If you played console games in the ‘80s or ‘90s, I’m betting you still have some of your old machines around. Maybe you have a Sega Genesis in a box in your attic, or a Super Nintendo in your childhood bedroom, at your mom’s house. The good news is, they probably still work! The bad news is, you probably don’t have the heavy, boxy TV that you played the games on anymore. Sure, you can plug an old system into your modern flat-panel TV with the cables it came with, but the picture you get is not going to be anything like what you remember.
Those old analog TVs used a signal that today we call 480i. That means it displayed 480 lines, but it alternated between showing the even lines and the odd lines each frame. This happened 60 times a second, so fast that the image appeared as one solid picture. However, video game consoles up until around the PlayStation 2 “tricked” TVs into drawing every line, every frame. In this mode, sometimes called 240p, instead of alternating lines every frame, it drew on the same lines every frame. This made for brighter, crisper video.
Since this was never an official format, and the “trick” only worked on analog TVs, newer digital sets don’t understand this signal, and may either show the video poorly, or sometimes not at all. But with the right devices, like the Open Source Scan Converter or RAD2X cables, you can get some super-sharp gameplay on even brand new 4K TVs.
There’s a whole website, retrorgb.com, dedicated to helping people get the absolute best image out of their vintage consoles. But beware: if you’ve got more than one or two consoles, this can be a very expensive road! I have the receipts to prove it.