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Nintendo, one of the undisputed giants of the gaming world, first introduced its DS handheld console as long ago as 2004, but the diminutive device remains a super firm favorite to this day with gamesters the world over. The Nintendo DS has enough games written for it to keep users entertained for a lifetime, but if you get temporarily tired of gaming, a technology called R4 DS has the potential to vastly expand the potential and utility of this landmark Nintendo machine.
An R4 DS card is an expansion card or cartridge, rather similar to an SD (Secure Digital) card, which enables a wide range of additional functionality to be added to the Nintendo DS and also its successor, the DSi. With an R4 DS card inserted into the 'SLOT 1' slot of your DS or DSi you can turn your beloved Nintendo into a music player rather like an iPod. With R4 DS you can listen to your favorite music on the DS, and even watch movies and videos on the Nintendo LCD screen. The expansion card will also provide access to games that can be downloaded from the net onto your PC then transferred to your Nintendo DS via the R4 DS card.
The Nintendo DS and DSi both allow connection of an R4 DS expansion cartridge, which then supports SD and MicroSD cards with a storage capacity of up to 32 gigabytes. The R4 DS device effectively overrides the system software of the Nintendo DS, which then allows the loading of items and programs that are not normally recognized or accepted by the Nintendo DS operating system on its own. The modifications allowed by such a device also extend to what are effectively temporary hardware mods. For example, with the card running on the DS or DSi you can vary the brightness of the LCD screen in a manner not available to you in the standard Nintendo device settings.
One excellent benefit of using R4 DS with your Nintendo DS or DSi is its support for Homebrew games. Homebrew is software, usually games, written by enthusiasts and not officially endorsed by Nintendo. In fact, in practice the Japanese corporation turns a blind eye to the phenomenon of Homebrew and accepts its use on the DS platform. Presumably Nintendo's thinking is that anything that leads to owners of the DS and DSi remaining loyal to their devices and increasing their use of them should be encouraged. Locking down devices to restrict user generated content and software is a strategy adopted by some hardware manufacturers but clearly not Nintendo.
All in all, an R4 DS card is highly recommended for any serious user of the Nintendo DS or DSi. It is remarkably easy to use, allowing simple drag and drop of files from a PC desktop or folder onto the card, which can then be used with the Nintendo. Some rumours have spread on the internet about the possibility of damage being done to the electronics of the Nintendo DS or DSi by use of this kind of R4 DS card, but such fears are completely baseless.