Before acquiring the Aquarius project from Eastern Radofin, Mattel Electronics tried to offer a cheap alternative to the original project, named Keyboard Component, proved too ambitious (and expensive) compared to competing products, aimed to the emerging market of home computing. So it was that a very interesting object came to life, named ECS: Entertainment Computer System.
ECS was a form of expansion of the famous Intellivision. It was connected to the console as if it were a (enormous) game cartridge. Once connected, it was perfectly joined to the main console case, looking as a natural extension of the original hardware.
The module, called Computer Adaptor, included 2KB of memory, expandable up to 16KB, a ROM built-in BASIC interpreter, a second chip dedicated to sound, able to add 3 audio channels, a port for connecting a datassette (standard type of recorders) or to connect a thermal printer, also used for home computer Aquarius.
The Computer Adaptor was also equipped with two front connectors, protected by a snap closure flap, able to connect or the computer keyboard or the musical (Music Synthesizer), or two additional game controllers, that, in the original plans, should have allowed 4 people to play simultaneously.
A few ECS specific cartridges were sold, and only one of them was capable to took advantage of the music keyboard: Melody Blaster. The additional controllers instead remained a dead letter, never taken into consideration by anyone.
Advertised during the Christmas 1982, the module was first marketed in 1983.
In Europe it was shipped in the most classic color style, that is, with the nuances of “coffee”, while for the American market was chosen a color pattern matching with Intellivision II colors, with light gray, black and red.
My collection includes both versions. 🙂
The ECS, while being a very good and potentially great object, was not supported by adequate promotional campaign, and failed to capture the interest of developers, revealing as a moderate failure, which was a kind of inkling of the crisis, that would soon hit Mattel, bringing it to dismiss the entire Electronics Division.