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Mattel Electronics ECS

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. Continue Reading

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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. Continue Reading

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Sega SG-1000 Mark II

All people of my age, when it comes to hear of SEGA or to see the distinctive blue logo, are led to remember the countless creations, both hardware and software, of this prolific Japanese manufacturer, exclusively devoted to video game market. Particularly, the arcade rooms were full of legendary video games produced by this very active organization.

Among the different creatures came from the SEGA factories, detaches the console I am going to talk about: the SG-1000, Mark II version, i.e. revision 2 of the machine originally sold in 1983, marketed the following year.

This object was not very popular in Europe, where people widely preferred the computer variant, namely that the SEGA SC-3000, in substance, was identical to the console, except for the addition of a membrane keyboard with rubber keys, such as those of the most famous and popular ZX Spectrum. In fact, the software ran identically on both Hardware incarnations. Continue Reading

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Mattel Electronics Aquarius

The history of home computing has experienced ups and downs, with explosive successes and equally sensational disasters.
Among the latter, proudly takes place one of the biggest flops that the history of computing knows: the Mattel Aquarius.

Initially designed and manufactured by Radofin (technology partner by Mattel – Hong Kong based – to which the U.S. giant commissioned the Intellivision production), was then purchased in bulk from the Mattel itself, that was embarrassingly late on gold rush, namely, home and personal computing.
In fact, in the early 80's, computing division of Mattel Electronics does not exist yet. It was created out of nothing just to acquire and bring in the project started by Radofin just before the 1980.

is famous the phrase by which a programmer, internal Mattel, crushed the unfortunate computer even before it was marketed: He defined Aquarius as “the computer for the 70's”. 🙂 Continue Reading

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Sony Hit Bit 10P

Tonight I'm going to speak of my first MSX computer. I just waited too long to collect it, but it was worth the waiting. This is the Sony Hit Bit 10P.
MSX is an acronym for Machines with Software eXchangeability, and was the first attempt to standardize the home computer. There is no coincidence that a such Microsoft was involved in. 🙂

Sony Hit Bit 10-P

This standard, defined and published in the early 80s, passed almost unnoticed in both the old continent and the U.S., and found a strong response in Japan and South America, particularly in Brazil. Over the years, was further expanded, landing the definition of MSX-2

The machine that I own, expensively purchased through e-bay, was produced by Sony that, Like many Japanese factories, provided a major contribution to the MSX machines.

Japanese model

Hit Bit serie was the Sony entry-level production, and was distributed in two colors: a fire-red one, dedicated to the Japanese market, and a black version, targeting foreign markets. The final letter of the code identifies the country in which the serie was marketed. The specimens were Spanish codename ending with S, the ones in Germany with D, the Portuguese ones (or Polish?) as mine, with the letter P.

To obtain the approval of the MSX consortium, each machine had to meet certain requirements. Continue Reading