, you will have to deal with its degradation. Once it has reached its limits, you can either scour the internet for a replacement or become connected to your console again using a cable. But the benefits outweigh the downsides, which is why you see wireless controllers as the norm these days.

The Attempts

Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, there have been attempts to cut the cords of game controllers. These were mostly done by third-party peripheral manufacturers, and the technology they were trying to push with it was infrared or IR beams. This is the same tech fitted inside your TV’s remote control. It has some huge disadvantages. For one, you are required to have a direct line of sight with the receiver, or else your inputs will not be registered. Another reason is that it is not as responsive as their wired counterparts. And finally, their build quality was far inferior compared to the first-party ones.

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The Milestone

At the turn of the millennium, Intel showcased a slew of wireless PC peripherals, one of them a game controller. These used radio frequency or RF technology and featured a base receiver that can accept signals from multiple devices. Gamers should thank the processor titan, as this led Nintendo to refine the technology. The result of this work is the WaveBird for the GameCube. It was released in 2002 and is recognized as the first RF-based wireless controlled made by a first-party hardware manufacturer. Unlike IR, you do not need to have a line of sight with the receiver. In fact, it lets you continue playing even when a wall is blocking you, thanks to radio waves that can pass through it. There is a great chance that this milestone influenced the generation of consoles that followed.

The Standardization

Microsoft’s Xbox 360 was released near the end of 2005 and shipped with a wireless controller, which also uses RF technology. Sony’s PlayStation 3 arrived a year later also with a wireless pad, but theirs use Bluetooth. The Wii was also released in 2006 and attracted a lot of non-gamers with its motion controls that also used RF. This was the first generation when all major console makers gave their users the freedom to play their games without the cords. It has since become the standard, as the next generation that kicked off in 2012 continued the trend.

The upcoming generation where you will see Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X and S duking it out with each other, will again be featuring wireless controllers. That has clearly become a standard for the decades to come.

It took a while with some failed tries, but the important thing is you are now playing games using wireless controllers. Nothing can be more enjoyable than kicking back on your sofa without worrying about having your game interrupted by someone who needs to walk in front of you. It is hard to imagine what the next innovation in game control is going to be. The console manufacturers will have to dig deep into their bag of tricks for that to happen. Wireless gaming will be very hard to top.

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