Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A bit of science geekery

So, I was hanging around in the lab today and realized something that shook my understanding of the video game universe. Like many of you, I played Duck Hunt on the Nintendo during my childhood. I'd use the zapper to shoot each duck, thinking that somehow the TV was registering my shots. But think about this for a moment. There is no way in hell that the TV could figure this stuff out. So how was this gun working anyway?

Fortunately this sort of question is exactly what the internet was designed for, and I quickly found an answer. It seems that the gun doesn't shoot the ducks on the TV, rather it detects an instantaneous change in the display when you pull the trigger, and registers this change based on an electrical pulse from a photodiode located inside the barrel. The change in the screen occurs much faster than you can see which answers the obvious question of why you never saw it. Think of all the subliminal messaging fun!

Basically, after pulling the trigger the entire screen goes black and on one frame after another, each duck is represented by a white square. The game is able to tell which duck you hit by which white screen was onscreen when the photodiode activates.

What I want to know now is, if I were to point the gun at a bright light, would I automatically get a duck everytime?


  1. You should try that and see. Actually, I bet you don't have to. The internet could tell you.

  2. now this is some science geekery i can appreciate. i'm so glad i'm friends with smart people like you.


Recap Defined

ri•cap 1 (rē-kāp') Pronunciation Key tr.v. ri•capped, ri•cap•ping, ri•caps
1. a summary at the end that repeats the substance of a longer discussion
2. To replace a cap or caplike covering on: recapped the camera lens.
3. Ri - a female given name: derived from Adrienne.