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Intellivision Console (original)

Intellivision II console with voice module

THE RANT: I vaguely remember this machine from back in the wee days. I remember seeing ads for it on TV that touted how much more realistic the sports games were compared to the Atari 2600. Never actually played one until I got an Intellivision II from ebay about a year ago. My reaction is mixed. The games are slightly better than the 2600 for the most part. They come on skinnier carts. For some reason I get more non-working games for this system than any other. Maybe the chips in the carts were too cheap to last 20 years. The graphics are colorful and more solid (you don't see those annoying scan lines) and INTV versions of games are usually better than 2600 releases. Pac-Man comes to mind. Apparently there was a Voice module that would let certain games "talk" but from what I understand it's just normal digitized audio later common in NES games. I guess that was a big deal in 1979. Anyway this machine was a solid competitor to the 2600 and Colecovision until the crash utterly destroyed them all. Later on after the crash Mattel sold the rights to the hardware to some other company (who's name escapes me) and INTV clones and games were sold right up to 1987. Mattel's primo group of programmers called the Blue Sky Rangers maintains a website where you can get INTV programming tools, advice and some roms. There was supposed to be an Intellivision III but it never happened.

THE GOOD: System has pretty decent and unique games, not all of them are arcade translations or clone-maze games like every other system from this era (like Microsurgeon.) Most of the games have above 2600 level graphics and sound. INTV stuff is cheap as hell, you can get a system for under $20 and games for $1- $4 each. I don't believe in paying anything but the absolute minimum for stuff like this. When there are arcade translations the machine does a halfway decent job, like the programmers really tried to make a good game and not just slosh out some piece of garbage to make a buck. Tron and Burger Time are examples of good arcade games on this system.

THE BAD: Don't know about the INTV I, but the INTV II (the one I've got) must be the cheapest system ever made. You can tell that Mattel must have been hard up for cash because they seriously didn't put 10 cents into manufacturing this thing. First off it's light; it's not just light, it's TOO light. Feels like a gust of wind will make it crumble up and blow away. Second the controller sucks a major load of bootiespunk. This has got to be the WORST controller ever made! It's made of paper thin plastic, you have to hold it telephone style and press buttons with the same hand (like the Colecovision) and the control disc is the suckiest design for a controller input known to man. Because it's a disc you naturally want to make half circle motions to move up, left, right, etc, but the disc doesn't seem to respond to half circle motions well (at least the ones on my controllers don't) so I have to press up, left, right, etc instead of just sliding my fingers. Why the hell would someone make a disc if you have to use it like it's four separate buttons? It doesn't make sense. To be fair other people I talk to don't have this problem so maybe I've just got defective controllers. Also each controller has four buttons along the sides, but when you press them they don't depress enough to let you know you're pressing them correctly. What I mean is that there's no "feel" to the buttons. So half the time I'm pressing fire buttons, trying to figure out which one to use (which most games only seem to use one, so why the hell is there four?) and I can't tell if I'm pressing them all the way or if the game doesn't use them. It boggles my mind. This system would really benefit from decent joy pad style controllers. Anyone know how to make one? I'll pay you. Also on the INTV II the power switch doubles as the reset button. You have to press and hold the switch for a moment until the system powers off. It took me a while to figure that out, I just figured there was no off switch and just unplugged the system. Not really a gripe I suppose, it's just CHEAP.

THE UGLY: The INTV II looks like a control box for some kind of Iraqi Weapon of Mass Destruction. Hook it up to a nuclear bomb. Then play Space Invaders.

Intellivision System Changer: An add on that allowed you to play your Atari 2600 games on an Intellivision II. No lawsuit resulted.


Mattel Aquarius: the "computer" version of the Intellivision, as was popular in the early 80's. Also available as an add on to the game console. A hard core group of Aquarius users still exist today and continue to create new games.

General Instruments Playcable: An early cable modem that could be used to download games from a special cable channel, tested in only a few markets between 1981 and 1983. Years later Sega and Nintendo would have similar services for their SNES and Dreamcast consoles.


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Cartridge ROM


Processor: General Instruments CP1610:- 16bit processor @ 894 KHz

Memory :256-by-8-bit static RAM


GRAM has space for 64 program-defined 8 by 8 bit images


3 channel sound chip + noise generator chip