Enlarge / A hobbyist's taken-apart N64 console. (credit: Chris Isherwood)

Consoles like the Super Nintendo and even the Sony PlayStation were out of my reach when they first landed in 1991 and 1995, respectively, largely because of my youth and lack of free cash at both times. I'm sure I wasn't the only kid to look wistfully at consoles like those through department store windows and on the pages of Best Buy and Target Sunday circulars. "The Super Nintendo is here!" they shouted. Cold comfort for any kid whose parents made it very clear that they already had a "Nintendo."

Only one year after the PlayStation, the Nintendo 64 launched in 1996 and became the first console I could afford to buy with my own cash. This week marks exactly 20 years since that system's launch in the United States, and it's a milestone I'll never forget. My initial encounter with the N64 isn't etched in memory just because it coincided with the release of one of the greatest 3D platformers of all time or because it was the first system to ship with four-player modes as a default. For me, it marked the beginning of the rest of my life.

Say "graphics" seven times fast

Before any of my other odd jobs as a teenager (such as soda jerk and record store clerk), I got a job reviewing video games. I hadn't even become an editor of my school newspaper when the Dallas Morning News agreed to pay me $25 an article to review brand-new games (and syndicated those reviews nationally).

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