Video game historian Liam Robertson shared his quest to find out what happened to this add-on in a new Video Secrets of the history of the game on DidYouKnowGaming? and, not only did he track down the original creators behind the WorkBoy to learn the story behind why it was never released, but he was able to operate one of the only prototypes in the world.
As you can see in the image below, the WorkBoy was a keyboard that connected to the Game Boy via a Link cable and would allow you to enjoy 12 apps including an address book / phone and a phone book. appointments.
The WorkBoy was to be an officially licensed accessory for the Game Boy, designed by Source Research and Development and produced by Fabtek Inc. in close collaboration with Nintendo.
In January 1992, WorkBoy was officially released by Nintendo of America and even made an appearance at CES 1992. It was featured by various outlets, but after a brief increase in coverage, it more or less disappeared.
Robertson was able to track down Eddie Gill, the architect of the WorkBoy and the founder of Source Research and Development, and he explained how the WorkBoy was originally to be released in late 1992 or early 1993 for around $ 79 to $ 89 US, but various the problem prevented it from reaching the public.
Gill said there were only two WorkBoy prototypes left in the world to his knowledge, and he said one was probably “deep in Nintendo’s coffers,” while the other was in the possession of Frank Ballouz. , the founder of Fabtek.
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Robertson contacted Ballouz and he did indeed have a WorkBoy prototype. Ballouz didn’t have a Game Boy to test it out, though, so he sent it to Robertson in hopes he could get it to work.
When Robertson first connected the WorkBoy keyboard to a GameBoy, nothing happened other than a short alarm beep. As it turns out, the WorkBoy needed a cartridge to fully function, although none could be found.
As fate would have it, Robertson was able to find a software ROM in one of the big recent leaks that followed. Nintendo Gigaleak earlier this year. After burning the ROM to a blank cartridge, Robertson made it work.
See the WorkBoy in action is a preview of what could have been. It is also very interesting to see this in action in 2020, where many features of the WorkBoy are common. In 1992, it was ahead of its time.For this reason, it had to carry a fairly high price tag. That high price was one of the main reasons the project was canceled, as the US $ 89.99 Game Boy was about to get a price cut, meaning the WorkBoy would likely have been more. than the system itself at $ 79- $ 89 US.
Additionally, a large explosion at a factory in Japan that produced computer chips pushed up the price of D-RAM, making it nearly impossible to lower the price of the WorkBoy, had it been launched.
Although the WorkBoy never saw the light of day, Gill’s original design helped inspire a new device he patented for a personal communicator, with a keyboard and touchscreen, which would later be licensed by Nokia for its Nokia 9000 series of devices in 1996.
Gill would then return to work with Nintendo to try and develop a revamped WorkBoy for the Game Boy Advance that would allow email, web browsing, and word processing. As with the original, however, it never reached the finish line.
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