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Vintage Video Game Consoles 1978-1979



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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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Bally Professional Arcade Screenshots
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Bally Professional Arcade
Released April 1978
Released in 1978, the Bally Professional Arcade was video game maker Bally's only entry in to the home console market, complete with typical late 1970's wood grain. The little console from the 70's that just wouldn't die, it enjoyed several rebirths similar to the Fairchild VES Channel F and significant home brew/user following.

In 1972, Bally missed an early entry in to video games, by telling one Mr. Nolan Bushnell they were not interested in his Pong video game. With Pong starting the video game arcade revolution, by 1975 Bally decided to create a video game division called Midway (referred to as Bally/Midway) for the purpose of entering this market.

It was decided to base the new console around the Zilog Z-80 microprocessor. A processor making it's way in to arcade games and fast becoming the processor of choice in the still developing microcomputer movement. The graphics system was to have an advanced display system known as bit mapped graphics. In bit mapped graphics, each pixel of the screen is mapped to a corresponding memory location.


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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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Magnavox Odyssey˛ Screenshots
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Magnavox Odyssey˛
Released April 1978
In 1978 Magnavox came out with their second major system, the Odyssey˛, which was totally different than the various Odyssey PONG systems. It was a computer with BASIC programming, but many people regarded it as a home video game console. It came with two controllers, RF switch with TV box, power supply, and the Speedway, Spinout and Cryptologic game cartridge.

The Odyssey˛ was the first home video game console to introduce what was to become the standard joystick design of the 1970s and 80s: a moderately sized black joystick unit, held in the left hand, with an eight-direction stick that was manipulated with the right hand. In the upper corner of the joystick was a single 'Action' button.

The area that the Odyssey˛ may well be best remembered for was its pioneering fusion of board and video games: The Master Strategy Series. The first game released was the instant classic Quest for the Rings!, with game play somewhat similar to Dungeons & Dragons, and a story line reminiscent of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.


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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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APF M-1000 Screenshots
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APF M-1000
Released October 1978
The `APF-M1000` is an early 8-bit cartridge-based game console released in 1978 by APF Electronics Inc. The controllers are non-detachable joysticks which also have numeric keypads. The APF-M1000 can only be used with a color TV and comes built-in with the game `Rocket Patrol`. The APF-M1000 is a part of the APF Imagination Machine.

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Fairchild Channel F System II Screenshots
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Fairchild Channel F System II
Released April 01, 1979 for $99.00
In 1979, a company by the name of Zircon bought all the rights to the Channel F. What they had planned to do with them was not clear until when they released Fairchild's scaled-down model as the $99 Channel F System II. Zircon also licensed it overseas, where it appeared as the Saba Video Play in Germany, the Luxor Video Entertainment System in Sweden, and the Grandstand in Great Britain. The System II model played sounds through the TV set, rather than generating them through an internal speaker (that's right: sounds in the System I model came from the unit itself). Channel F System II also had removable controllers.

By 1978, Fairchild had released 23 games the Channel F, with Zircon chipping in four new titles a couple years later. The games run from single to multi game cartridges, and various options for the games are selected by the 4 main buttons on the front of the console. Probably the weirdest feature of the machine is that the games are started by first turning on the console, then inserting the cartridge, and hitting the reset button.


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Mattel Intellivision Screenshots
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Mattel Intellivision
Released September 1979
After successful test marketing in 1979, Mattel Electronics released its Intellivision system nationwide in late 1980. Armed with twelve games, better graphics and sound than its competitors, and the promise to release a compatible keyboard that would turn the system into a home computer ("Play games and balance your checkbook!"), Mattel set its sights on taking down the "invincible" Atari 2600. They got off to a good start, selling out the first production run of 200,000 Intellivision units quickly.

Many people bought an Intellivision with plans to turn it into a home computer when the keyboard was released. There was a huge marketing campaign behind this (one-third of the back of the Intellivision box was dedicated to the "Under Development" keyboard), but months and then years passed without the keyboard being released. actually, it was released in a few test markets in late '81, but the price was too high and the initial reaction poor. So in 1982, Mattel scrapped plans for the infamous keyboard, but later (due to government pressure), they had to make a computer add-on anyway.


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Atari 400 Screenshots
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Atari 400
Released October 1979
The Atari 400 was announced in December 1978, but didn't actually start shipping until late in 1979. Designed primarily as a computer for children, the Atari 400 has an "advanced child-proof design featuring pressure-sensitive, wipe-clean keyboard". It featured a single cartridge port under the front cover.

The Atari 400 boots-up into "Notepad", the only built-in program. Any other programs will have to run from cassette or cartridge - this includes BASIC, or any other programming language. Game cartridges can be inserted into the cartridge slot in front, starting instantly with no fuss. Many games were versions of actual video arcade hits, others were original or copies of other popular (or not) computer games of the 80's.


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Sears Tele-Games Super Video Arcade Screenshots
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Sears Tele-Games Super Video Arcade
Released November 1979
Mattel marketed their console to a number of retailers as a rebadged unit. This is the Sears Tele-Games Super Video Arcade, and it was functionally identical to the original Intellivision system with two exceptions: the Telegames Super Video Arcade featured detachable hand controllers and did not display the line Mattel Electronics presents on the standard game title screen. This Sears model was a specific coup for Mattel, as Sears was already selling a rebadged Atari 2600 unit, and in doing so made a big contribution to Atari's success.

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APF Imagination Machine Screenshots
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APF Imagination Machine
Released November 05, 1979 for $700.00
The APF Imagination Machine was a combination home video game console and computer system released by APF Electronics Inc. in late 1979. It was composed of two separate components, the APF-M1000 game system, and an add on docking bay with full sized typewriter keyboard and tape drive. The APF-M1000 was built specifically to compete with the Atari 2600. The Imagination Machine has the distinction of being one of, if not the first, affordable home PCs to connect to the television, and is still one of the most expandable consoles ever marketed. The full APF Imagination Machine, including the APF-M1000 console and the IM-1 computer component originally sold for around $700.

Only 15 official game cartridges were ever released by APF Electronics Inc, and 1 cartridge that came with the console, the Basic interpreter; although several game cartridges contained multiple titles. Many games were created by an active programming community of owners and distributed through their monthly newsletter, but these were all released only on tape cassette form, or in some cases, merely as a print out of the code that would have to be typed in if it was not transferred through a copied cassette.


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