PlayStation Power, Part II: The Fateful Day
The wait was over, but nasty surprises were lurking...
No alarm clock was needed for me on the morning of Friday, September 9th, 1995. Launch day for the PlayStation was finally here— and, after weeks of waiting, the time had come to enter into this new generation of console video gaming.
I jumped into my Ford Tempo and headed to the Holyoke Mall at Ingleside in Holyoke, Massachusetts. I made great time, probably due to going a little too fast on Interstate 91, and walked into Electronics Boutique to pick up my preordered console and games. I had forgotten to preorder a memory card, so I did wind up buying one on the spot. I left the store with my new PlayStation console, a memory card, Ridge Racer, and NBA JAM: T.E. in my possession.
Unlike any other day that I visited this mall, there wouldn’t be a visit to the Just Fun arcade. I was in and out of the mall in record time for me. I raced back home, leapt up the stairs to my bedroom, and hooked up my new console. I ran the composite cables into my Zenith TV, plugged the power supply in, unwrapped my copy of NBA JAM: T.E., placed the disc into the console, turned everything on, and then…
I got sound coming out of my stereo. A booming, bassy set of tones played as the PlayStation logo filled as the Sony Computer Entertainment logo filled my screen and then gave way to the PlayStation logo. This was it… the moment I had been waiting for since I left Fantasy Realms on that Spring evening after playing Ridge Racer for the first time. Now I was going to play what looked like an arcade-perfect conversion of NBA JAM: T.E.
The gaming gods, however, were not ready for me to enjoy myself.
As if the vertical hold function on my television set was broken, the picture began to bounce on my screen as boot-up screens popped up. I thought this would fix itself at first, then I began to try adjusting the knobs and options on the TV… but the picture still bounced.
Was the game broken?
I powered down the PlayStation and replaced the NBA JAM T.E. disc with the new copy of Ridge Racer I got. Same as before, the Sony Computer Entertainment and PlayStation logo screens were fine… but as Galaxian began playing, the picture began to bounce again. I couldn’t believe it. I got a busted console. That had to be the problem. The TV was bought within the last year. The games were new and both had the same problem.
I packed the console back up, grabbed the receipt, and drove with a purpose back to the mall… and to Electronics Boutique.
Truth be told, I was not a happy camper and showed a bit of frustration to the store manager that was unwarranted. It wasn’t his fault that the console was a dud. When I told him what happened, he initially tried to say that there weren’t any extra consoles, and then retired to the back room to make sure. Luckily for me, he had one spare left, which I happily accepted and took back home.
“If this one doesn’t work, though, there aren’t any left. You’ll have to call Sony.”
I nodded as I left, thinking that I had nothing to worry about as the manager called after me.
As I returned home for the second time and carried my replacement PlayStation up the stairs to my bedroom, I started to feel uneasy. Lightning can’t possibly strike twice, right? I took a bit more time while hooking everything up. I made sure the component cables were secure. I checked the discs to make sure there weren’t any obvious defects. Everything seemed to check out, though.
Until it didn’t.
Just as with my first PlayStation, this new one had the same issue with bouncing picture. My heart sank, as I recalled the words of the Electronics Boutique manager. I was going to have to call Sony. Unfortunately for me, the Sony rep couldn’t explain what was happening. A recommendation was made to try using an RF cable instead of the composite cables. Sony could send me one, but it could take up to a week. I wasn’t waiting anymore.
I got back into my car and, this time, drove to Fantasy Realms. Luckily for me, the owner was working, because I needed to vent. After sharing my story, he agreed with the Sony rep and suggested trying the RF cable. I bought one that he had and made my way back home for a third time that day. I wasn’t going to get stereo sound, but at least I could play if the RF worked.
It didn’t. Strike three, outside corner. I was at a loss. When I called the owner at Fantasy Realms to ask about returning the RF cable, he posed two questions that I hadn’t thought of:
“Do you have a different TV in the house? Have you tried hooking the PlayStation up on a different TV?”
As luck would have it, there was another TV in the house: the living room TV. It was a Magnavox set that was used with a cable box. I was hesitant to use it because there wasn’t a lot of room to set up the console and there wasn’t stereo sound… but it was worth testing the theory that it might somehow be a TV problem and not a console problem. The coaxial jack was occupied by the cable connection, but there was an option for auxiliary composite mono input for me to try.
I plugged everything in, popped the NBA JAM T.E. disc into the PlayStation, turned the power on, and… everything worked as intended. The picture didn’t bounce. Instead, a clean image of the title screen and demo sequences played. To be sure that things were copacetic, I powered down the PlayStation and changed the game to Ridge Racer. Happily, the result was the same. Ridge Racer played just as it did during my first experience with it.
I could finally enjoy my PlayStation, about 8 hours after initially picking it up. The wait was finally over.
As it turned out, information would come to light a few weeks later that the PlayStation had some video incompatibility issues with some Zenith TV sets, like the one I had. I would eventually go on to replace that Zenith TV with a Samsung one designed for video gaming, called the GxTV, but that’s a story for next time… along with some of my personal high points of the PlayStation Era of 1995-2001.
Until then, thanks for reading.