Contributors: Shane Patterson and Brett Elston
As the decade turned, the popularity of videogame consoles waned in the face of an oversaturated marketplace. Coupled with horrible third-party releases, the US gaming industry crashed and led to the bankruptcy of many electronics companies. As home computers (PCs) took off, a brave few stepped through the fire and ashes and breathed life into an industry at death's door. Join us as we pay tribute to the consoles that saved our hobby.
Consoles of the '70s | Consoles of the '80s
Consoles of the '90s | Consoles of the 2000s
Manufacturer: Mattel Electronics
Known as the first console to pose a serious threat to Atari’s 2600, the Intellivision sold 175,000 consoles in its first year and started a TV smear campaign against its rival. Interestingly, Mattel rolled out a voice synthesis peripheral in 1982 called the Intellivoice, which made speech integral to gameplay. Intellivision was also known as the first 16-bit console, even though you’d never recognize it as such.
Console: Game & Watch - Japan
These LCD electronic games came in different models - all of which have resembled an iteration of the Game Boy or DS at one point. The Game & Watch pioneered left-handed directional control with the d-pad, seen on every console and handheld in the modern age. Designed by Gunpei Yokoi, who’d later create the GameBoy.
As the first microcomputer to sell a million units, the VIC-20 was designed to be way more economical than the PET - a PC Commodore released three years prior. The VIC-20 played games on cartridge and tape and was the first computer to be sold at a K-Mart. Hell, William Shatner was even the spokesman at one point. The VIC-20 also held the distinction of introducing many software developers to basic programming skills.
Console: IBM PC (model 5150)
Even though the IBM PC appeared in 1975, the price was deemed way too high to compete with cheaper alternatives. The newest model was the first computer to be legally reverse engineered by other manufacturers to create PC or IBM clones - hence that old term “IBM compatible.” Yeah, rivals were able steal the BIOS through backdoor shenanigans.
Console: Sinclair ZX81 - UK
An upgrade to the ZX80, the newer Sinclair model used ordinary audio cassettes for saving and loading programs. This model was known for various oddities, including no sound capability and strangely giving the square root of .25 as 1.359. Sinclair eventually replaced this model with the more popular Spectrum.
Console: Cassette Vision - Japan
Ignore the console name, because this thing played cartridges. And did you know the CV was the first ever programmable console to be made in Japan? The graphics were a little iffy for its time (following the Atari 2600) and controls were located directly on the console (two knobs per player!). Not incredibly successful, but did manage to spawn two spinoff consoles.
Console: Philips Videopac G7200 - UK
Discontinued: Mid 80s
Because Philips was the parent company to Magnavox, Philips released the Odyssey 2 in foreign countries under its own name. This console is the exact same as the O2, except it came with a built-in B&W monitor. Fancy and rare.
Console: Atari 5200 Super System
Created as a powerful successor to the 2600, the 5200 competed with the Intellivision and ColecoVision once it hit the market. Unfortunately, Atari spent more attention on the oversaturated (and far more popular) 2600 rather than their new console. Also, Atari underestimated the value of backwards compatibility - at least until they released an adapter the following year. Generally considered a failure, the newer controller also featured a pause button which has since been seen everywhere in the world of gaming.
Console: Coleco ColecoVision
Manufacturer: Coleco Coleco
Was this a Pong system? Hell no, Coleco came packaged with arcade-hit Donkey Kong, which certainly helped boost its popularity. The ColecoVision was powerful enough to display arcade-quality graphics and even contained the ability to play Atari 2600 games - a nice jab indeed. The detachable controllers included a keypad, smaller buttons and a tiny joystick. Even including the crash of ’83, the CV sold around six million units.