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2017 World Media Group, LLC. The 1989 Nintendo Game Boy, which established and dominated the handheld market for ten years.
A handheld game console is a small, portable self-contained video game console with a built-in screen, game controls, and speakers. Handheld game consoles are smaller than home video game consoles and contain the console, screen, speakers, and controls in one unit, allowing people to carry them and play them at any time or place.
In 1976, Mattel introduced the first handheld electronic game with the release of Auto Race. Later, several companies—including Coleco and Milton Bradley—made their own single-game, lightweight table-top or handheld electronic game devices. The oldest true handheld game console with interchangeable cartridges is the Milton Bradley Microvision in 1979.
Nintendo is credited with popularizing the handheld console concept with the release of the Game Boy in 1989 and as of 2014 continues to dominate the handheld console market with their 3DS systems. For a list of all handheld video game consoles, see List of handheld game consoles.
For a comparison of technical features of all handheld game consoles, see Comparison of handheld game consoles. The origins of handheld game consoles are found in handheld and tabletop electronic game devices of the 1970s and early 1980s.
These electronic devices are capable of playing only a single game, they fit in the palm of the hand or on a tabletop, and they may make use of a variety of video displays such as LED, VFD, or LCD. In 1978, handheld electronic games were described by Popular Electronics magazine as “nonvideo electronic games” and “non-TV games” as distinct from devices that required use of a television screen. This synthesis happened in 1976, when “Mattel began work on a line of calculator-sized sports games that became the world’s first handheld electronic games. I conceptualized—the first handheld game.