Fairchild Channel F
With so many "Pong" clones on the market at this time, The Fairchild Channel F was a breath of fresh air. The Channel F was the first programmable cartridge based video game console to enter the videogame market. Initially, it was called the "Fairchild Video Entertainment System", but was later changed. It was developed by Fairchild Semiconductors and released in August of 1976.
Other then the fact that Channel F was the first to use cartridges, it had other unique features that set it apart from the "Pong" flood. Rather then having you near the actual console, the Channel F developed controllers that would let you play up to 8 feet away from the console (innovative for it's time). It also used a specially designed multiprocessor that contained a main CPU and several support processors ( called F8 ). The console also featured games built into the system (Hockey, Tennis and 2 drawing programs). These were unique innovations that set Channel F apart from other consoles of it's time, and thus brought about many changes to the industry.
Even with the Channel F's unique features, the console's success was very short. A year later, the Channel F faced fierce competition from the popular Atari VCS / 2600. Other consoles would soon follow, and Channel F sales began to suffer. Fairchild would soon pull out of the videogame market, and stopped production of the Channel F with only 21 games released.
In 1979, a company called Zircon purchased the rights to the Channel F. They released a scaled down version called the Channel F System II, and sold 5 more previously unreleased games. The Channel F II also featured detachable controllers (The previous model had controllers hard wired to the unit). The Channel F would continue to sell well up to the "Videogame Crash of 1984." It then became a mention in history.
The Channel F did continue to make successful rounds throughout Europe. It appeared as the Saba Videoplay in Germany, the Luxor Video Entertainment System in Sweden, the Adman Grandstand in the UK, and the ITT Tele-Match also in Germany.
8 bit Fairchild F8
128 × 64 w/ 102 × 58 pixels visible
4 colors plus an additional 4 colors using a palette / sprite trick
FACT: Not only did Fairchild Semiconductors produce the first cart based system. They were the first to use a microprocessor for use in a videogame console. Also two of their employees became co-founders of a company called "Intel".
The Magnavox Odyssey was the very first home video game system. It was the brilliant creation of Ralph Baer (dubbed "The Father of home video games"). It played "Ball and Paddle" games such as "Ping Pong", "Table Tennis", "Volleyball", and others.
On January 27th, 1972, Magnavox began production on the machine, and the system was released in May. It was heavily advertised and reportedly sold 100,000 units in 1972 for around $100 each.
The Odyssey has no real specs. It contained no processor or memory. The box is made up of transistors, resistors and capacitors. Odyssey used cards that contained pin outs to change game settings. Plastic overlays that could be placed over the TV screen created graphics and color, but the actual display consisted of white squares (Paddle and ball) on an all black background. The Odyssey originally came with six game cards, and a 36-page user manual for the twelve games offered by the system.
The launch of Odyssey generated a severe case of "Pong Madness". Companies worldwide began developing their own "Pong" machines.
FACT: The Magnavox Odyssey was sold only in Magnavox stores. Customers were told that the Odyssey would only work on Magnavox brand televisions. A nice lie that contributed to the amount of units sold.