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Mattel Aquarius Screenshots
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Mattel Aquarius
Released June 01, 1983 for $160.00
Looking to compete in the standalone computer market, Mattel Electronics turned to Radofin, the Hong Kong based manufacturer of their Intellivision consoles. Radofin had designed two computer systems. Internally they were known as "Checkers", and the more sophisticated "Chess". Mattel contracted for these to become the Aquarius and Aquarius II, respectively. Aquarius was announced in 1982 and finally released in June 1983, at a price of $160. Production ceased four months later because of poor sales. Mattel paid Radofin to take back the marketing rights, and four other companies—CEZAR Industries, CRIMAC Inc., New Era Incentives, Inc., and Bentley Industries—also marketed the unit and accessories for it. Bentley Industries (of Los Angeles) and New Era Incentives, Inc. (of St. Paul) are still in business, though they no longer have any affiliation with the Aquarius product line.

The Aquarius often came bundled with the Mini-Expander peripheral, which added gamepads, an additional cartridge port for memory expansion, and the GI AY-3-8914 sound chip, which was the same one used on the Intellivision console. Other common peripherals were the Data recorder, 40 column thermal printer, 4K and 16K ram carts. Less common first party peripherals include a 300 baud cartridge modem, 32k RAM cart, 4 color plotter, and Quick Disk drive.


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RDI Halcyon Screenshots
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RDI Halcyon
Released January 01, 1985 for $2,500.00
The Halcyon was a home video game console released in January of 1985 by RDI Video Systems. The initial retail price for the system was $2500, and it featured a laserdisc player and attached computer, each the size of an early-model VCR. Only two games were released for the system before RDI went bankrupt: Thayer's Quest and Raiders vs. Chargers, although trailers for several others were created. RDI Video Systems claimed that the system would be entirely voice-activated, and would have an artificial intelligence on par with HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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Nintendo NES Screenshots
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Nintendo NES
Released October 1985
Following a series of arcade game successes in the early 1980s, Nintendo made plans to produce its own console hardware that had removable cartridges, a feature not included with the company's earlier Color TV Games product. Designed by Masayuki Uemura and released in Japan on July 15, 1983, the Nintendo Family Computer (Famicom) was slow to gather momentum: during its first year, many criticized the system as unreliable, prone to programming errors and rampant freezing. Following a product recall and a reissue with a new motherboard, the Famicom's popularity soared, becoming the best-selling game console in Japan by the end of 1984. Encouraged by their successes, Nintendo soon turned their attentions to the North American markets.

In June 1985, Nintendo unveiled its American version of the Famicom at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). With a completely redesigned case and a new name, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) proved to be just as popular in America as the Famicom was in Japan, and played a major role in revitalizing interest in the video game industry.


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Mattel INTV System III Screenshots
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Mattel INTV System III
Released October 01, 1985 for $59.95
In March 1984, the rights to the Intellivision system were sold for $16.5 million to an investment group headed by the senior vice-president of Mattel Electronics, Terrence Valeski. In November 1984, the company was renamed INTV.

In October 1985, the INTV System III (also known as the Super Pro System) was introduced for only $59.95. It is another repackaging of the Intellivision master component, this time in a black case. INTV also announced the re- release of all of the original Intellivision titles at between $9.95 and $19.95 each.


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Atari 7800 Screenshots
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Atari 7800
Released January 1986
The Atari 7800 was Atari's chance at redemption in the video game market. Atari Inc. spent a good part of 1983 interviewing thousands of people on what they wanted and didn't want in a video game console. Atari Inc. through Warner Communications, then worked with General Computer Corporation who earlier had lost a lawsuit with Atari regarding a "Speed-up" board for Atari's Missile Command.

The all new graphics chip called MARIA (Also the code name of the 7800 Project) with almost 100 independent sprites, better color palette on screen, and other powerful features would not only allow game designers the ability to code new and exciting games, but the chip also allowed an original Atari TIA processor to co-exist side by side with MARIA so that the new console could also play all of the original Atari 2600 games as well.

The Atari 7800 was designed to be flexible and expandable and even had an expansion port for future peripherals to tap into the system bus and video circuitry.


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Atari 2600 Junior Screenshots
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Atari 2600 Junior
Released March 01, 1986 for $49.99
In 1986 the Atari 2600 was re-released as the 2600 Junior. They retailed for $49.99 and came with a controller, RF switch and power cord but were absent of a pack in cartridge. They were made to match the 5200 and 7800 of the same time and some of the Juniors actually sported a JR stamp on them.

The switches are the same as the CX 2600 A except that they are now sliding buttons rather than switches. The switches on the top of the unit were On/Off, Black and White/Color, Game Select, and Rest. Game Difficulty could be switched on the back. The system was much smaller and could conserve space much better than it's predecessor. The RF lead was not attached to this system.

Competition in the video game industry was at an all time high, the Atari 2600 Junior would be a simple low cost Atari 2600 packaged into a small "lunch-box" carton with appeal to younger gamers.


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Sega Master System (SMS) Screenshots
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Sega Master System (SMS)
Released October 1986
After producing many games for early home video game consoles, Sega decided to develop a console system of its own. The SG-1000 and Mark III were available in Japan in the mid-1980s, but when Sega witnessed the early success of the Nintendo Entertainment System, the company knew it wanted a share of the American console market. So, Sega redesigned the Mark III, renamed it the Sega Master System (SMS for short), and released it in 1986, not long after the NES first came out.

Technically, the Master System was superior to the NES, with better graphics and higher quality sound. The original SMS could play both cartridges and the credit card-sized "Sega Cards," which retailed for cheaper prices than carts but had less code. The SMS also had cooler accessories (like 3D glasses), but this didn't do much good when there weren't very many exciting games.

The Master System technology lived on in Sega's Game Gear, which was basically a portable SMS with some enhancements.


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Worlds of Wonder Action Max Screenshots
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Worlds of Wonder Action Max
Released June 10, 1987 for $99.00
The Action Max is one of the few video game consoles that are not able to display graphics on its own, a VCR is required for game play. The system works by attaching directly to a VCR, which in turn transmits the video signal to your television. Sound is delivered through an internal speaker in the Action Max system itself. The included Light Sensor must be plugged into the console, then stuck to the television screen via a suction cup.

All games are the same, whether it is shooting a ghost or a submarine, these are simple point and shoot games. There is no change or reaction to anything being displayed to you when you score a hit. Only a small noise is emitted from the console and the score counter increases.

So what were the system's failings? Due to the linear nature of the games, targets appeared in the same places every single time, making memorization of "enemy" locations a real issue. While the system had three game variations and play for alternating gamers, it was nothing more than a fancy target game, no matter which videotape was utilized. Interestingly, at the end of each videotape "game", there were video previews of other releases, which also had targets and could be shot at and scored, acting like a (unintentional?) demo!


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Atari XE Game System Screenshots
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Atari XE Game System
Released October 01, 1987 for $199.00
It was the 1980's, and the Atari 7800 release fails to attract attention in a market dominated by the Nintendo N.E.S. So the folks at Atari came to a decision to market another system. Oddly enough it was a step back in time.

Atari introduced the XE Game System in 1987. The XEGS was merely a console remake of their 8-bit Atari 65XE computer. For $199 you got the console, a standard joystick, a light gun, and a pack in game called Bug Hunt (light gun game).

The marketing strategy was to take advantage of the back stock of Atari computer cartridges (10 years worth). Some Atari 5200 games were also remade since the architecture was quite similar.

Even though it looks like a console, the XEGS is a true 8-bit Atari computer system. It offered the convenience of a detachable keyboard, compatibility with any standard Atari 8-bit computer peripherals, while offering 64K RAM. When no cartridge was inserted it would also start up with a built-in version of Missile Command.

Of course the XEGS could not compete with the likes of newer systems and Atari pulled it from production after a short time.


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Sega Genesis Screenshots
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Sega Genesis
Released August 1989
It was 1989. Nintendo's NES had reigned supreme in the video game market for nearly five years, and it was time for a new system to take over the throne. Sega's Master System, while graphically superior to the NES, failed to make any kind of lasting impression in the U.S. market (although it was very popular in Europe), and Sega knew that their next system would not only have to be superior to everything else out there, but they'd have to have a lot of third-party developers lined up.

After two years of development, Sega introduced their "next generation" system to the world in late 1989. Known as the Genesis in the West, and the Mega Drive in the east, Sega began an aggressive marketing campaign, not only to customers, but also to developers.

Although NEC's TurboGrafx-16 had beat the Genesis to market by nearly four months, Sega quickly regained lost ground, thanks to their line-up of quality arcade conversions, killer sports games, and most of all, the full support of Trip Hawkins and Electronic Arts.


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NEC TurboGrafx 16 Screenshots
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NEC TurboGrafx 16
Released August 1989
In Japan, shortly after the introduction of Nintendo's Famicom (Japan's version of the NES), the electronics giant NEC entered into the video game market with the introduction of their "next generation" system, known as the PC Engine (PCE). The PCE boasted a 16-bit graphics chip capable of displaying up to 256 colors on screen at once, at a number of resolutions. Although its CPU wasn't much more powerful that of the NES, its spectacular graphics chip and six-channel sound bettered the Famicom in every way. It utilized a sleek new card format (PCE games are either HuCards or Turbochips) to hold its software, rather than bulky cartridges. It was also the first console to boast a CD-ROM drive, for full orchestral soundtracks and even (gasp!) full motion video. The PC Engine was immensely popular in Japan, outselling the Famicom by a significant margin.

In 1989, two years after its Japanese introduction, NEC announced plans to bring the PC Engine overseas, to the booming video game market of the U.S. With a huge library of Japanese software, it seemed to many as though the system couldn't possibly fail.


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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
GameConsoles



GameConsoles

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