Introduced in 1985 and touted as the ultimate video game partner, the Robotic Operating Buddy (call him R.O.B. for short) was a clever accessory for use with the original 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. Recommended for ages eight to adult, the R.O.B. system (including the NES Zapper and accompanying games) was sold for $249, just fifty dollars more than the entry-level NES system. Generally seen as a gimmick, many individuals believe the R.O.B. was an attempt by Nintendo to convince toy stores to sell the equipment. By including the little fellow - R.O.B. was just nine and a half inches tall - with the system, they could bill it as a robot game rather than a video game. Only two games were ever created that made use of the R.O.B. - Gyromite and Stack-Up.

R.O.B. required four AA batteries (which supposedly lasted three weeks if you played one hour every day) to run its microcomputer, motors, and photosensor. During a game, the robot's "eyes" faced the television, which sent the movement instructions by means of light patterns. The microcomputer decoded the patterns and translated them into instructions for the motors, which could perform three functions: grasping/releasing, raising/lowering, and carrying objects to the left or right by rotating its body. Some games allowed the player to give commands to the robot, and some games had the NES itself provide the instructions. Each R.O.B. unit came with a pair of "sunglasses" - a flexible plastic filter, sticky on one side, that could be placed over the robot's eye area if the television was too bright.

The manual for the R.O.B. included several warnings about how to play with the "high precision" toy, including the anthropomorphic warnings "he does not like places that are very hot or cold," "never face R.O.B.'s eyes toward the sun," and "don't take him apart!" Children were also warned not to expose the robot's eyes to flourescent light, or use it near hair dryers, electric shavers, or other appliances. They were also instructed that the unit should be cleaned with a clean, dry cloth - not paint thinner, benzene, or alcohol. The final warning, to be heeded while playing Gyromite, was that "misuse or mishandling of a spinning gyro can cause physical injury."


R.O.B: The Robotic Operating Buddy, or Family Robot as it was known in Japan, was a peripheral device released for the Nintendo Entertainment System or NES. The R.O.B was billed as an artificial video game buddy who would sit alongside the player and play against him or her. As it turned out, only two games, Gyromite which came with the R.O.B, and Stack-Up, which was sold separately, were ever made to support the device.

Using the R.O.B. was a bit clumsy, and the role it played, even in these two games, was rather sketchy. Historically, however, the R.O.B is much more important than it is in the hearts and minds of gamers everywhere.

Nintendo originally approached Atari and tried to have them market the machine in the United States. However, due to the great video game crash of the early 80s, no retail company was willing to stand behind anything video game related. Nintendo went forward with marketing it themselves. They used the R.O.B to persuade U.S. retailers that NES was something other than a video game. The ruse worked.

Nintendo ended up revitalizing the entire video game industry in the United States. And R.O.B… he’s probably being sold on eBay for WAY more than he’s worth.

R.O.B represents the beginning of a long Nintendo tradition of well-meaning but under-supported peripherals including, but not limited to the Power Pad, the Power Glove, and the NES Satellite.

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