Sometimes, outdated technology has a quality which seemingly defies description. For example, those of you that are old enough may harbour a strange nostalgic affection for the monochrome Game Boy’s blurry LCD screen, even to the point of spurning the updated Game Boy Color because its improved display doesn’t exhibit the same flaws that gave the original handheld its unique personality. It’s an odd situation, but one that many of you will no doubt sympathise with.
Veteran gamers will feel a similar glow of fondness when the word ‘scanlines’ is mentioned. Again, this is a case of outdated technology boasting an appeal which simply cannot be replicated by modern devices; for the uninitiated, scanlines are a characteristic of old CRT monitors – the kind that were standard issue before flatscreen LCD and plasma TVs arrived on the scene.
In modern games, the lack of scanlines isn’t an issue, but with retro titles – with their pixel-based graphics – scanlines are of vital importance. They serve to sharpen the image, giving 2D visuals more clarity. It seems almost absurd, but a quick look at any 2D game running under scanlines proves the point beyond all doubt.
Obtaining this kind of image on a LCD TV was, until recently, impossible — scanlines are an integral part of how CRT technology functions. However, where there’s a will there’s a way, and the resourceful chaps at Germany’s Arcade Forge have created the SLG3000 – a device that adds in artificial scanlines for that authentic retro vibe on flatscreen televisions.
The SLG3000 itself is a small piece of circuit board with female VGA/DB15 sockets at either end. Before venturing down this path you’ll need to get your retro control hooked up to a CGA to VGA upscaler, so read our Guide: Upscaling Your Retro Consoles for HDTV Sets and ensure your LCD TV has a VGA input (it should, as most modern sets do.) If you have a Sega Dreamcast then you can connect directly to the SLG3000 via the console’s dedicated VGA Box peripheral, negating the need for a VGA upscaler, though it's worth noting Dreamcast VGA adaptors aren't easy to find and so, accordingly, are not cheap.
Once you're set up you can toggle the unit's dip switches to get the scanline quality you desire, and there's even a dial to tinker with during play to strike the perfect balance.
The SLG3000 is available directly from Arcade Forge for €48.95 (that's about $70, or £43 if you're British). It's hardly cheap, but these guys are building the units themselves: this is very much a labour of love. It's also worth noting that if you place an order you’re currently looking at a lead time of around two to three weeks. However, we think that the results speak for themselves.
If you’re a dedicated lover of vintage gaming then you’ll miss scanlines as much as we do, and the SLG3000 is the perfect way to get that classic look without having to keep a bulky CRT TV set in the house.
If you require further convincing, below are a few videos showing this ingenious device in action and illustrating the kind of results you can get on a standard LCD TV set with various retro hardware. Enjoy!