How the Duck Hunt Gun Worked
This settles a mystery that has plagued my now semi-grown-up brain for decades, even more than the memory of that hound’s taunting laughter.
If you’re like me, and you played a lot of Duck Hunt growing up, you never quite figured out how the dang gun worked. I mean, I assumed it was shooting something at the screen, like maybe a beam of infrared, and the Nintendo console would somehow triangulate where I was shooting from, and somehow calculate how big my TV was, decipher some x,y coordinates from that and then determine if I had actually hit the duck.
Of course, none of that takes into account that it still registered the kills when I was
cheating experimenting by putting the gun right on the screen and pulling the trigger wildly. Well, thanks to the folks at Mental Floss, I know the truth.
The gun didn’t shoot anything.
It was a receiver! Check it out:
When you point at a duck and pull the trigger, the computer in the NES blacks out the screen and the Zapper diode begins reception. Then, the computer flashes a solid white block around the targets you’re supposed to be shooting at. The photodiode in the Zapper detects the change in light intensity and tells the computer that it’s pointed at a lit target block — in others words, you should get a point because you hit a target. In the event of multiple targets, a white block is drawn around each potential target one at a time. The diode’s reception of light combined with the sequence of the drawing of the targets lets the computer know that you hit a target and which one it was. Of course, when you’re playing the game, you don’t notice the blackout and the targets flashing because it all happens in a fraction of a second.
My sleep tonight will be that much sounder, now that this has been settled. Now if we could just explain that Power Glove …