90s Gaming Nomad

As a kid I had a burning desire to own a portable gaming console as awesome as my Sega Mega Drive (called ‘Genesis’ in the US). There was something enormously appealing to me about being able to move around unhindered, with the ability to express my infatuation for gaming wherever I was. Sega played to this desire with a product it launched in 1995 called the Nomad. Not only was it the coolest thing I bought in the 90s, but in my opinion remains the most awesome portable gaming platform ever invented. The Nintendos and Sonys of the world would do well to consider what made the Nomad great – because, frankly, it kicks the DS and PSP for unmitigated awesomeness.

Firstly, the Nomad played the same game cartridges used by the Mega Drive or Genesis. That’s right – imagine having a PSP that played your PS3 games. It was that awesome.

The Nomad also had a controller slot on it, so that you could plug in a second Genesis gamepad and have two players on the same Nomad. Rad doesn’t even begin to describe this feature… think two-player Mortal Kombatanywhere.

It also had a standard power port, so you could buy any generic power or even car-lighter adapter and use it to power the Nomad. It came with a cable to connect it to a TV, so it really was like having a full-fledged Genesis with you anywhere. Proprietary ports are the work of the devil and I wish today’s console manufacturers would support standards more widely than just HDMI.

The Nomad’s battery pack clipped off and you could buy spares. The pack held six standard AA batteries so you could pick up batteries anywhere or carry a few loaded packs with you. Batteries, however, were the only down-side of this device as you would only get a few hours game time out of six AAs. I used to use rechargeable batteries with the device. Unfortunately we were a few years away from decent batteries in 1995.

I picked up a Nomad in 1996 while visiting my girlfriend of the time in the USA. The exchange rate was R4.40 back then and I paid around $160 for it – so roughly R700. I brought it back to South Africa and was instantly promoted to legendary status with my friends. I still have it. I throw out things all the time, but the Nomad is a keeper and I’ll never intentionally get rid of it. And you can pick up second-hand Genesis game cartridges now for a fistful of change.

What’s the coolest thing you bought in the 90s? My Sony MZ-R70 MD recorder/player is a close second to the Nomad.

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