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MODULES



KEYBOARD COMPONENT

MATTEL ELECTRONICS

Images
Mattel [USA]
Mattel (box front) [USA]
Mattel (inside) [USA]
Manuals (Module)
Keyboard Component Owner's Book (1149-0920) [USA]
Keyboard Component Owner's Book (1149-0920-G1) [USA]
Keyboard Component Owner's Book (1149 - Draft) [USA]
Manuals (Service)
Keyboard Component (1149-0380) [USA]
Power Supply Schematic Diagram [USA]
Tape Info [USA]


  • From the beginning, Mattel sought to distinguish the Intellivision from the Atari 2600 by insisting that its console was not just a toy - it would be the basis of a home computer system. Embedding the Master Component within the Keyboard Component would unlock the full potential of the Intellivision's 16-bit microprocessor.

  • The Keyboard Component features 64k on a dual dynamic RAM port and its own 6502 processor to coordinate input and output functions. Special programs were made available on cassette tape. The built-in cassette deck contains a sophisticated cassette access connection; an audio track can be synchronized with a program and its graphics. With the supplied microphone, parts of the audio track could be re-recorded and played over the main program. A cartridge port allows you to run common Intellivision games without removing the Master Component, and a printer port allows output to a 40-column thermal printer.

  • The Keyboard Component (nicknamed Blue Whale, occasionally referred to as Intelliputer) was developed by Dave Chandler's team of engineers, the same group responsible for the final engineering of the Master Component. The Keyboard Component was certainly an impressive piece of equipment, but from a marketing point of view, it was not practical; there was no way to produce it at a reasonable selling price. Had it not been for the reputation of Dave "Papa Intellivision" Chandler, the project would probably have been phased out much earlier. Instead, his team was allowed to continue "patching", trying to lower the cost. Planned to be made available in 1981, the launch of the Keyboard has been postponed numerous times.

  • When Jay Leno attended Mattel Electronics' Christmas party in 1981, he did his homework; got the biggest laughter with the joke: "You know what the three big lies are, don't you? 'The check is in the mail', 'I will still respect you in the morning' and 'The Keyboard will be released in the spring'".

  • But consumers were not laughing. Complaints from people who bought Intellivision specifically because could be expanded to a computer caught the attention of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which initiated an investigation from Mattel for fraud. Mattel insisted that the Keyboard was a real product that was still being tested; a handful of Keyboard Components was made available to select stores and offered by mail to consumers who complained (a loss for the company).
    The thermal printer was only available by post; it was apparently the same printer (except for the label) which later had a wider release as part of Aquarius. Several cassette programs have been made available; some (Conversational French, Jack LaLanne's Physical Conditioning, Spelling Challenge, Jeane Dixon Astrology) were programmed in assembler language for 1610 and took advantage of Intellivision’s sound and graphics, others were more limited BASIC programs (Geography Challenge, Family Budgeting, Crosswords I, II and III) that require a connected BASIC cartridge at the games port. With the BASIC cartridge, the user could also write their own programs.

  • Finally, in mid-1982, the FTC ordered Mattel to pay a monthly fine (it is said to be US$10,000) until the Keyboard was widely distributed. Mattel was forced to use its Plan B: it launched, instead, the Entertainment Computer System (ECS) that had been secretly developed by a different division. Although it was less powerful than the Keyboard Component, it offered the least that had been promised: turning Intellivision into a computer. That was enough (plus an offer to buy back all the remaining Keyboards) to get the FTC off Mattel's back.

  • The Keyboard Component, with only 4,000 units produced, has been officially canceled. Units sold were collected and the money returned. Customers who keep the equipment should sign a document exempting Mattel from any future product support.

  • But it was not just that: Compro Inc., a company from Costa Mesa (California), which had been contracted to manufacture the Keyboard, sued Mattel for US$10,000,000, alleging breach of contract, fraud and non-payment of the latest 1,300 units. This was one of the lawsuits involving Mattel Inc. in early 1984, when Mattel Electronics closed.
    For its part, Compro was fueled by the video game industry. As the main supplier for Atari, Sega and Commodore, as well as Mattel, it left the market. Today, under the name Mexmil, they manufacture insulation material for companies McDonnel Douglas and Boeing. When asked what happened to all the equipment manufactured for video games and computers, an employee said, "I think they sold everything to Nintendo."

  • CURIOUS FACT: All the money spent on the Keyboard Component has not been totally lost; measure when groups of programmers increased during 1982, equipment was not assembled fast enough. The bottleneck was the Magus card (connection between the development computer and the Intellivision), assembled manually. Then, some brilliant person realized that a Blue Whale would make an excellent development system! One Keyboard Slightly modified component (nicknamed Black Whale) could accept the compiled code for a game in a serial way to your internal RAM; this RAM, mapped to the same address as the Intellivision cartridge, could be read by the Master Component connected as if it were a cartridge.
    Even slower to download a game than a Magus card (which reads data from the computer by parallel lines), the Black Whale proved to be a quick and inexpensive solution. In mid-1983, half of the development systems at Hawthorne and all development systems at French Mattel Electronics used Black Whales.



ENTERTAINMENT COMPUTER SYSTEM (ECS)

MATTEL ELECTRONICS

Images
Mattel [USA]
Mattel [EUROPE]
Mattel [EUROPE]
Mattel [EUROPE]
Mattel (box front) [USA]
Mattel (box back) [USA]
Manuals
Computer Module Owners Guide (4187-6002) [USA]
Step-by-step to Home Computing (4187-0180-G1) [USA]
Introducing the Intellivision ECS (inside) [USA]
ECS Marketing Strategy (inside) [USA]
Guide des Codes de Caractères des Cassettes de Jeux [FRANCE]


  • In mid-1981, Richard Chang's development team began work on the Basic Discovery System (BDS). It was announced by the company as a module connectable to Intellivision that would initiate children to programming of computers by means of an inexpensive keyboard and a colored and simplified version of BASIC.
    Few people knew the real purpose behind BDS: the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was analyzing processes against Mattel for not launching the Intellivision Keyboard Component. Key people at Mattel Electronics' senior leadership, concerned that the engineering team at Dave "Papa Intellivision" Chandler never made the Keyboard Component at an acceptable cost, they started looking for something that they could launch instead. Afraid that Chandler had political influence within Mattel Inc. (the parent company) to exterminate any attempt to develop an alternative to Keyboard, they had to keep their intentions a secret.

  • The Design and Development team was challenged to build an inexpensive Intellivision module (up to US$150 at retail) but that fulfilled the original basic promises of the Keyboard Component: transforming Intellivision on a computer, make it possible to write programs, save them to tape and connect to a printer.
    The module design was done by Jan Chodak and implemented mainly by Greg Goodknight. The simplified interpreter BASIC was programmed by Jay Hastroudian. As the module's work proceeded, it was officially released and discussed in memos as an add-on to the Intellivision line, never as a substitute for the Keyboard Component.
    But the launch was forced when the FTC started fining Mattel on a monthly basis until the Keyboard Component was launched. Finally, the Basic Discovery System was publicly publicized as a possible alternative to Keyboard. Renamed Lucky (from LUCKI: Low User-Cost Keyboard Interface) was introduced to programmers to start the game development. A computer-style keyboard, an extra pair of controls (for games with four players) or a musical keyboard could be connected to the Lucky adapter.
    (The idea for a modular musical keyboard came from the Design and Development team. Musical instruments were the project group favorite. They have always produced Synsonics batteries; electric guitars, basses and wind instruments were in the plans. Other complements to ECS were briefly discussed in the sector: a health diagnosis module and a camera).

  • In the fall of 1982, at Mattel's annual meeting of marketing, sales and distributor employees, Lucky (Computer Module, Computer Keyboard and the Music Synthesizer) was presented with his final name: Entertainment Computer System (ECS). All those present were delighted (mainly due to the low price) and the obvious became official: the Keyboard Component was dead.

  • A pre-Christmas commercial was launched with Mattel Electronics spokesman George Plimpton teasing with the introduction of ECS (using an internal joke "[Intellivision users] won't believe your luck!"). Although ECS does not was available for Christmas 1982, the aim of the commercial was to convince people to buy Intellivision instead Atari or Colecovision with the promise (again) that a computer module was about to come out.

  • Officially presented to the public at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in January 1983 in Las Vegas, ECS achieved the market more than a year later with a handful of games. Satisfied, the FTC canceled the monthly fine.

  • Once the ECS was launched, however, Mattel Electronics' focus shifted. After the June 1983 CES in Chicago, Josh Denham and Stav Prodomou, president and senior vice president of operations for Mattel Electronics, resigned. Josh and Stav were guilty of pushing the company too far into producing hardware; hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on development, in addition to the original Intellivision, the Keyboard Component, Intellivoice, Intellivision II, System Changer, ECS, Aquarius (and peripherals), Intellivision III and the top secret Intellivision IV.

  • On 07/02/1983, Josh was replaced by Mack Morris, a marketing man famous for putting Breath Savers "in the blue" (the device that made a game quickly put aside has become known as "in the blue" within Mattel). According to Mack Morris, the emphasis was placed almost entirely on software (almost all employees related to the hardware development were dismissed on 08/04/1983). ECS received very little marketing support and, for future game development, reduced to almost nothing.

  • An announced Expander Program, containing 16k of additional RAM and extra features (including expanded BASIC) in 12k of RAM, it was never completed.

  • CURIOUS FACT: The ECS sold in Europe was molded in brown plastic instead of light gray. The launch of Intellivision II was delayed in Europe due to the pending development of a STIC chip that would work better with the European television system (on European TV sets, the image covers about 80% of the screen), so Mattel made the brown European ECS to match the original Intellivision.



INTELLIVOICE

MATTEL ELECTRONICS

Images
Mattel [USA]
Mattel [USA]
Mattel (box front) [USA]
Mattel (box back) [USA]
Manuals (Module)
Intellivoice (3330-0920-G1) [USA]
Manuals (Service)
Intellivoice (3330) [USA]
Intellivoice (3330 Draft) [USA]
Product Engineering Specification [USA]


  • Since Intellivision was based on the General Instrument chip, it didn't take long for anyone to realize that the General Instrument's "Orator" synthesized voice chip could form the basis of a stylish Intellivision module. Ron Carlson, a Design and Development engineer, was tasked with developing the hardware for the Intellivoice module; Ron Surratt, who would later coordinate M Network's game programming for the Atari 2600, was assigned to write the software; Patrick Jost was in charge of analyzing and editing voice data.
    They took advantage of the Orator’s 16k ROM to build a set of generic words and phrases that they could be used in any game with a voice to build their vocabulary. This included reading, with a male voice, numbers, "left", "right", "up", "down" and the well-known "Mattel Electronics presents". These onboard phrases, called RESROM (from Resident ROM), along with the voices from the first game with voice, Space Spartans, were recorded and digitized in New York, at General Instrument's voice lab.

  • Ron Carlson and Patrick Jost oversaw the sessions in New York and returned the data to Ron Surratt in California, that loaded them into the Intellivoice prototype. But once connected, all that was heard was the repetition of "Auk yooo! Auk yooo!", which did not resonate well with Mattel executives and marketing people. In quite heated telephone conversations between Hawthorne and New York, Carlson attributed the problem to Surratt's software and Surratt blamed Carlson's hardware. "I really didn't know what I was talking about", Surratt admitted years later, "but luckily it wasn't a hardware problem". Finally, the errors were resolved and Mattel was fully committed to developing games with voice. A voice model laboratory was built in the Mattel Electronics building in Hawthorne; this huge facility was ideal for editing, as well as for "cheating" after (and occasionally during) office hours.

  • Voice editing was crucial, as each cartridge could support only 4 to 8k of voice data. Words needed be digitized at the lowest possible frequency at which they could be understood; generally, the frequency was changed three or four times in the same word - lower for vowels, higher for consonants - to gain space.
    Despite this effort to gain space, the number of words that could fit within a game with a voice was extremely limited, which probably contributed to the failure of the Intellivoice. While orders for the first voice games launched were around 300,000 each, orders for the fourth game, TRON Solar Sailer, released later, reached just 90,000. A complete game for children, Magic Carousel, has been put aside.

  • A restyled Intellivoice, designed to match the Intellivision II, appeared on January 1983 Mattel Electronics catalog; a prototype, however, it was never built. The module shown in the catalog was simply a block of wood carved and painted.
    At least two prototypes were built, however, from an International Intellivoice module. The prototypes are they look like a regular Intellivoice, but they contain additional ROM with French, German and Italian versions of RESROM. Foreign versions of the Space Spartans were produced, but neither they nor the Intellivoice International module were launched.

  • An attempt to recover the investment in Intellivoice was made by deciding to include the Orator chip and RESROM in the Intellivision III; no module would be needed to run the original and new games from Intellivoice.
    Unfortunately, Intellivision III never went beyond the drafting table. On 08/04/1983, all the people at Mattel Electronics related to Intellivoice were fired.

  • CURIOUS FACT: There was one last effort by Mattel to produce games with voice. At the end of 1983, realizing that the price of synthesized voice chips had dropped dramatically, Keith Robinson, game manager for ColecoVision from M Network, and programmer Tom Priestley presented a game production scheme for ColecoVision with a voice chip built into the cartridge. Using the components of a speaker clock purchased from Radio Shack, Tom joined them with a prototype cartridge for a game with voice for that console. Their idea was to produce versions for the ColecoVision of Space Spartans, Bomb Squad and B-17 Bomber using existing voice data. Marketing was intrigued by the idea and suggested that it be developed in the future, but Mattel Electronics closed shortly thereafter.

  • CURIOUS FACT: The Intellivoice contains a buffer chip needed to connect to the Master Component and the Orator chip. As this buffer could conceptually be used to connect other peripherals to the Master Component, the Intellivoice was designed with a peripheral connector, hidden under the nameplate from Mattel Electronics at the top. Only one peripheral went to the drafting table and it could use this connector: wireless manual controls. When marketing decided to incorporate Intellivoice into Intellivision III, the promise of wireless manual controls came with it.



SYSTEM CHANGER

MATTEL ELECTRONICS

Images
Mattel [USA]
Mattel [USA]
Mattel (box front) [USA]
Mattel (box back) [USA]
Manuals
System Changer (4610-6002-G1) [USA]
System Changer (4610-6002-G2) [USA]


  • The System Changer, developed under the moniker Portofino (after the Redondo Beach hotel, where the first development meeting took place) was launched in 1983 and, thus, Intellivision could be announced as the system that ran the largest number of games.

  • Many people were surprised that the Intellivision's processor could emulate an Atari 2600. Well, it couldn't. The System Changer is simply a clone of the Atari 2600 - essentially a 6507 processor, a TIA (Television Interface Adapter) video and sound chip and a 6532 RIOT chip (128 bytes of RAM, input/output ports and a general purpose timer). System Changer only uses Intellivision for power supply and RF modulation.
    Intellivision reads System Changer like a cartridge called M Network and draws an M Network title screen. Without a cartridge in the System Changer - consequently without an external video signal - this screen is demonstrated on television. When a cartridge is connected, the external video signal passes through the RF modulator, thus showing the output of the System Changer.

  • Although Atari threatened to sue, Mattel's lawyers concluded that it would be legal to clone a 2600 as long as it contained proprietary hardware and no copyrighted software (as there was on Intellivision or Colecovision). No lawsuits have emerged and clones have started to emerge from other companies.

  • Don't worry about opening a System Changer to read what the chips contain. Instead of being bundled into the well-known DIP (multi-pin) packages, integrated circuits are soldered directly onto the circuit board using microscopic wires, and then protected with an epoxy drop. This inexpensive technique was also used in most cartridges at that time. The only problem was that Intellivision does not have an external video output. Intellivision II was created with System Changer in mind - it can accept an external video signal on pin 2 of the cartridge port and pass it to the RF modulator.

  • The original Intellivision Master Component (and its clones - Tandyvision One, Sears Super Video Arcade and any INTV Master Component) requires a modification of the circuit board. Mattel used to make this modification to people who took their consoles to a service center.



MUSIC SYNTHESIZER

MATTEL ELECTRONICS

Images
Mattel [USA]
Mattel [USA]
Mattel [EUROPE]
Mattel (box front) [USA]
Mattel (box back) [USA]
Manuals
Music Synthesizer (4188-0920) [USA]


  • The game Melody Blaster is the only game released by Mattel that makes use of this equipment.

  • Like the ECS, it was also manufactured in 2 colors (white and brown), the latter being the rarest.

  • Few units were sold only locally.



PLAYCABLE

JERROLD / GENERAL INSTRUMENT

Images
Jerrold/General Instrument [USA]
Jerrold/General Instrument [USA]
Jerrold/General Instrument [USA]
Manuals
PlayCable (435-895-00) [USA]


  • Introduced in 1982, the "PlayCable: The channel for all games" allowed local cable operators to send Intellivision games with the TV signal. Subscribers used a special converter to download games and play on their own Intellivision and was very popular in the areas where it was available.

  • The PlayCabe Company was a partnership between Mattel and General Instrument, the company that developed the Intellivision chip. The equipment was manufactured by the General Instrument Jerrold division, which supplied the cable boxes to the cable companies.

  • The design of the PlayCable matched the original Intellivision Master Component. It was connected to the cartridge slot of the Master Component and connected to the TV cable. Connected to Intellivision, it had several pages of menus on the screen, showing the available games. Twenty titles were available at a time, alternating monthly. The code for these games was continuously transmitted over the cable; when one was chosen, its code could be "turned on" and inserted into the PlayCable's memory (taking about 10 seconds). Intellivision could then read the PlayCable's memory as if it were a cartridge.

  • Several reasons contributed to the end of the system:
    1. PlayCable did not have enough memory to download the larger games (8k and above) released in 1983. The converter boxes would have to be upgraded or the system limited to old games.
    2. With the growing number of channels that subscribers demanded ("I want my MTV!"), many cable operators felt it was not worth reserving bandwidth for the PlayCable (especially considering the investment in hardware necessary for the system to function).
    3. At least two people realized that a PlayCable could be an excellent development system for Intellivision. By connecting a personal computer to PlayCable, by trial and error, they quickly decoded the EXEC software and started writing their own games. While these two were prevented from competing with Mattel, who hired them to program the arcade conversion Bump 'n' Jump for Intellivision, the board was concerned that PlayCable could make it very easy for small businesses to enter the "compatible-with-Intellivision" business.

  • Subscribers rented the PlayCable adapters from cable companies. When the system was discontinued in 1983, the adapters had to be returned.



PRINTER 40 / SPRINTER

MATTEL ELECTRONICS

Images
Mattel (Printer 40) [USA]
Mattel (Sprinter 40) [USA]
Mattel (Sprinter 40) [USA]
Mattel (Sprinter 40) [USA]
Manuals
Printer 40 (advertisement) [USA]
Sprinter 40 (manual) [USA]


  • The Printer 40 thermal printer was one of the items promised by Mattel Electronics to integrate the Intellivision Entertainment Center.

  • Prints up to 240 rows of 40 columns. The character matrix is made up of 5x8 dots and has an ASCII table of 96 characters, including uppercase, lowercase and numbers.
    Works with thermal paper in reel or cut sheet.
    According to the manufacturer, it is quiet and economical - consumes about 3 watts - and prints 10,000 dots per second.

  • An identical model called Sprinter was designed for use with the TRS-80 and Apple computers, in addition to the Atari 400 and 800 models, and Intellivision itself through the Keyboard Component.



MODEM

MATTEL ELECTRONICS

Technical Studies
Technical Studies (1980) [USA]
Technical Studies (1981) [USA]
Communications Connection Meeting [USA]


  • The modem was one of the items promised by Mattel Electronics to integrate the "entertainment hub" of Intellivision.
    Initially, some studies were done in 1980 to analyze the feasibility of launching the modem. Price surveys, coordinated by Scott Klynas, included prices for commercially available computer accessories and contacts with major manufacturers such as Motorola and Texas Instruments.
    After this study, it was concluded that the cost of producing the equipment would be higher than expected by Mattel. Thus, the company left Dave Chandler and Dave Hostetler to the arduous task of developing an efficient and, above all, inexpensive modem.

  • The possibilities imagined by the team for the accessory were several: using Intellivision as an answering machine, which could answer the call and record the message on the Keyboard Component's cassette tape; carry out bank transactions with the aid of a security chip; read news; send and receive messages or images in addition to, of course, information about selling Mattel products.

  • In April 1983, Mattel Electronics gathered part of the team to publicize its strategy regarding communication and data transmission. The crisis in the electronics industry was already showing its face, but the plans were audacious.
    The 1200 baud modem would have a built-in numeric keypad, battery, cursor command by controlling the Intellivision, parallel connection for the Keyboard Component, as well as a serial connection for a "new keyboard" that could be developed. Another point of attention is the plans for wireless connection, optical pen and use of external storage (hard disk), something new in the field of electronic games at the time. Marketing director Gary Moskovitz stated at this meeting: "Downloading information will be vitally important in the years to come. I believe the sale of different software in stores will be quickly outpaced by the almost infinite choice of software from information networks by phone or cable. We need to provide Intellivision users with an inexpensive way to access and save data for later use".

  • There is no information about the existence of a prototype.



VIDEOPLEXER

COMPRO ELECTRONICS

Images
Compro [USA]
Compro [USA]
Compro (box front) [USA]
Manuals
VideoPlexer (134-0002) [USA]


  • Launched by Compro Electronics Inc., the Videoplexer allows you to connect 8 cartridges simultaneously to the Intellivision.
    To run the game, just select the number on the front panel.

  • CURIOUS FACT: the cartridges are fitted upside down.