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Mattel Electronics Intellivision

Following the success of Atari, undisputed forerunner of the video games home market, in the late 70s, Mattel (well known for the Barbie) inaugurates the Electronics Division, author of the console that was the first real rival of Atari 2600: The Intellivision.

Mattel Electronics Intellivision

In late 1979 system testing was completed, and Intellivision was released starting from 1980. The configuration was not just stuff. In fact it was the first home entertainment system with a heart at 16 bit!
The microprocessor inside the console, was a General Instrument CP1610 at 895 KHz (less than a MHz!!), which was backed by 1352 bytes in RAM (little more than A Kilobyte!!), a dedicated graphics chip, called STIC (who had 1KB of dedicated RAM), able to operate at 160 x 196 with 16 colors and 8 sprites, while the sound, managed by a General Instrument AY-3-8914, was capable of 3 channels + 1 for white noise, in mono.
The ROM, large about 7KB, contained the graphics routines (GROM) and the heart of the system: a true microkernel called EXEC.

The games on cartridge, were nothing more than a sequence of calls to routines already programmed into ROM. The architecture of the system was quite complex, because some features, initially not covered by the engineers, were crushed in areas originally intended for other content.
For more information – very very technical – click here!

Another edge over its declared rival, was the presence of theoretically advanced controllers, with 14 buttons and a directional diskpad, proposed as an alternative to the joystick, that allowed 16 different directions, against the 8 of the rival. In theory, since in practice many people were critical, especially on the poor precision.
The front buttons could be covered with colorful plastified sheets (layer), who were stuck in the proper frame, so to be anchored in order to customize the controls, depending on the game.
Within each of the games cases, there was a thick manual, two layers, and the cartridge containing the game.

The game industry crisis, from 1984 to 1986 which decimated most of the companies that rode the wave, didn't spare the Intellivision. In fact, with 6 million machines sold worldwide, but with a big loss on the balance sheet, Mattel dropped the console copyrights, leasing them to INTV, created by some former employees, which was able to keep alive this glorious creature, up to 1990.

This lucky gaming machine counts 130 titles made, without considering those that are still published by various fans, which keep alive this console through initiatives and exchange of information, through the inevitable communities on the net.

 


Gabriele

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