Intellivision: Gone But Not Forgotten

IntyLab

Posts: 6   +7
Very well done. You covered all the important points from throughout the Intellivision's commercial life cycle, including the Keyboard Component and other canceled hardware like the Intellivision III-IV. Besides the System Changer, the only thing missing is the PlayCable. My cousins from out of state had it, and I played it in the summer of 1983 when my family went to visit for a week. That was where I first played AD&D, Shark Shark, Buzz Bombers, Mission-X, and a bunch of sports games.

I only wish you had made mention of the indie scene. There were really only two "silent periods" from the beginning of the Intellivision until today: the two years following the industry crash until INTV got going, and a few years after the demise of INTV until the Blue Sky Rangers set up their first website on makingit. We knew Intellivision Lives! was coming for PC, along with an official development kit called the MAGUS-II. Shortly after the release of Intellivision Lives! came the first indie game, which is even mentioned in the Blue Sky Rangers' History page.
 

R00sT3R

Posts: 421   +1,123
I've tried playing Intellivision games in the RetroArch emulator but its practically impossible without the original controller.
 

Irata

Posts: 1,440   +2,319
Thanks for another "gone but not forgotten" article that brings back memories. I find them very enjoyable every time.

The Intellivision was a very nice console - my Dad and I rented it from a video store a couple of times.

The price tag was a problem and so was the lower number of games vs Atari. I don‘t think it much caught on over here.

Another thing was the Coleco - it instantly got the „dream system“ status that the Intellivision never had here.

Lastly - an article on the Aquarius would be nice, unless you already had one and I missed it.
 

andyross

Posts: 14   +6
I had the Intellivision II, and the the smaller computer module. I did have one computer-specific game. Forget the name but it was various shaped 'grids' with number that you could smash onto others. You could create your own grids, but not save them.
For the computer module, I actually created my own serial-port adapter to connect a printer (Radio Shack Line Printer VIII), not that you could do much more than just print out a simple program. I think it was like 600-baud.
Otherwise, the games I remember having were something Tron, Burgertime, and a few others.
 

Lounds

Posts: 812   +723
Good article, clearly Atari was all about branding, people plays Atari games in the arcade and then wanted a home version of a game.
 

Stoly

Posts: 88   +50
I had the intellivision II, I really liked it, except some cartridges would not work, can't remember which ones but I had a at least a couple of them I think one of them was Donkey Kong. Being the "inventive" kid I was, I resorted to wiggling the cartridge on the slot while pressing reset and voila they came to life.

I think the intellivoice didn't work either, I had b-17 bomber and had to play it on my neighbors 1st gen intellivision.

I kept it for years, eventually it died.

I think I remember the games I had
Burger Time
Space Spartans
B-17 Bomber
Bomb Squad
Pit Fall
Zaxxon
Donkey Kong
Base Ball
Tron Deadly Discs
 
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IntyLab

Posts: 6   +7
I had the Intellivision II, and the the smaller computer module. I did have one computer-specific game. Forget the name but it was various shaped 'grids' with number that you could smash onto others. You could create your own grids, but not save them.
That was Mind Strike. Pretty cool that you rigged up a non-Aquarius printer. I assume you had a tape drive as well?
 

IntyLab

Posts: 6   +7
I had the intellivision II, I really liked it, except some cartridges would not work, can't remember which ones but I had a at least a couple of them I think one of them was Donkey Kong. Being the "inventive" kid I was, I resorted to wiggling the cartridge on the slot while pressing reset and voila they came to life.
The Intellivision II had a slight redesign to make Coleco games not work, such as Donkey Kong. It also affected Word Fun, but the person who made that design change assumed nobody would really care.
 

andyross

Posts: 14   +6
That was Mind Strike. Pretty cool that you rigged up a non-Aquarius printer. I assume you had a tape drive as well?
I think the tape drive was just any old cassette recorder? The BASIC was so limited that it was pretty much useless. It was nicely color-coded, though. I think at that time I had a TRS-80 Model III, so did have a real computer to use.

As far as the serial adapter: The printer port was simple RS-232 but at 0 to 5V. It used a 1/8" stereo audio-type connector. One line was the output, one was RTS (or something like that) for flow control, and the other was ground. The adapter I created was just an op-amp running off a 9V battery, with resistors to create a +/- 4.5V supply. A slight offset on the input would cause the output to swing to +4.5V when the input was 5V, and to -4.5V on 0V.
 

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 2,971   +789
Staff member
Very well done. You covered all the important points from throughout the Intellivision's commercial life cycle, including the Keyboard Component and other canceled hardware like the Intellivision III-IV. Besides the System Changer, the only thing missing is the PlayCable. My cousins from out of state had it, and I played it in the summer of 1983 when my family went to visit for a week. That was where I first played AD&D, Shark Shark, Buzz Bombers, Mission-X, and a bunch of sports games.

I only wish you had made mention of the indie scene. There were really only two "silent periods" from the beginning of the Intellivision until today: the two years following the industry crash until INTV got going, and a few years after the demise of INTV until the Blue Sky Rangers set up their first website on makingit. We knew Intellivision Lives! was coming for PC, along with an official development kit called the MAGUS-II. Shortly after the release of Intellivision Lives! came the first indie game, which is even mentioned in the Blue Sky Rangers' History page.
I swear I made mention of PlayCable in one of my drafts, but I think it got cut. The article was going long and I didn't go into heavy detail, so it got sacrificed. But yeah, PlayCable was waaay ahead of its time.
I had the intellivision II, I really liked it, except some cartridges would not work, can't remember which ones but I had a at least a couple of them I think one of them was Donkey Kong. Being the "inventive" kid I was, I resorted to wiggling the cartridge on the slot while pressing reset and voila they came to life.

I think the intellivoice didn't work either, I had b-17 bomber and had to play it on my neighbors 1st gen intellivision.
Yes, I seem to recall a couple of carts not working for me as well. They worked initially, but after several insertions stopped. I think I solved the problem in a similar way (wiggling it) after blowing on it several times. lol Gotta love that 12-year-old tech ingenuity. When games are on the line, we'll figure it out.
 

IntyLab

Posts: 6   +7
Yes, I seem to recall a couple of carts not working for me as well. They worked initially, but after several insertions stopped. I think I solved the problem in a similar way (wiggling it) after blowing on it several times. lol Gotta love that 12-year-old tech ingenuity. When games are on the line, we'll figure it out.
Ugh! I recall pulling out my Mr. BASIC Meets Bits & Bytes cartridge (one of the six released ECS titles, which integrated the onboard BASIC interpreter with three crummy games that you could modify with BASIC code, in a silly attempt to make learning to program fun for kids) and only the shell came out, with the actual game still in the ECS. It never worked after that, and I replaced it a number of years later. But we did try putting resin on the contacts - the kind used to repair car rear window defoggers - hoping that would do the trick. Nope.

Luckily, it wasn't a game I missed too much. As it is, I had only gotten around to writing BASIC code to have homing bombs in the Vampire Bats subgame. Who knows what else I would have churned out back in the day?
 

andyross

Posts: 14   +6
One interesting tidbit with the ECS addon is that there was a removable cover. It was hot-melt glued to make it hard to remove, but there was a connector inside for some sort of upgrade. The manual had a part of one page with a glued on blank section covering information. I think it was supposedly going to be for a memory and maybe more powerful BASIC upgrade.
 

IntyLab

Posts: 6   +7
One interesting tidbit with the ECS addon is that there was a removable cover. It was hot-melt glued to make it hard to remove, but there was a connector inside for some sort of upgrade. The manual had a part of one page with a glued on blank section covering information. I think it was supposedly going to be for a memory and maybe more powerful BASIC upgrade.
Same with the IntelliVoice. The early units could have the top easily removed, and there was supposed to be a receiver inside for wireless controllers. This was a holdover from one of the features planned for the canceled Intellivision III.

The ECS probably would have had a RAM expansion port intended as you say, since the Aquarius had one, and because only 2K onboard means your BASIC programs were limited to roughly 100 lines. There was a mention in the ECS Owner's Manual about an Expanded BASIC cartridge coming soon. I asked the Blue Sky Rangers about that back in 1997, and one of them e-mailed me back, saying that idea never even made it to the implementation phase.
 

Mugsy

Posts: 720   +155
Yeah, I was there for those days. The Intellivision never did catch up to the 2600 in popularity, and every Intellivision game had that "Intellivision look" that just wasn't appealing. And that disc-controller made some games simply unplayable ("Pac Man" looked way better, but just try 4-directional turns with that 16-direction disc. You missed your turn so often the controller doomed you to an early death.)

I barely remember the Intellivision-II. I remember it simply being smaller than the Intellivision-I, whose hardwired controllers were replaced with removable units (in hopes of attracting third-party controller makers... a cottage industry for the 2600.) I believed it played the old Intellivision-I games. Good thing since I believe the I-2 only ever had 6 games of its own.

I had never heard of the "keyboard/tape" add-on unit. I do remember the (unmentioned) "Aquarius" computer that came later. Probably born of the same "keyboard" project. That had to be the biggest flop since "Howard the Duck".
 

IntyLab

Posts: 6   +7
I barely remember the Intellivision-II. I remember it simply being smaller than the Intellivision-I, whose hardwired controllers were replaced with removable units (in hopes of attracting third-party controller makers... a cottage industry for the 2600.) I believed it played the old Intellivision-I games. Good thing since I believe the I-2 only ever had 6 games of its own.

I had never heard of the "keyboard/tape" add-on unit. I do remember the (unmentioned) "Aquarius" computer that came later. Probably born of the same "keyboard" project. That had to be the biggest flop since "Howard the Duck".
The ECS was Mattel Electronics' second attempt at a computer expansion module, released at the same time as the Intellivision II, and with a similar art style on the box. That's what had 6 released games of its own, plus 4 titles that were unreleased. The Intellivision II didn't have any exclusive titles. Only the System Changer (an adaptor to play Atari games) wouldn't work on an original Intellivision unless it was modified.

The "'keyboard/tape' add-on unit" you mention was the Keyboard Component, ME's first attempt at a computer expansion module. It was being developed along with the original Intellivision, which is why it's called the "Master Component", and why early batches of games referred to the optional Keyboard Component on the box as well as in the instruction manual. A few thousand units were released, but it never made it past the test market phase due to the high cost of production. There are a few units being fully restored right now, with all the software known to exist.

As for the Aquarius, ME bought the rights to it and marketed that for less than a year before the industry crash happened. It wasn't that great compared to other computers of the time. But what's interesting is that the ECS was designed to allow for the Aquarius Printer and Data Recorder to be connected, so there's a tiny bit of overlap with the Intellivision. Some of the more popular Intellivision games were ported to the Aquarius, but despite the higher resolution, they felt inferior. The games were also packaged in cheap cardboard boxes which ripped easily.
 

ZedRM

Posts: 427   +244
The controller for this system was the reason I could never get into it. Atari's controller was bad enough, this was just unplayable. It wasn't until Nintendo's NES came out with the d-pad based controller that I really got into gaming full force. Everything before that was just amateur-hour. The interface for a system is just as important as the performance and quality of software.
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 1,256   +1,386
TechSpot Elite
The controller for this system was the reason I could never get into it. Atari's controller was bad enough, this was just unplayable. It wasn't until Nintendo's NES came out with the d-pad based controller that I really got into gaming full force. Everything before that was just amateur-hour. The interface for a system is just as important as the performance and quality of software.
It's true. However, for me, it wasn't such a stretch because the ColecoVision's controller was similarly complex:
220px-ColecoVision-Controller-FR.jpg

They weren't much different from each other (except for the actual joystick itself):
intellivision-uncropped.png

They were both far more complex than the old Atari 2600 "button in the corner joystick" though:
61D2Ga0mjHL._AC_SL1000_.jpg

It was one of those situations where we kids had no problem adapting but adults found the controllers of the two "Vision" consoles ungainly. Let's remember that we're talking about boomers here, a generation famous for being unable to program the clocks on their VCRs and microwaves. :laughing:
 

Knot Schure

Posts: 352   +161
Well, back in those days, an item like that was considered to be owned by the parents, like the TV was. It wasn't something that only one child owned unless they were an only child.
My parents couldn't have held less interest in owning such a device...