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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

September 9, 1999

Hey, guys!  It is time for another Tuesday Timeline flashback on this, the ninth day of the ninth month of the year.  And when it comes to this week's topic, the number nine makes a lot of appearances in today's timeline date.

I'm sure you'll figure out pretty quickly what I mean by that.

Of course, before we get into today's date, we have some other things to talk about.  We'll get to famous birthdays in a minute.  For now, have a look at some of the worldwide events that took place throughout history on September 9.

1087 - William Rufus is sworn in as King of England (under the Royal title of King William II) 

1513 - The Battle of Flodden takes place which sees the defeat of James IV of Scotland

1543 - Mary Stuart is crowned "Queen of Scots" - at just nine months old!

1739 - The Stono Rebellion - the largest slave uprising in Britain's North American colonies - occurs near Charleston, South Carolina

1776 - The Continental Congress officially names its new union of sovereign states the United States of America

1791 - The capital of the United States is named Washington, D.C., after its first president, George Washington

1839 - John Herschel becomes the first person to take the first glass plate photograph

1850 - California becomes the thirty-first American state

1914 - The Canadian Automobile Machine Gun Brigade is created to aid British armed forces during World War I

1926 - The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) is founded

1940 - George Stibitz pioneers the first remote operation of a computer

1941 - Singer Otis Redding (d. 1967) is born in Dawson, Georgia

1945 - The Empire of Japan formally surrenders to China

1947 - A moth lodges in a relay of a Harvard Mark II computer, coining the phrase "computer bug"

1956 - First appearance of Elvis Presley on "The Ed Sullivan Show"

1965 - Hurricane Betsy makes second landfall near New Orleans, Louisiana, killing 76 people and causing over a billion dollars in damage

1969 - The Official Languages Act comes into force, officially making the Canadian federal government bilingual

1971 - The Attica Prison Riot begins - 39 people lose their lives over the four-day event

1997 - Actor Burgess Meredith dies at the age of 89

1999 - Baseball player Catfish Hunter passes away at the age of 53

2004 - The 2004 Australian Embassy bombing in Jakarta kills 10 people

2010 - Eight people are killed following a natural gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, California - the blast creating a "wall of fire" more than 1,000 feet high

And, for celebrity birthdays, we have a long list of birthday greetings.  A very happy birthday to Bernard Bailyn, Sylvia Miles, Carlos Ortiz, Pamela Des Barres, Joe Theismann, Robert Desidario, Tom Wopat, Angela Cartwright, Dave Stewart (Eurythmics), Jeffrey Combs, Colin Murdock, Hugh Grant, Kimberly Willis Holt, Chip Esten, Michelle Johnson, Constance Marie, Adam Sandler, B.J. Armstrong, Rachel Hunter, Eric Stonestreet, Goran Visnjic, Divine Brown, Gok Wan, Michael Buble, Nikki DeLoach, Michelle Williams, Clayton Snyder, Jo Woodcock, and Charlie Stewart.

I should note that when I mention Divine Brown, I don't mean the prostitute that Hugh Grant slept with back in 1995.  I'm actually talking about the Canadian singer named Divine Brown.  But, boy is that not strange that Hugh Grant would share a birthday with someone named Divine Brown!

Anyway, what date are we going back to?  Well, I guess you could say that it's a date where you can dress up to the nines because there happens to be a lot of nines in the date!

We're going back fifteen years to September 9, 1999.  Or 9/9/99, if you like.

Now, a lot happened on what could be considered the day of "El Nine-nio".  As mentioned earlier, famed baseball player Catfish Hunter died on this day.  As well, the sixteenth annual MTV Video Music Awards aired on this date which featured rapper L'il Kim in what could be considered one of the most questionable outfits to ever be seen at an awards show in the 1990s.  Click HERE to see a photo of that wardrobe disaster.

But something else was happening on this date as well.  Something that was taking place in the world of video gaming. 

Now, unfortunately, this event was considered to be the swan song of one particular video game console manufacturer (although the company still exists in some format), but still, you have to give them credit for at least trying something that really changed the way that we looked at video games. 

How many of you have heard of the video game company known as SEGA?  The company began in Honolulu back in 1940 under its original name of "Service Games", and between 1940 and 1980, the company merged with a company started up by David Rosen called Rosen Enterprises - a Tokyo based company that began manufacturing and importing coin operated games, just as Service Games had been doing for years.  By the mid 1960s, Rosen Enterprises and Service Games merged together, and a new company - SEGA - was born.

TRIVIA:  The name SEGA is actually taken from the first two letters in each of the two words that made up SErvice GAmes.

It wasn't until 1982 that SEGA jumped into the video game console market, with their first console being the SG-1000.  Unfortunately, SEGA had some stiff competition from Atari, Intellivision, and Coleco Games, and by the time they had started to find their footing, the video game crash of 1984 happened, and the industry was in danger of collapsing.

With Nintendo's arrival in 1985 in the North American market, the video game industry rebounded in a huge way, and the following year, SEGA decided to compete against Nintendo in a huge way by launching their Sega Master System, followed closely by the SEGA Genesis in 1988-1989.  And certainly through the world of SEGA, brand new video game characters were launched such as Alex Kid, Ecco the Dolphin, Ristar, and of course, Sonic the Hedgehog.  And many people argue that when it came down to comparing SEGA games to the rival Nintendo, SEGA games had better quality of music files and better, more colourful graphics.  But throughout the video game wars of the 1990s, Nintendo almost always seemed to stay one step ahead of their competition by promoting the heck out of their own creations which included Super Mario, Donkey Kong, Link, Samus Aran, and Mega Man. 

Add the launch of the Sony PlayStation in 1995, and SEGA found it harder and harder to compete.  They attempted to keep up with the PlayStation and the Nintendo 64 consoles by releasing the SEGA Saturn in 1995, but the console was considered a failure and only saw a limited release in the United States.

By the late 1990s, SEGA was trying to stay relevant in the game console battle, and the company thought that they had found a way to make it happen.  What the company created was a console that paved the way for the sixth generation consoles - one that featured a 16 MB RAM (quite good for the 1990s), an 8 MB GPU, and 128-bit graphics (all other consoles on the market at that time reached a peak of 64-bit graphics).

It was originally launched in Japan in late 1998 - but on September 9, 1999, this console was released in the United States and Canada, and initially, it looked like the SEGA Dreamcast would be the console that would give SEGA a second wind!

Consider the time period in which the Dreamcast was launched.  It was in between console releases by the other two competing video game manufacturers at the time.  This was at a time before Microsoft even launched their popular XBOX console!  By that time, the PlayStation console and the Nintendo 64 had been around for at least three years, and development of brand new consoles were still quite a while away.  So, the timing of the SEGA Dreamcast was great.

And for what it was worth, the SEGA Dreamcast seemed to receive a lot of buzz, with some 300,000 consoles being pre-ordered prior to its release.  After all, 128-bit graphics were considered revolutionary for that period in time, and it also helped that SEGA seemed to take a page out of Nintendo's books and promoted the heck out of the console in commercials such as the one below.

The console release dates were staggered worldwide as well, which likely spawned the anticipation of the video game console and games.  After Japan's 1998 release and America's September 9, 1999 release, the UK and Europe released their own version in October 1999, and Australia soon followed with a release of their own in November.

TRIVIA:  Depending on where you were in the world, your Dreamcast might have had a different logo.  Most of the consoles had a red swirl for a symbol, but in PAL regions, the swirl was changed to blue, as a German video game publisher already used a red swirl logo.

And, the system also had some really decent titles to accompany its launch into the console market.  With titles such as "SoulCalibur", "Sonic Adventure", "Marvel vs. Capcom", and "NFL 2K", the system's first year on the market was incredibly successful, and all signs pointed to the Dreamcast being a real jewel in the world of console gaming.

So, what happened?  How did the Dreamcast become a nightmare? 

Well, finances were a huge factor behind it.

Yes, the Dreamcast did extremely well in both Europe and North America.  But in Japan, sales were at an all-time low.  Sales were so low that the company ended up with a $412 million loss at the end of the first quarter of 2000.  This amounted to double the loss that SEGA had anticipated at this time.  By September 2000, SEGA had continued to lose money for a third straight year since the failure of the SEGA Saturn, and the decision was made in 2001 to discontinue the production of the console.  By 2002, the system and its games were no longer being produced - the last game produced in North America being "NHL 2K2". 

According to former president and CEO of Sega of America, Bernie Stolar, the Dreamcast stopped production because the new chairman of the company wanted to focus on software instead of consoles.  But it probably didn't help matters much that Sony released its PlayStation 2 console right around the same time that sales began to drop dramatically for the Dreamcast.  With the PlayStation 2 boasting record sales, as well as Nintendo launching its Gamecube console a year later, the final nail in the coffin was drilled in permanently.

The Dreamcast remained in stores for approximately a couple of years after production stopped, and as of 2014, the Dreamcast remains the last console that SEGA ever produced.  Interestingly enough, Nintendo and Sony have released SEGA Genesis compilations and Sonic the Hedgehog games for their consoles, which still boast the SEGA name.

Yes, fifteen years ago, SEGA had a dream.  Their dream was to release the Dreamcast to the world and hoped to revolutionize the world of video gaming - which they did for the first year of the console's release.  Unfortunately, the dream was not to last, and sadly, the Dreamcast ended up being the console that would end SEGA's competition in the console video game industry.

Life is but a dream.  At least SEGA of America will always have September 9, 1999...

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