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M > MATTEL ELECTRONICS  > Intellivision   

Mattel Electronics

The Intellivision was developed by Mattel Electronics, a subsidiary of toy company Mattel (yes, the same people that make the famous "Barbie doll"), specifically to get a foot into the arriving and profitable market of electronic games. The Intellivision arrived in 1979 boasting technology that far outstripped any of the competitors, so much so that it was the first real challenge to Atari. Like Atari, Mattel also marketed their console to retailers as a rebadged unit. These models include the Radio Shack Tandyvision, the GTE-Sylvania Intellivision, and the Sears Super Video Arcade.

Using a General Instruments CP1610 processor, Intellivision was the first 16-bit game console. The data bus was only 10 bits wide but the processor internally ran with 16 bits at 894.886 kHz with 1352 bytes of RAM. The games were stored on 4-8k ROM insertable cartridges. The strongest market for the device was in sports video games where it offered superior graphics and sound.

By early 1982 Mattel had boasted a machine that sold over 2 million units, making them some $100 million US and a growing library of games that would eventually reach some 129 titles and more titles if you include 3rd party developers.

Mattel also developed a “System Changer”, an attachable device that allowed the direct play of Atari games that saw them as one of the first to successfully win a lawsuit against Atari who sued because of the invention.

Intellivision was the second video game system with a Voice Synthesis module (“IntelliVoice”), and had what was probably the first Cable Modem in the form of “PlayCable” that allowed users to download Intellivision games direct off a special TV channel.

The Intellivision’s unique controllers allowed natural player movement in 16 directions with overlays used for each individual game, allowing the controller to be reprogrammable.

After the arrival of IntelliVision II: Mattel would drop their attempt at the “Keyboard Component” (the IntelliVision computer) for the “ECS”, an updated design that attached to the system and also failed commercially due to poor design. Mattel then invested in the equally failed Aquarius home computer.

On Jan 20, 1984, and after selling 6 million units and loosing $300 million, Mattel closed the Intellivision project when the “video game crash” came into full force. The remaining inventory eventually falling to the hands of former Intellivision programmers who went on with the project in the form of INTV and on-line/CD-ROM versions of the classic Intellivision video games.


Contributors: "Skel" (Derek McDonald)

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NAME  Intellivision
MANUFACTURER  Mattel Electronics
YEAR  1979
CONTROLLERS  Twelve-button numeric keypad (0–9, Clear, and Enter) + 4 side-located action buttons (two of which are electronicaly the same) + 16-directions controller disk
CPU  General Instrument CP1610
SPEED  895 KHz
RAM  1352 bytes
ROM  7168 bytes
GRAPHIC MODES  160 x 196
COLORS  16 color palette
SOUND  General Instrument AY-3-8914 (3 channels sound + 1 noise generator)
I/O PORTS  Cartridge slot, video ouput (RF or RGB depending versions), power in
MEDIA  Cartridge
NUMBER OF GAMES  More than 130 videogames have been produced in the console lifetime
POWER SUPPLY  Power supply built-in
PERIPHERALS  Intellivoice, System changer, Music synthesizer, Keyboard component, Computer system and more
PRICE  $299 (USA, 1980)

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