The Hook Up: How to Manage 18 Consoles on One TV

Digital Press has a wonderful little saying at the top of the site’s main page: “consoles precariously wired in spider-web fashion...”

Yeah, that just about covers it. Every once in a while though, something goes wrong when you’re dealing with stuff like this. In this case, it was a new TV. New cables led me to a new switch box, new cabling, and moved systems.

Now, it’s simply not plausible to move two consoles around. The mass of tangled wires behind the TV doesn’t allow for something like that. In this case, there’s only one thing can be done. The dreaded, all encompassing “movement of them all.”

Yes, every console needs disconnected, moved off the entertainment center, cables following behind, and other assorted wires set aside. That leads to a clean rear of the entertainment center. This rare moment shows that yes, there is a floor:


There are a few cables still hanging around there. A stray VGA cable, unseen speaker wires above the shot, and the AC adapter for the TV and receiver are the only ones left in this barren wasteland.

So begins the agonizing process or reconnecting it all. My goal this time around was to minimize the amount of cords being stretched across the back. In other words, all consoles hooked up via composite on one side, s-video on another, VGA down below, and component near the Pelican system selector.

The most painless aspect of all of this is connecting the final cables to the TV. In the end, only four will actually be connected, with a fifth soon to come after an eBay seller gets off his ass and sends it my way. As such, this is usually the final step.

After placing the consoles in their eventual resting place, the real challenge begins. Because of the varying length, it’s impossible to string these together with any kind of wrap or tubing. They also need to be loose and free to make it easier to maneuver when something goes wrong later. The last thing that needs to happen is to step on a rare cable only to have it pull tight and snap something. It doesn’t look pretty or organized, but it’s safer.

So, the best way to start is to focus on a particular set of consoles and there’s more room to maneuver on the left side because the entertainment center is offset in terms of the room. That means the component and s-video based consoles get strung together first. That’s eight consoles and two switchboxes. All of the above have their own power needs.

Power cords are generally thinner and easier to identify. These come first. This is somewhat backwards however as you want to be sure the systems have power running to them from one of the six surge protectors. However, some don’t have LEDs or they’ve long since burned out (in the case of my slowly dying SNES). It’s not as much of a problem with modern consoles as it is the older ones.

So, the Xbox, PS2, Gamecube, and Wii connect to the Pelican System Selector Pro. This houses not just component video, but Ethernet, analog audio, and optical audio. That’s a ton of stuff coming out of this thing. The SNES, N64, 3DO, Saturn, and Neo Geo all go s-video. This entire mass of consoles is now crammed on the right side of entertainment center. Lots of stacking required to say the least.

The two systems now hooked up via VGA, the main reason for this move, sit just below the TV now. The Xbox 360/HD-DVD player is somewhat in tight confines and builds up quite a bit of heat. It has a lot of ventilation behind it though, so I feel safe. The Dreamcast sits on a shelf to the lower left of the 360. The KVM VGA switch, since it needs manual changing, is to the left of the Dreamcast, sitting next to the Turbo Duo.

That leaves the consoles that get hooked up via composite. Yes, I’m well aware that composite + HDTV is a very, very ugly thing, though I have to say I’m fairly impressed by how well this set handles it. Very little color bleeding and imperfections are minor. Anyway, four systems go on the left total.

There’s quite a bit of wasted shelf space thanks to some of the ancient gaming console design choices. The Genesis/32X/Sega CD combo nearly needs a room by itself. A cheap composite switch box sends the video to the TV. This is a far easier set up thanks to the lower number of systems.

Once that’s finished, a few more cables are sent to the home theater and then switched when I realize I plugged them I wrong, and we’re done. The final result reveals this masterpiece:


Of course, after reading all of that, you probably want stats. Here you go:

Number of items plugged in: 23

Outlets used: 11

Cleanliness of job on 1 to 10 scale: Hovering around 0.

Rough number of total connected cables, including all video, audio, and power: 70

Total cost: I really don’t care to know.

Total hours of work: Around 3 hours.

Number of times electrically shocked: 1

Number of mistakes after job was thought to be done: 4

Number of found mystery wires that led to nowhere during disconnecting process: 3

Likely number of equally useless wires upon re-install: 3

Added number of cables when compared to prior install: 5

Number of needed cables: 1

Potential for fire on 1 to 10 scale: Purchased extra house insurance. You figure it out.

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