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The designer of the PC Engine Duo

June 09, 2024 ・ Blog

The PC Engine Duo’s casing is marked out by those delightful ridged sides and zig-zag in the line that connects the on button to the CD opening button. (Wikipedia)

Way back, probably in 2003 or 2004, when I worked on the design magazine Icon, I interviewed Shin and Tomoko Azumi, leading designers of stools, chairs and homeware. I don’t remember much about it, beyond liking their elegant and minimal but expressive work and the ride along the North London Line to get to their home and studio. So when I stumbled on the article after restoring it to this website, along with a bunch of other ancient posts that had been locked away in a Wordpress backup, I noticed something that I’d entirely forgotten:

After their BA courses, Tomoko worked at architectural practices and Shin worked in the electronic giant NEC’s personal computer department where he designed the casing for the PC Engine Duo, the first CD-rom based videogame console.

Designed the PC Engine Duo?!

Thing is, when I wrote about the announcement of the Analogue Duo, an FPGA recreation of the PC Engine, Christopher Taber, Analogue’s founder, told me that, naturally, the original Duo’s design was the key reference:

It was always going to reference the Duo. The first time I ever saw one, I was immediately blown away. It was like, what the fuck is this videogame system? This is how a videogame system should look. It looks much more mature than most videogame systems. It’s it’s very wide and low-profile. It looks like a mature piece of hardware you can see sitting next to a piece of hi-fi equipment.

And it never occurred to me that I’d met its creator.

My ears must have pricked up all those years ago when I learned Shin designed it, enough to make it part of the article, but I didn’t know much about PC Engines back then and I obviously totally failed to ask him anything about it. Oh to know more about that zig-zag on the door that covers the HuCARD slot! The crinkle-cut sides! So clean and yet so characterful. What a miss!