The Man Who Created The Term Blast Processing Is Sorry That He Ever Did
‘It is a ghastly phase.’
In the very first console war, back when Sega’s Genesis and Nintendo’s SNES were duking it out, Sega tried to prop up the technical specs of their console by coining all sorts of gimmicky terms- things such as blast priocessing, which became common parlance and inform the vocabulary of gaming enthusiasts even today. All of this was done to mask the extremely obvious fact that, yes, the Genesis was technically inferior to Nintendo’s SNES, which, launching two years later, was a far better console.
Scott Bayless, who served as a Senior Producer at Sega of America between 1990 and 1994, was one of the men who coined the phrase- and man, is he not happy about it. Speaking to Nintendo Life, he mostly appears to not quite like the term at all.
“Sadly I have to take responsibility for that ghastly phrase,” he said. “Marty Franz [Sega technical director] discovered that you could do this nifty trick with the display system by hooking the scan line interrupt and firing off a DMA at just the right time. The result was that you could effectively jam data onto the graphics chip while the scan line was being drawn – which meant you could drive the DAC’s with 8 bits per pixel. Assuming you could get the timing just right you could draw 256 color static images. There were all kinds of subtleties to the timing and the trick didn’t work reliably on all iterations of the hardware but you could do it and it was cool as heck.
“So during the runup to the western launch of Sega-CD the PR guys interviewed me about what made the platform interesting from a technical standpoint and somewhere in there I mentioned the fact that you could just “blast data into the DAC’s” Well they loved the word ‘blast’ and the next thing I knew Blast Processing was born. Oy.”
Oy, indeed. But hey, it managed to sell systems, and it pushed Nintendo into working harder with their console. Meanwhile, it pushed Sega into living up to the image that they had created with their own marketing. The result was that we got not just one, but two excellent consoles, both of which just begged to be owned.
If ‘blast processing’ is the price to pay for that, well then, so be it.