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Coleco Telstar Screenshots
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Coleco Telstar
Released August 11, 1976 for $50.00
Telstar, Coleco's first video game system, was released in 1976 and played only three games with three difficulty levels. It was the first system to use GI's AY-3-8500 chip and was a real success: over a million units were sold.

The AY-3-8500 chip played six games with more difficulty levels, and the games could also be played in color. It was pretty obvious that Coleco would release more systems. At least 15 different games were released in two years with the only differences between the "pong" systems being the number of games, the way the difficulty levels were used, and the type of pictured (color or black and white).

An amazing detail is the way Coleco packed their video game systems, they were sold partially assembled. The systems were electronically ready to play, but the users had to put on the knobs and stick the decorative stickers on the plastic case. So far, only Coleco is known to have released their systems this way. It is believed that this was done to save on assembling costs.


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Coleco Telstar Classic Screenshots
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Coleco Telstar Classic
Released September 14, 1976 for $50.00
The Telstar video game console produced by Coleco first went on sale in 1976. It was a video tennis game similar to Pong. With a price of $50, budget minded consumers loved it. Coleco sold over 1,000,000 units in 1976.

Released the same year as the original Telstar, the Telstar Classic unit was essentially the same as the Telstar. It simply added a classic 1970's wood grain case to it. This unit allowed 3 games (Tennis, Hockey, Handball) and 3 different skill levels.

In the Christmas season of 1977, nine new designs of the Telstar were released, each of them doing virtually the same thing. It was labeled "Video Sports" with four different games, all of them PONG games. During it's life span, Coleco had produced about nine different variations of their machine and tossed about one million 'obsolete' machines.


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Coleco Telstar Ranger Screenshots
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Coleco Telstar Ranger
Released January 1977
The 2nd Telstar model to be released in 1977 was the Telstar Ranger (model 6046). It came with 6 games, two paddle controllers and a gun.

The games included were the standard PONG games which the AY-3-8500 was programmed for i.e. Tennis, Squash, Soccer, Practice and two gun games. This was the first Telstar released to have a completely different design from the original. It was also the first to include detachable controllers.


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Coleco Telstar Combat Screenshots
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Coleco Telstar Combat
Released March 1977
The Coleco Telstar Combat! game was released in 1977 as a post-Pong dedicated video game console. Unlike Coleco's earlier home Pong games based on the General Instrument AY-3-8500 chip, it used a AY-3-8700 chip. The console was a modest success but due to having too many similar dedicated console products, Coleco nearly went bankrupt in 1980.

Telstar Combat was one of Coleco's attempts to break away from the Pong game video game rut. It's certainly unique, no other company manufactured a dedicated console with such elaborate controls. The console plays four variations of a tank battle game, very similar to the Atari 2600 Combat game cartridge.


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Coleco Telstar Alpha Screenshots
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Coleco Telstar Alpha
Released April 1977
Coleco cashed in on the Pong craze in a big way. They managed to grab a huge share of the early home video game market partly through good marketing (their original Telstar console was half the price of Atari's Pong) and partly through good luck (Coleco was the only company that got their full shipment of the popular microchip that everyone used to manufacture their home Pong systems in late 1976).

The Telstar Alpha (model 6030) was released in 1977. It is a classic from Coleco, and uses the AY-3-8500 game chip. The system plays 4 games in three difficulty levels. It is the successor of the three older models (Telstar, Telstar Classic and Telstar Ranger), and only differs by its case and fourth game (JAI-ALAI, also known as SQUASH).

Like the first Telstar, this system was sold in large quantities as it was cheap. It was also released in Europe as the "Telstar Alpha Europa".


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Coleco Telstar Colortron Screenshots
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Coleco Telstar Colortron
Released February 1978
The Telstar Colortron was released in 1978. It is one of the only systems based around the AY-3-8510 game chip, a derivation of the AY-3-8500. The system offers 4 games instead of 6, but the picture is in color, which is much better. Sound is not unpleasant like on most of the other systems, since it comes from a little piezo beeper which produces a very discrete sound.

The game selection is done using a push-button rather than a switch (easier to use and more robust). Curiously, the system requires two 9V batteries: one for the "video" (the games), and one for the "sound" (maybe the internal circuitry of the piezo beeper).


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Coleco Telstar Arcade Screenshots
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Coleco Telstar Arcade
Released March 1978
The Telstar Arcade is maybe one of the most interesting systems made by Coleco, and also the most advanced PONG system released in America, although it played non-PONG games. Made in a triangular case, the system could play three types of games, each being played on one of the three sides of the case. Obviously, the first side allowed playing PONG games (TENNIS and the like), and the second side allowed playing target shooting games. Nothing very different from most other systems, except the gun storage. The third face was the most interesting: it allowed playing car racing games. Very few systems offering that type of games were released at this time, and the games were only played using rotary controllers or some sort of joysticks.

Coleco used a very uncommon cartridge format: a silver triangular case which connects horizontally on the top of the console. Nothing in common with the other black cartridges with plug vertically. Coleco released only four cartridges. The first one was sold with the system and the others were available separately for the price of $25. Two flyers came with the system to order cartridges #2 and #3.


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Coleco Telstar Marksman Screenshots
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Coleco Telstar Marksman
Released April 1978
The Telstar Marksman is a first-generation video game console that featured a light gun. It was released by Coleco in 1978. Because it had manufacturer-set amount of games, it is considered a dedicated console. It was part of a series of Coleco Telstar Pong-based consoles; it is essentially a Telstar Colortron bundled with a 3 in 1 light gun and two shooting games. The Marksman light gun is a pistol that features an attachable stock and barrel. It is similar in this regard to the later-released Stack Light Rifle and the Sega Menacer. The elongated barrel included a simple aiming sight.

In addition to the light gun, the system featured two paddle controllers built directly into the console. Its reported features included on-screen digital scoring and three different difficulty settings (beginner, intermediate, pro). It required two nine-volt batteries or Coleco's Perma Power AC adaptor to power the system.


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Coleco Telstar Gemini Screenshots
Coleco Telstar Gemini
Released May 1978
1978 saw the release of the Coleco Telstar Gemini, which was totally different from any other Telstar pong system preceding it. Looking like a common pong, it doesn't play the common pong games. This unique system offered 2 shooting games along with 4 pinball games.

This console featured 2 flipper buttons on either side which simulated playing a real pinball machine. There is also a big red button on top which was used to launch the ball in to the play field. The button simulated the real thing, a short tap will shoot the ball out slowly and a long press will shoot the ball out faster.

There were actually two completely different Coleco Gemini systems. The Telstar Gemini shown here is the older and rarer machine. The other is an Atari 2600 clone by Coleco called Gemini. Coleco probably did this to hide it from Atari's lawyer armada. This worked for a while, but soon after the launch of the console Atari unsuccessfully sued Coleco for braking copyright laws.


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Coleco Vision Screenshots
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Coleco Vision
Released August 1982
The Colecovision is Coleco's third generation video game console, released in August 1982. It offered arcade-like graphics and controllers, and an initial catalog of 12 titles, with 10 more promised titles on the way. All told, approximately 170 titles were released on plug-in cartridges during its lifetime. The controller was a flat joystick, two side buttons, and a number-pad, which allowed the user to put inserts for customized buttons. The majority of titles in its catalog were conversions from coin-operated arcade games. The ColecoVision introduced two new concepts to the home video game industry - the ability to expand the hardware system, and the ability to play other video game system games.

By Christmas of 1982, Coleco had sold 500,000 units, mainly on the strength of its bundled games. While Atari's fortune had risen on the popularity of Space Invaders, Colecovision was the first console to feature the hit Donkey Kong, by Nintendo. The Colecovision's main competitor in the next-generation console space was the arguably more advanced but less commercially successful Atari 5200.


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Coleco Expansion Module #1 Screenshots
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Coleco Expansion Module #1
Released October 1982
From its introduction, Coleco had touted a hardware add-on called the Expansion Module #1 which made the ColecoVision compatible with the industry-leading Atari 2600. Functionally, this gave the ColecoVision the largest software library of any console of its day. The expansion module prompted legal action from Atari, but Atari was unable to stop sales of the module because the 2600 could be reproduced with standard parts.

Coleco was also able to design and market the Gemini game system which was an exact clone of the 2600, but with combined joystick/paddle controllers.


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Coleco Gemini Screenshots
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Coleco Gemini
Released November 1982
In 1982, Coleco released Expansion Module #1 for its Colecovision video game system using off-the-shelf components. Atari sued Coleco for patent infringement, however a court ruled that since Coleco used off-the-shelf components and not the same components found inside an Atari 2600, the Expansion Module #1 did not infringe on Atari's patents for the 2600. With this ruling, Coleco decided to make a stand-alone Atari 2600 clone and named it the Gemini.

The main difference between the Coleco Gemini and the Atari 2600 is the controller design. The Coleco Gemini controllers featured an 8-way joystick and a 270-degree paddle on the same controller (the joystick was at the top of the controller, and the paddle was at the bottom of the controller). Unfortunately, if one wanted to play the Atari 2600 game Warlords in 4 player mode, 2 sets of Atari-made paddles were required, and one set of Atari-made paddles was required for 2 player paddle games.


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1970s Video Game Consoles | 1980s Video Game Consoles | 1990s Video Game Consoles | 2000 and Beyond
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Top 10 Game Consoles of All Time | 10 Game Consoles That Didn't Catch On | Game Console Clones
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Top Brands:Magnavox | Atari | Coleco | Mattel | Nintendo | Sega | Sony | Microsoft
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