You can get Slack, the ubiquitous office-chat program, to work on pretty much anything. Though I already have Slack running on two laptops, a desktop, and a mobile phone, I can now realize the life-long dream of running Slack on an old Super Nintendo system. Bertrand Fan, a platform engineer at Slack, used an obscure game on an obscure branch of a Japanese version of the SNES to make it work.
Here’s how it looks:
The Japanese SNES had a small modem peripheral called a Satellaview, which a few games used to receive updates directly from Nintendo. Updates to classic games like BS-X: The Story of the Town Whose Name Was Stolen functioned like a very primitive online store. For a few years in the late 90s, Nintendo updated the contents of in-game stores using this dinky little modem.
Using his advanced knowledge of these obscure bits of trivia, Fan fired up an emulator and programed a version of Slack that beams messages one at a time to an emulated rendition of BS-X.
“Using a tool called SatellaWave, you can generate your own Satellaview Broadcast binary file,” Fan wrote. “This allows you to take one of the buildings in BS-X, set its name, and list items for sale in the building. Each item has a name and a description. If we stretch our imagination a bit, the name can be the time and sender and the description can be the text of the message.”
Fan dropped this entire hot mess into Slack’s API to run inside the Slack chat client. Users message a Slack bot from the standard Slack chat window, and the messages beam into a shop window inside the little Nintendo town of BS-X. The result is Slack as it might have been created in a pre-Y2K Japanese game studio. Its 16-bit graphics and hideous MIDI sound effects would get you shot full of Nerf darts if you let it play out loud in any open office environment. Still, it’s a ridiculous thing that actually works, using half a dozen replacements and workarounds to mush together two technologies that were never meant to co-exist.
“Follow your dreams,” Fan concludes. “Even if your dreams are stupid.”