The Game Boy had a lot of weird attachments developed for it throughout its life, though not all of them made it on the shelf. Most of them were meant to deal with the handheld’s shortcomings…lights, magnifiers, sound speakers, etc. But one peculiar attachment promised to turn the Game Boy into some kind of early PDA….the WorkBoy, a mini keyboard that plugged into the Link Cable.
The WorkBoy was developed by Source Research and Development, who saw dollar signs in the prospect of expanding the Game Boy’s usefulness. Typical handheld work devices in the early 90s cost a king’s ransom, but a Game Boy and a WorkBoy attachment would take far less out of the wallet while performing the same tasks. The product was shown off at CES that summer, was shown off in multiple gaming magazines including Nintendo Power, and was planned for launch around late 1992 to early 1993. But it never showed up.
Liam Robertson, game historian and host of the YouTube series Game History Secrets (a spinoff of Did You Know Gaming), set to work on tracking down the WorkBoy. He reasoned that since the product was so close to release, and working versions were demoed at trade shows, the actual device must exist in some form, somewhere. He managed to contact Eddie Gill, the founder of Source Research and Development, who provided some information but did not have a prototype. Robertson was told to contact Frank Ballouz, founder of Fabtek (the company that manufactured the WorkBoy) to see if he had one.
Ballouz did have the prototype, sitting right on his shelf. And not only that, he was willing to send it to Robertson. He was thrilled, of course, until he discovered he couldn’t use the device without its software cartridge, which was never produced. Neither Gill nor Ballouz knew where to find that.
As luck would have it (or misfortune, from the perspective of Nintendo), the Gigaleak hit a couple months later and tons of private files from Nintendo’s servers spilled out onto the Internet. It turned out Nintendo kept a ROM on file for every game that was submitted to them, and the WorkBoy software was uncovered in one of those files.
It all led to this: the first public demonstration of the WorkBoy in nearly thirty years. You can watch the device in action in the video below. There is no word yet on what Robertson will do with the WorkBoy (as someone would say, that thing belongs in a museum).