Why do most modern video game controllers have A, B, X, and Y buttons instead of A, B, C, and D or some numerical pattern? It seems weirdly arbitrary. Our history begins in 1983 when the Nintendo NES controller was released, containing just a directional pad, an A button, and a B button. This was just a way of differentiating the two, which still makes sense. Then, in 1990, Nintendo released the SNES, which had a diamond-shaped pattern much like today's, and other corporations followed suit. Although the company never officially made a statement on why they did this, there are several quite convincing explanations, all of which may have played a part. For one, it's easy to distinguish between the sounds for all of the letters (not so much when you're shouting B and D excitedly). It also could have tested better in marketing or it could have been implemented to future-proof the devices in case they wanted to make a controller with six buttons that was still compatible with four-button games (if this was in alphabetical order, then there would be a frameshift that hinders gameplay). Whatever the reason, it's pretty interesting that that's what we particularly ended up with, rather than something else.
Adam Aleksic, a rising sophomore studying linguistics and government at Harvard University, has been described as the internet's sixth most famous etymologist. He also has disturbing interests in politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.