The Intellivision is a video game console released by Mattel in 1979. Development of the console began in 1978, less than a year after the introduction of its main competitor, the Atari 2600. The word intellivision is a portmanteau of "intelligent television".  

Retrobrad has been created and maintained by me - Brad!
This page has been visited times since June 2007

  Many users waited patiently for the promised release of the "Keyboard Component", an add-on computer upgrade unit touted by Mattel as "coming soon" even when the original console was first shipped. The unit featured a built-in cassette tape drive for loading and saving data. The Keyboard Component would plug into the cartridge slot on the Intellivision, and had an additional cartridge slot of its own to allow regular Intellivision games to be played in the usual way.

The upgrade had proven too expensive to develop and produce, so Mattel had repeatedly sent the engineers "back to the drawing board" to attempt to increase reliability and reduce cost. Mattel was subsequently investigated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for failing to produce the promised upgrade, and eventually ordered to pay $10,000 a day (about $25,000 in 2005 when adjusted for inflation) until it was released. Finally, Mattel offered the Keyboard Component for sale via mail order.

The keyboard component became so notorious around Mattel headquarters that comedian Jay Leno, when performing at Mattel's 1981 Christmas party, got a huge response with his joke, "You know what the three big lies are, don't you? 'The check is in the mail,' 'I'll still respect you in the morning,' and 'The Keyboard will be out in the spring.'

After its limited release, four thousand units were sold; many were later returned for a full refund when Mattel recalled the unit in 1983 due to various support problems, including the then-innovative cassette tape unit which had never proved to be reliable. According to the Blue Sky Rangers web site, users who opted to keep theirs were made to sign a waiver absolving Intellivision of all future responsibility for technical support.[2] In addition, the Keyboard Component could be modified into a development platform for the Intellivision, and such units were used internally for game development during the latter portion of the system's lifespan.

By this time, Mattel had set up competing internal engineering teams, each trying to either fix the Keyboard Component or replace it. The rival Mattel engineers had come up with a much less expensive keyboard alternative. The Entertainment Computer System (ECS), was much smaller, sleeker, and easier to produce than the original Keyboard Component. While the original Keyboard Component had some advantages over the small computers of its day, the new Keyboard Component was designed to be inexpensive, not functional, and was far less powerful than emerging machines like the Commodore 64. The two keyboard units were incompatible, but owners of the older unit were offered a new ECS.

To maintain secrecy in a toy industry where industrial espionage was a way of life, many projects had code names, so documents and casual discussion did not reveal company secrets. With the video games business already staggering by the time the new Keyboard Component was planned, Daglow suggested the new device be code-named LUCKI (for "Low User Cost Keyboard Interface.") The name stuck but the good fortune did not: the cheaply manufactured ECS keyboard add-on was a retail failure.

The Keyboard Component debacle was ranked as #11 on GameSpy's 25 Dumbest Moments in Gaming.
  The Intellivision was developed by Mattel Electronics, a subsidiary of Mattel formed expressly for the development of electronic games. The console was test marketed in Fresno, California, in 1979 with a total of four games available, and went nationwide in 1980 with a price tag of US$299 and a pack-in game: Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack. Though not the first system to challenge Atari (systems from Fairchild Semiconductor, Bally, and Magnavox were already on the market), it was the first to pose a serious threat to Atari's dominance. A series of ads featuring George Plimpton were produced which mercilessly attacked the Atari 2600's lesser capabilities with side-by-side game comparisons.

One of the slogans of the television advertisements stated that Intellivision was "the closest thing to the real thing"; one example in an advertisement compared golf games - the others had a blip sound and cruder graphics, while Intellivision featured a realistic swing sound and striking of the ball, and graphics that suggested a more 3D look, although undoubtedly crude when compared with modern game consoles.

Like Atari, Mattel marketed their console to a number of retailers as a rebadged unit. These models include the Radio Shack Tandyvision, the GTE-Sylvania Intellivision, and the Sears Super Video Arcade. (The Sears model was a particular coup for Mattel, as Sears was already selling a rebadged Atari 2600 unit, and in doing so made a huge contribution to Atari's success.)

In that first year Mattel sold 175,000 Intellivision consoles, and the library grew to 19 games. At this point in time, all Intellivision games were developed by an outside firm, APh. The company recognized that what had been seen as a secondary product line might be a big business. Realizing that potential profits are much greater with first party software, Mattel formed its own in-house software development group.

The original five members of that Intellivision team were manager Gabriel Baum, Don Daglow, Rick Levine, Mike Minkoff and John Sohl. Levine and Minkoff (a long-time Mattel Toys veteran) both came over from the hand-held Mattel games engineering team. To keep these programmers from being hired away by rival Atari, their identity and work location was kept a closely guarded secret. In public, the programmers were referred to collectively as the Blue Sky Rangers.

By 1982 sales were soaring. Over two million Intellivision consoles had been sold by the end of the year, earning Mattel a $100,000,000 profit. This was a big year for Mattel. Third party Atari developers Activision, and Imagic began releasing games for the Intellivision, as did hardware rivals Atari and Colecovision. Mattel created M Network branded games for Atari and Coleco's systems. The most popular titles sold over a million units each. The Intellivision was also introduced in Japan that year by Bandai.

The original 5-person Mattel game development team had grown to 110 people under now-Vice President Baum, while Daglow led Intellivision development and top engineer Minkoff directed all work on all other platforms.
  In 1983 Mattel introduced a new peripheral innovative for the time: Intellivoice, a voice synthesis device which produced speech when used with certain games, most of which would not work without the add-on component. Top Mattel programmers including Bill Fisher, Steve Roney, Gene Smith and John Sohl were diverted to the project, slowing the previous initiative to counter Atari with new arcade-style games. Voice titles included:  
  Bomb Squad  
  B-17 Bomber  
  Intellivision World Series Baseball (Intellivoice optional since the game already required the ECS keyboard)  
  Space Spartans  
  TRON Solar Sailer  
  Other versions with foreign languages were planned for Space Spartans: they were Gli Spartani dello Spazio, Les Spartiates de l'Espace and Spartaner aus dem All. They would require the International Intellivoice unit, never released.  
  In addition to the Intellivoice module, 1983 also saw the introduction of a redesigned model, called the Intellivision II (featuring detachable controllers and sleeker case), the System Changer (which played Atari 2600 games on the Intellivision II), and a music keyboard add-on for the ECS.

Like the ECS, Intellivision II was designed first and foremost to be inexpensive to manufacture. Among other things, the raised bubble keypad of the original hand controller was replaced by a flat membrane keyboard surface. Many Intellivision games had been designed for users to play by feeling the buttons without looking down, and many games were far less playable on Intellivision II.

Mattel also changed the Intellivision II's internal ROM program (called the EXEC) in an attempt to lock out unlicensed 3rd party titles. To make room for the lock-out code while retaining compatibility with existing titles, some portions of the EXEC code were moved in a way that changed their timing. While most games were unaffected, a couple of the more popular titles, Shark! Shark!, and Space Spartans, had certain sound effects that the Intellivision II reproduced differently than intended, although the games remained playable. Electric Company Word Fun did not run at all and INTV's later release Super Pro Football has minor display glitches at the start, both due to the modified EXEC.
  Intellivision featured prominently in a brief trend of using videogames as a feature in interactive television shows. "TV POWWW" started the trend, in which a television show would broadcast a videogame in progress, and callers would play the Fairchild Channel F games by saying POW! into their telephone to interface with the system.

With the eventual failure of the Fairchild Channel F, the system was upgraded to use the Intellivision, and during the early 1980s, New York based television station WPIX ran a variant of TV POWWW called TV-PIXX. It was aired during the traditional weekday afternoon slot of children's TV as an interlude. Participants would be called at home to play a videogame that appeared on their screen.

The segment originally featured simple games such as Tic Tac Toe and a Breakout type game called Moving Target. Intellivision's NFL Football, Major League Baseball, NBA Basketball, and Space Battle were later featured as the TV segment gained in popularity. Participants interacted with the game by saying the word "PIXX" to perform game-related actions. Prizes included T-shirts and $10 Dollar U.S. Savings Bonds. They could double their prize or win a bonus prize (such as advance tickets to see upcoming films) by answering a Trivia question. For a chance at playing, children could send a postcard with their name, address, and phone number to TV PIXX. David Elliot, of Staten Island NY, was the grand all time champion of TV Pixx, having won the elusive "Ke-Op" award, named after the famed character from "Battle Of The Planets". The program lasted until 1982; for many New York viewers, TV PIXX was their first glimpse of the Intellivison home game system. The trend of TV use of videogames also spread beyond New York, including "Switchback" which aired on the CBC affiliate in (Calgary, Alberta) beginning in 1985, also including Intellivision's Space Battle as one of the featured games.
  Intellivision was the first 16-bit game console, though some people have mistakenly referred to it as a 10-bit system because the CPU's instruction set and game cartridges are 10 bits wide. A 10-bit chunk of data is called a "decle". The registers in the microprocessor, where the mathematical logic is processed, were 16 bits wide.  
  The Intellivision was also the first system to feature downloadable games (though without a storage device the games vanished once the machine was turned off). In 1981, General Instrument (manufacturer of the Intellivision's CPU) teamed up with Mattel to roll out the PlayCable, a device that allowed the downloading of Intellivision games via cable TV.  
  IIntellivision was the second game console to provide real-time human and robot voices in the middle of gameplay, courtesy of the IntelliVoice module. The first was Magnavox's voice module for the Odyssey². The voice chip used by both machines, the SP0256 Orator, was developed jointly by Mattel and General Instrument.  
  Intellivision World Series Baseball, designed by Don Daglow and Eddie Dombrower and released in 1983, was the first video game to use the concept of displaying the action in simulated 3D through "camera angles" that emulated those used in TV sports coverage. Prior games always showed a single fixed or scrolling camera view of the field. Daglow and Dombrower went on to create the Earl Weaver Baseball games at Electronic Arts in 1987.  
  Intellivision was the first console to feature a controller with a directional pad that allowed 16 directions. The disc-shaped pad allowed players to control action without lifting the thumb (using motions similar to those used upon the Apple iPod clickwheel) and was considered by many Intellivision users to be a useful and novel--even revolutionary--innovation. However, the ergonomics of the "action" buttons on the side of the controller were poor, and the disc-pad was perceived by potential buyers as unfamiliar. Along with cost, this was one of the factors in making the Intellivision less popular than the Atari 2600. However, it is interesting to note that the method of controlling movement on the Intellivision (with the thumb) is emulated in many subsequent video game controllers. The joystick-style controller, as seen on the VCS, has not been widely emulated on later consoles.  
  More than 6 million Intellivision consoles were sold during its 12 year run.  
  There were a total of 125 Intellivision games released during the initial run; the Intellivision Lives! project has suggested new games may be offered in the 21st Century.  
  Ken Uston published Ken Uston's Guide to Buying and Beating the Home Video Games in 1982 as a guide to potential purchasers of console systems/cartridges, as well as a brief strategy guide to each cartridge then in existence. He described Intellivision as "the most mechanically reliable of the systems...The controller (used during "many hours of experimentation") worked with perfect consistency. The unit never had overheating problems, nor were loose wires or other connections encountered." However, Uston - whose reviews were based only on his own personal opinion - rated the controls and control system as "below average" and the worst of the consoles he tested (including Atari 2600, Magnavox Odyssey², Astrovision and Fairchild Channel F)  
  Amid the flurry of new hardware, there was trouble for the Intellivision. New game systems (ColecoVision, Atari 5200, and Vectrex, all in 1982) were further subdividing the market, and the video game crash began to put pressure on the entire industry. The Intellivision team rushed to finish a major new round of games, including Burger Time and the ultra-secret 3D glasses game Hover Force. Although Burger Time was a popular game on the Intellivision and was programmed by Blue Sky Ranger Ray Kaestner in record time, the five-month manufacturing cycle meant that the game did not appear until the late spring of 1983, after the video game crash had severely damaged game sales.

In the spring of 1983, Mattel went from aggressively hiring game programmers to laying them off within a two-week period. By August there were massive layoffs, and the price of the Intellivision II (which launched at $150 earlier that year) was lowered to $69. Mattel Electronics posted a $300 million loss. Early in 1984, the division was closed - the first high-profile victim of the crash.

Intellivision game sales continued when a liquidator purchased all rights to the Intellivision and its software from Mattel, as well as all remaining inventory. After much of the existing software inventory had been sold, former Mattel Marketing executive Terry Valeski bought all rights to Intellivision and started a new venture. The new company, INTV Corp., continued to sell old stock via retail and mail order. When the old stock of Intellivision II consoles ran out, they introduced a new console dubbed INTV III. This unit was actually a cosmetic rebadge of the original Intellivision console (this unit was later renamed the Super Pro System.) In addition to manufacturing new consoles, INTV Corp. also continued to develop new games, releasing a few new titles each year. Eventually, the system was discontinued in 1991.

Intellivision games became readily available again when Keith Robinson, an early Intellivision programmer responsible for the game TRON Solar Sailer purchased the software rights and founded a new company, Intellivision Productions. As a result, games originally designed for the Intellivision are available on PCs and modern-day consoles including the PlayStation 2, Xbox and Nintendo GameCube in the Intellivision Lives! package. A newer version of the Intellivision Lives! game is in development for the Nintendo DS, and a small number of licensed Intellivision games are available through the GameTap subscription gaming service. Also, several LCD handheld and direct-to-TV games have been released in recent years.
  Twelve-button numeric keypad (09, Clear, and Enter)  
  "Four" side-located "action buttons" (where the top two are actually electronically the same, giving three distinct buttons)  
  "Directional Disk", capable of detecting 16 directions of movement  
  "Overlays" that would slide into place as an extra layer on the keypad to show game-specific key functions  
  Fans of the game console recall that an overuse injury was possible when playing for extended periods of time due to the pressure needed to use the keypad and especially the side buttons. This was a phenomenon similar to BlackBerry Thumb today. The problem was worsened significantly when the cost-reduced Intellivision II changed from solid rubber side buttons to plastic ones with a hollow center, leaving a rectangular imprint on players' thumbs and causing pain after even short periods of play. The change was apparently made to fractionally reduce the materials cost of the units, and was never play-tested for usability due to the rush to bring the system to market in the early days of the Video game crash of 1983.  
  General Instrument CP1610 16-bit microprocessor CPU running at 894.886 kHz  
  1352 bytes of RAM:  
  240 × 8-bit Scratchpad Memory  
  352 × 16-bit (704 bytes) System Memory  
  512 × 8-bit Graphics RAM  
  7168 bytes of ROM:  
  4096 × 10-bit (5120 bytes) Executive ROM  
  2048 × 8-bit Graphics ROM  
  160 pixels wide by 196 pixels high (5×2 TV pixels make one Intellivision pixel)  
  16 color palette, all of which can be on the screen at once  
  8 sprites. Hardware supports the following features per-sprite:  
  Size selection: 8×8 or 8×16  
  Stretching: Horizontal (1×, 2×) and vertical (1×, 2×, 4× or 8×)  
  Mirroring: Horizontal and vertical  
  Collision detection: Sprite to sprite, sprite to background, and sprite to screen border  
  Priority: Selects whether sprite appears in front of or behind background.  
  3 channel sound, with 1 noise generator (audio chip: GI AY-3-8914)