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Intellivision logo.gif
Manufacturer Mattel Electronics
Type Home video game console
Generation Second generation
Retail availability 1979 US test market[1][2][3]
1980 NA (US$299 CA$399)[1][2][3]
1981 UK (£199)[4]
1982 Germany (DM499)
1982 Japan (¥49800)[5][6]
1983 Brazil[7]
Discontinued 1990 (1990)[1][2][3][8]
Units sold 3 million[1][2][3]
Removable storage ROM cartridge
Online services PlayCable
Best-selling game Major League Baseball (1 million)[1]

The Intellivision is a home video game console released by Mattel Electronics in 1979. The name intellivision is a portmanteau of "intelligent television". Development of the console began in 1978, less than a year after the introduction of its main competitor, the Atari 2600. Over 3 million Intellivision units were sold.[1][2][3]

In 2009, video game website IGN named the Intellivision the No. 14 greatest video game console of all time.[9] It remained Mattel's only video game console until the release of the HyperScan in 2006.

History and Development[edit]

Master Component[edit]

The Intellivision was developed at Mattel in Hawthorne, California along with their Mattel Electronics line of handheld electronic games. Mattel Electronics becoming a subsidiary in 1981.[3] The Intellivision was test marketed in Fresno, California in 1979 with a total of four games available.[10] It was released nationwide in 1980 with a price tag of US$299, a pack-in game: Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack and a library of ten cartridges.

Mattel began investigating a home video game system in 1977. It was to have rich graphics and long lasting gameplay to distinguish itself from its competitors. Mattel identified a newly designed chipset from National Semiconductor and negotiated better pricing for a simpler design.[11] Their consultant, APh Technological Consulting, suggested a General Instrument chipset,[12] listed as the Gimini programmable set in the GI 1977 catalog.[13] The GI chipset lacked reprogrammable graphics and Mattel worked with GI to implement changes. GI published an updated chipset in their 1978 catalog.[14] After initially choosing National in August 1977, Mattel waited for two months before ultimately going with the proposed GI chipset in the fall of 1977.[11] A team at Mattel, headed by David Chandler began engineering the hardware.[3] In 1978, David Rolfe of APh developed the executive control software (Exec) and with a group of Caltech summer student hires, programmed the first games. Graphics were designed by artists at Mattel that included Dave James.[15]

Though not the first system to challenge Warner Communications' Atari, it was the first to pose a serious threat to the market leader. A series of advertisements featuring George Plimpton were produced that demonstrated the superiority of the Intellivision's graphics and sound to those of the Atari 2600, using side-by-side game comparisons.[10] 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 other console's games had a blip sound and cruder graphics, while the Intellivision featured a realistic swing sound and striking of the ball, and graphics that suggested a more 3D look. There was also an advertisement comparing the Atari 2600 to it, featuring the slogan "I didn't know". In its first year, Mattel sold out its initial 175,000 production run of Intellivision "Master Components". In 1981, over 1 million Intellivision consoles were sold[16].

Gray rectangular console with two controllers. Controllers have number pads and circular dials
Super Video Arcade

The Intellivision Master Component was branded and distributed by various companies. Before Mattel shifted manufacturing to Hong Kong, Mattel Intellivisions were manufactured by GTE Sylvania[11]. GTE Sylvania Intellivisions were produced along with Mattel's with the brand name the only differentiation. The Sears Super Video Arcade[10], manufactured by Mattel in Hong Kong, has a restyled beige top cover and detachable controllers. The Sears Intellivsion also has a modified Exec removing "Mattel Electronics" from the default titlescreen. In 1983 Radio Shack marketed the Tandyvision One[17], similar to the original Intellivsion but with the gold plates replaced with more wood trim. In Japan Intellivisions were branded by Bandai in 1982, and in Brazil there were Digimed and Digiplay Intellivisions manufactured by Sharp in 1983.

the Games[edit]

Inside every Intellivison is 4K of ROM containing the Exec software. It provides two benefits: reusable code that can effectively make a 4K cartridge an 8K game, and a software framework for new programmers to develop games more easily and quickly. It also allows other programmers to more easily review and continue another's project. Under the supervision of David Rolfe (APh) and graphics supplied by Mattel artist Dave James, APh was able to quickly create a library of Intellivsion games using mostly summer students[18]. The drawback is that to be flexible and handle many different types of games the Exec runs less efficiently than a dedicated program. Intellivision games that leverage the Exec run at a 20Hz frame rate instead of the 60Hz frame rate for which the Intellivision was designed. Using the Exec framework is optional, but almost all Intellivision games released by Mattel Electronics are 20Hz. The limited ROM space also meant there was no room for computer artificial intelligence and many early games required two players.

Initially, all Intellivision games were programmed by an outside firm, APh Technological Consulting,[10] with 19 cartridges produced before 1981. Once the Intellivision project became successful, software development would be brought in-house. Mattel formed its own software development group and began hiring programmers. 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. During 1981 Mattel hired programmers as fast it could. Early in 1982 Mattel Electronics relocated from Mattel headquarters to an unused industrial building. Office renovation work happened as new staff moved in. 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.

Most of the early games were based on traditional concepts such as sports and other games, with an emphasis on realism and depth of play (allowed by the technology of the day). The Intellivision was not marketed as a toy and as such the games were not pick-up-and-play like arcade style games (eg. Sea Battle, B-17 Bomber). Reading the instructions was often a prerequisite to play. Every cartridge produced by Mattel Electronics included two plastic controller "overlays" to help navigate the 12 keypad buttons, although not every game made use of the keypad. Mattel organised their games into networks: Sports, Action, Strategy, Gaming, Children's Learning and later Space Action, and Arcade. The network concept was dropped in 1983, as were the convenient gate-fold style boxes for storing the cartridge, instructions, and overlays.

Starting in 1982 programmers looking for credit and royalties on sales began leaving both APh and Mattel Electronics. They joined Activision, Imagic, and Atari to create Intellivision games for third party publishers. Cheshire Engineering was created by a few senior APh programmers including David Rolfe, author of the Exec, and Tom Loughry who created one of the most popular Intellivision games Advanced Dungeons and Dragons[19]. Cheshire would create Intellivision games for Activision. In 1982 third party developers Activision, Imagic, and Coleco produced Intellivision games. And then Atari, Parker Brothers, Sega, and Interphase followed in 1983. The third party developers, not having legal access to Exec knowledge, often bypassed the Exec framework to create smooth 30Hz and 60Hz Intellivision games (eg. The Dreadnaught Factor). Cheaper ROM prices also allowed for larger games as 8K, 12K, and then 16K cartridges became common. The first Mattel Electronics Intellivision game to run at 60Hz was Masters of the Universe in 1983[20]. Marketing dubbed the term "Super Graphics" on the game's packaging and marketing.

Mattel Electronics's team of programmers was diverse in experience and talent, proving to be an advantage. As competitors were often depending on licensing well known trademarks to sell cartridges, Mattel would have to focus on original ideas. Don Daglow was a key early programmer at Mattel and became director of Intellivision game development. Daglow created Utopia, a precursor to the sim genre and the ground breaking sports simulation World Series Major League Baseball. Daglow was also involved with the popular Intellivision games Tron Deadly Discs and Shark! Shark![19]. After Mattel Electronics closed in 1984, their programmers would go on to make significant contributions to the video game industry. Don Daglow and Eddie Dombrower went on to Electronic Arts to create Earl Weaver Baseball, Don Daglow founded Stormfront Studios. Bill Fisher, Steve Roney and Mike Breen founded Quicksilver Software and David Warhol founded Realtime Associates[18].

Keyboard Component[edit]

The Keyboard Component code-named the Blue Whale also known as the Intelliputer[21]

From the beginning, Intellivision's packaging and promotional materials as well as television commercials, promised the addition of a soon-to-be-available accessory called the "Keyboard Component". The Intellivision was designed as a modular home computer. The Master Component could be purchased as a stand-alone video game system and the Keyboard Component could be added, providing the computer keyboard and tape drive. Not meant to be a hobbyist or business computer, the Intellivision home computer was meant to run pre-programmed software and bring "data flow" (Videotex) into the home[11].

The Keyboard Component added an 8-bit 6502 processor making the Intellivision a dual processor computer. It had 16K 10-bit shared RAM that could load and execute both Intellivision CP1610 and 6502 program code from tape; a large amount as typical cartridges of the day were 4K. The tape-drive reads/writes two tracks of digital data and two tracks of analog audio completely controlled by the computer. The tape-drive was block addressed with high speed indexing. A high resolution 40x24 monochrome text display could overlay regular Intellivision graphics. There was an input for a microphone and two expansion ports for peripherals and RAM expansion.[22] The Microsoft BASIC programming cartridge used one of these ports. Expanded memory could support 1000 8KB pages. A third pass-through cartridge port was for regular Intellivision cartridges. It uses the Intellivision's power supply. A 40-column thermal printer was available, and a telephone modem was planned along with voice synthesis and voice recognition.[23]

David Rolfe of APh wrote a control program for the Keyboard Component called PicSe (Picture Sequencer) specifically for the development of multimedia applications. PicSe synchronized the graphics and analog audio while concurrently saving or loading data to tape[24]. Productivity software for home finances, personal improvement, and self education were planned. Subject experts were consulted and their voices recorded and used in the software.

Three applications using the PicSe system were released on tape:

  • Conversational French
  • Jack Lalanne's Physical Conditioning
  • Spelling Challenge

Five BASIC applications were released on tape: Programs written in BASIC did not have access to Intellivision graphics

  • Family Budgeting
  • Geography Challenge
  • Crosswords I, II, and III

While the Keyboard Component was an ambitious piece of engineering for its time it was repeatedly delayed as the engineers tried to overcome the reliability issues and reduce manufacturing costs. In August 1979 the Intellivision Keyboard Component, in breadboard form, was successfully entered into the Sears Market Research Program. In December Mattel had production design working units but decided on a significant internal design change to consolidate circuit boards. In September 1980 it was test marketed in Fresno, California but without software, except for the BASIC programming cartridge. In the fall of 1981 design changes were finally implemented and the Keyboard Component was released at $600[3] in Seattle and New Orleans only.[11] Those that complained in writing could buy a Keyboard Component directly from Mattel. The printer, a rebadged Alphacom Sprinter 40[25], was only available by mail order. However, reliability problems continued and the Keyboard Component proved to be expensive to produce.

The keyboard component's repeated delays became so notorious around Mattel headquarters that comedian Jay Leno, when performing at Mattel's 1981 Christmas party, got his biggest titter of the evening with the line: "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 spring.'"[21]

Complaints from consumers who had chosen to buy the Intellivision specifically on the promise of a "coming soon" personal-computer upgrade that seemed as if it would never materialize eventually caught the attention of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), who started investigating Mattel Electronics for fraud and false advertising. Mattel said that the keyboard component was a real product still being test-marketed and even released a small number of keyboard components to a handful of retail stores, along with a handful of software titles in order to support this claim. The FTC eventually ordered Mattel to pay a $10,000 per day fine until the promised computer upgrade was in full retail distribution. To protect themselves from the ongoing fines, the keyboard component was officially canceled in August 1982 and the Entertainment Computer System (ECS) module offered up in its place.

While approximately four thousand keyboard components were manufactured before the module was canceled and recalled, it is not clear how many of them actually found their way into the hands of Intellivision customers. Today, very few of them still exist; when the keyboard component was officially canceled, part of Mattel's settlement with the FTC involved offering to buy back all of the existing keyboard components from dissatisfied customers. Any customer who opted to keep theirs was required to sign a waiver indicating their understanding that no more software would be written for the system and which absolved Intellivision of any future responsibility for technical support.[26] Many of the units were later used by Mattel Electronics programmers when it was discovered that a slightly modified Keyboard Component could be used with an Intellivision software-development system in place of the original hand-built interface boards.

The keyboard component debacle was ranked as No. 11 on GameSpy's "25 dumbest moments in gaming".[27]

Entertainment Computer System (ECS)[edit]

In mid-1981, Mattel's upper management was becoming concerned that the keyboard component division would never be able to produce a sellable product. As a result, Mattel Electronics set up a competing internal engineering team whose stated mission was to produce an inexpensive add-on called the "Basic Development System", or BDS, to be sold as an educational device to introduce kids to the concepts of computer programming.

The rival BDS engineering group, who had to keep the project's real purpose a secret among themselves, fearing that if David Chandler, the head of the keyboard component team, found out about it he would use his influence to end the project, eventually came up with a much less expensive alternative. Originally dubbed the "Lucky", from LUCKI: Low User-Cost Keyboard Interface, it lacked many of the sophisticated features envisioned for the original keyboard component. Gone, for example, was the 16K (8MB max) of RAM, the secondary CPU, and high resolution text; instead, the ECS offered a mere 2KB RAM expansion, a built-in BASIC that was marginally functional, plus a much-simplified cassette and printer interface.

Ultimately, this fulfilled the original promises of turning the Intellivision into a computer, making it possible to write programs and store them to tape, and interfacing with a printer well enough to allow Mattel to claim that they had delivered the promised computer upgrade and stop the FTC's mounting fines. It even offered, via an additional sound chip (AY-3-8916) inside the ECS module and an optional 49-key music synthesizer keyboard, the possibility of turning the Intellivision into a multi-voice synthesizer which could be used to play or learn music.

In the fall of 1982, the LUCKI, now renamed the Entertainment Computer System (ECS), was presented at the annual sales meeting, officially ending the ill-fated keyboard component project. A new advertising campaign was aired in time for the 1982 Christmas season, and the ECS itself was shown to the public at the January 1983 Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas. A few months later, the ECS hit the market, and the FTC agreed to drop the $10K per day fines.

By the time the ECS made its retail debut as the Intellivision Computer Module, an internal shake-up at the top levels of Mattel Electronics' management had caused the company's focus to shift away from hardware add-ons in favor of software, and the ECS received very little in terms of furthering the marketing push. Further hardware developments, including a planned Program Expander that would have added another 16K of RAM and a more intricate, fully featured Extended-BASIC to the system, were halted. In the end a half-dozen software titles were released for the ECS; a few more were completed but not released.

The ECS also offered four player game-play with the optional addition of two extra hand controllers. Four player games were in development when Mattel Electronics closed in 1984. World Cup Soccer was later completed and released in 1985 by Dextel in Europe and then INTV Corporation in North America. The documentation does not mention it but when the ECS Computer Adapter is used, World Cup Soccer can be played with one to four players, or two players cooperatively against the computer.


Main article: Intellivoice
Brown rectangular box with a volume knob
The Intellivoice add-on

In 1982 Mattel introduced a new peripheral for the Intellivision: the Intellivoice Voice Synthesis Module. A speech synthesizer which produces speech with compatible cartridges. The Intellivoice was original in two respects: human sounding male and female voices with distinct accents, and the speech-supporting games were designed with speech being an integral part of the game-play.

Like the Intellivision chip-set, the Intellivoice chip-set was developed by General Instrument. The SP0256-012 orator chip has 2KB ROM inside, and is used to store the speech for numerical digits, some common words, and the phrase "Mattel Electronics presents". Speech can also be processed from the Intellivoice's SP650 buffer chip, stored and loaded from cartridge memory. That buffer chip has its own I/O and the Intellivoice has a 30-pin expansion port under a removable top plate. Mattel Electronics planned to use that connector for wireless hand controllers.[28]

Mattel Electronics built a state of the art voice processing lab to produce the phrases used in Intellivoice games. However, the amount of speech that could be compressed into an 8K or 12K cartridge and still leave room for a game was limited. Intellivoice cartridges Space Spartans and B-17 Bomber did sell about 300,000 copies each, priced a few dollars more than regular Intellivision cartridges. However, at $79 the Intellivoice did not sell as well as Mattel expected, and Intellivoices were later offered free with the purchase of a Master Component[26]. In August 1983 the Intellivoice system was quietly phased out. A children's title called Magic Carousel, and foreign language versions of Space Spartans were completed but shelved. Additional games Woody Woodpecker and Space Shuttle went unfinished with the voice recordings unused.

The four titles available for the Intellivoice system, in order of their release, were:

A fifth title, Intellivision World Series Major League Baseball, developed as part of the Entertainment Computer System series, also supports the Intellivoice if both the ECS and Intellivoice are connected concurrently. Unlike the Intellivoice-specific games, however, World Series Major League Baseball is also playable without the Intellivoice module (but not without the ECS).

Intellivision II[edit]

rectangular gaming console with numerical gamepads connected with short, black spirals
The Intellivision II redesign was much smaller and cheaper to manufacture than the original.

In the spring of 1983, Mattel introduced the Intellivision II. Not the technology upgrade that was expected but a cheaper, compact replacement to the original. The Intellivision II was designed to be inexpensive to manufacture and service, with updated styling. The Intellivision II was initially released without a pack-in game but was later packaged with BurgerTime in the United States and Lock'N'Chase in Canada. In 1984 the Digiplay Intellivision II was introduced in Brazil[7]. Brasil was the only country outside North America to have the redesigned Intellivision II.

Using an external AC Adapter (16.2VAC), consolidating some ICs, and taking advantage of relaxed FCC emission standards, the Intellivision II has a significantly smaller footprint than the original. The controllers, now detachable, have a different feel with plastic rather than rubber side buttons, and a flat membrane keypad. Users of the original Intellivsion would miss the ability to find keypad buttons by the tactile feel of the original controller bubble keypad.

One functional difference was the addition of a video input to the cartridge port; added specifically to support the System Changer. The System Changer, also released in 1983 by Mattel, is an Intellivision peripheral that plays Atari 2600 cartridges through the Intellivision. The Intellivision hand controllers can be used to play Atari 2600 games. The System Changer also has two controller ports compatible with Atari joysticks. The original Intellivision requires a hardware modification in order to work with the System Changer; a service provided by Mattel. Otherwise the Intellivision II was promoted to be compatible with the original.

It was discovered that a few Coleco Intellivision games did not work on the Intellivision II. Mattel secretly changed the Intellivision's internal ROM program (Exec) in an attempt to lock out 3rd party titles[29]. A few of Coleco's early games were affected but the 3rd party developers quickly figured out how to get around it. Mattel's own Electric Company Word Fun, however, will not run on the Intellivision II due to this change. In an unrelated issue but also due to Exec changes, Super Pro Football experiences a minor glitch where the quarterback does not appear until after the ball is hiked. There were also some minor changes to the sound chip (AY-3-8914A/A-Y-3-8917) affecting sound affects in some games[30][31]. Programmers at Mattel discovered the audio differences and avoided the problem in future games[32].

Intellivision III[edit]

Mattel began designing their next generation console in mid-1982 codenamed Decade. It was based on the 32-bit MC68000 processor and a custom designed graphics chip. Specifications called for dual display support, 240x192 resolution bitmap and 40x24 tiled graphics modes, 16 multicolored sprites per line with 3D rotation and shading, 16 programmable 12-bit colours, four colours per tile, 3D rotate/zoom/shading[33]. A machine that could lead Mattel Electronics into the 1990s, however by August 1983 most hardware people at Mattel Electronics had been laid off. It's now sometimes referred to as the Intellivision IV.

Also in 1982, with new machines introduced by competitors, Mattel marketing wanted to bring an upgraded system to market sooner. The Intellivision III was to be an upgraded but backward compatible system; based on the same CP1610 processor but with an improved graphics STIC chip producing double the resolution with more sprites and colours. The Intellivision III existed in the lab and a new EXEC was written for it but little else.[34] It was cancelled in mid-1983.[35]

Competition and market crash[edit]

By 1982, sales were soaring. According to the company's 10-K report to the Securities and Exchange Commission , Mattel had staked out close to 20 percent of the domestic video-game market[16]. Intellivision was in millions of homes. Third-party game developers Activision, and Imagic began releasing games for the Intellivision, as did hardware rival Coleco. Mattel created "M Network" branded games for Atari's system. The advertisement budget raised to over $20 million for the year. In its October 1982 stockholders' report Mattel announced that Electronics had, so far that year, posted a nearly $100 million profit on nearly $500 million sales; a threefold increase over October 1981[36].

However, the same report predicted a loss for the upcoming quarter. Still hiring continued, and optimism that the investment in software and hardware development will payoff. The M Network brand expanded to personal computers. An office in Taiwan was opened to handle Apple II programming[37]. The original five-person Mattel game development team had grown to 110 people under new vice president Baum, while Daglow led Intellivision development and top engineer Minkoff directed all work on all other platforms. In February 1983, Mattel Electronics opened an office in the south of France to provide European input to Intellivision games and develop games for the ColecoVision[38][39]. At its peak Mattel Electronics employed 1800 people[40].

Amid the flurry of new hardware and software development, there was trouble for the Intellivision. New game systems (ColecoVision and Atari 5200) introduced in 1982 took advantage of falling RAM prices to offer graphics closer to arcade quality. In 1983 the price of home computers, particular the Commodore 64 came down drastically to compete with video game system sales. The market became flooded with hardware and software, and retailers were ill-equipped to cope.

At the June 1983 Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago, Mattel Electronics had the opportunity to show off all their new products. The response was underwhelming. Amidst massive losses, Mattel Electronics top management was replaced. Over-all Mattel cut 660 jobs including two-thirds of the Electronics programming staff in August. The price of the Intellivision II (which launched at $150 earlier that year) was lowered to $69, all new hardware development was stopped[3]. By October 1983 Electronics losses were over $280 million; more layoffs followed[36]. In 1983 750,000 Intellivision Master Components were sold. On January 20 1984 the remaining programming staff were laid-off, and on February 4 the Intellivision business was sold for $20 million[40].

INTV Corporation (1984-1990)[edit]

black and silver gaming console, with 2 gamepads that have a numbers and circular dials
INTV Corp produced their own Intellivision, the INTV System III, after buying the rights from Mattel following the market crash.

Former Mattel Electronics Senior Vice President of Marketing, Terrence Valeski, understood that although losses were huge, the demand for video games increased in 1983.[41] Valeski found investors and purchased the rights to Intellivision, the games, and inventory from Mattel.[40] A new company, Intellivision Inc, was formed and by the end of 1984 Valeski bought out the other investors and changed the name to INTV Corporation. They continued to supply the large toy stores and sold games through direct mail order. At first they sold the existing inventory of games and Intellivision II systems. When the inventory of games sold out they produced more, but without the Mattel name or unnecessary licenses on the printed materials. To lower costs, the boxes, instructions, and overlays were produced at lower quality compared to Mattel.

In 1985 INTV Corporation introduced the INTV System III, also branded as the Intellivision Super Pro System, using the same design as the original Intellivision model but in black and silver. That same year INTV Corp introduced two new games that were completed at Mattel but not released: Thunder Castle and World Championship Baseball. With their early success INTV Corp decided to produce new games and in 1986 introduced Super Pro Football, an update of Mattel NFL Football. INTV Corp continued a relationship that Mattel had with Data East and produced all new titles such as Commando in 1987. Also in 1987 INTV Corp released Dig Dug, purchased from Atari where the game was completed but not released in 1984. They also got into producing next generation games with the production of Monster Truck Rally for Nintendo NES in 1991.[41]


In 1989 INTV Corp and World Book Encyclopedia entered into an agreement to manufacture an educational video game system called Tutorvision.[42] It is a modified Intellivision, the case molded in light beige with gold and blue trim[43]. The graphics RAM increased to 2KB[44]. That is enough graphics RAM to buffer the entire screen, although it is not clear how much of it is addressable.

Games were designed by World Book, J. Hakansson Associates, and programmed by Realtime Associates. Sixteen titles were produced, plus one Canadain variation. However, the cartridges and the Tutorvision were never released; instead World Book and INTV Corporation sued each other. In 1990 INTV Corporation filed for bankruptcy protection and closed in 1991.[41] The Intellivision was discontinued in 1990 but INTV Corp did produce 21 new Intellivision cartridges bringing the Intellivision library to a total of 124 cartridges plus one compilation cartridge.

Intellivision Productions (1997 to present)[edit]

Intellivision games became readily available again when Keith Robinson and Stephen Roney, both former Intellivision programmers at Mattel, obtained exclusive rights to the Intellivision and games in 1997.[45] Their company, Intellivision Productions, released Intellivision Lives! and Intellivision Rocks, in 1999 and 2001. These compilation CDs play the original game code through emulators for MS-DOS, Windows, and Macintosh computers. They included some never before released games such as King of the Mountain, Takeover, Robot Rubble, League of Light and others. Some games could not be included due to licensing, others simply used different titles to avoid trademarked names. The CDs are also a resource for development history, box art, hidden features, programmer biographies, video interviews, and original commercials.[36]

In 2003, Crave Entertainment released a PlayStation 2 version of Intellivision Lives! and then Xbox and GameCube versions in 2004. In 2010 Virtual Play Games released Intellivision Lives! for the Nintendo DS including one never before released game, Blow Out. In 2008 Intellivision Lives! became available for purchase as a download through Xbox Live Game Marketplace's Xbox Originals service for the Xbox 360. VH1 Classic and MTV Networks released 6 Intellivision games to iOS.[46] A few licensed Intellivision games became available through the GameTap subscription gaming service in 2005.[47]

On March 24, 2010, Microsoft launched the Game Room service for Xbox Live and Games for Windows Live. This service includes support for Intellivision titles and allows players to compete against one another for high scores via online leaderboards.[48] At the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, Microsoft announced a version of Game Room for Windows Phone,[49] promising a catalog of 44 Intellivision titles.

On October 1, 2014, AtGames Digital Media, Inc., under license from Intellivision Productions, Inc., released the Intellivision Flashback Classic Console, a miniature sized Intellivision console with two original sized controllers. It comes with 60 Intellivision games built into ROM. Their Direct2Drive digital store has Windows compatible Intellivision compilations available for download purchase.[50]

Reviews and game guides[edit]

Ken Uston published Ken Uston's Guide to Buying and Beating the Home Video Games in 1982 as a guide to potential buyers of console systems/cartridges, as well as a brief strategy guide to numerous cartridge games 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 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).[51]

Jeff Rovin lists Intellivision as one of the seven major suppliers of videogames in 1982, and mentions it as "the unchallenged king of graphics", however stating that the controllers can be "difficult to operate", the fact that if a controller breaks the entire unit must be shipped off for repairs (since they did not detach at first), and that the overlays "are sometimes so stubborn as to tempt one's patience" .[52]

A 1996 article in Next Generation said the Intellivision "had greater graphics power than the dominant Atari 2600. It was slower than the 2600 and had less software available, but it was known for its superior sports titles."[53]


  • Intellivision can be considered the first 16-bit game console, as it has a 16-bit microprocessor.
  • The Intellivision was also the first system to feature downloadable games with PlayCable in 1981.
  • Intellivision was the first game console to provide real-time human voices in the middle of gameplay, courtesy of the IntelliVoice module.[54]
  • The first game controller with a directional thumb pad.[55]
  • The Intellivision was also the first game console or home computer to offer a musical synthesizer keyboard.
  • Intellivision was also the first console to have a complete built-in character font. While Odyssey² had a limited character font (uppercase alphabet, numerals, and some other characters), Intellivision's system font had complete upper- and lowercase alphabets, numerals, and almost all of the punctuation and symbols found on standard computer keyboards.
  • Utopia (1982) is credited as the game that spawned the construction and management simulation genre.
  • World Series Major League Baseball (1983) is considered to be the first sports simulation video game with a number of innovations: multiple views of a 3D calculated virtual play-field, statistical based game-play using real historical baseball player statistics, manager player substitutions, play-by-play speech, and save games or lineups to tape storage.

Technical specifications[edit]

dark brown gaming pad, with a circular controller and a number pad
The original Intellivision controller with no overlay inserted.
  • General Instrument CP1610 16-bit microprocessor CPU: 1 microsecond cycle time, 2MHz 2-phase clock[56] (1.7897725 MHz NTSC)
  • 1456 bytes of RAM:
    • 240 × 8-bit scratchpad memory (SRAM)
    • 352 × 16-bit (704 bytes) system memory, General Instrument RA-3-9600 dual ported, bridges CPU and STIC buses, 240 words used for graphics
    • 512 × 8-bit graphics RAM (SRAM)
  • 7168 bytes of ROM:
    • 4096 × 10-bit (5120 bytes) executive ROM
    • 2048 × 8-bit graphics ROM
  • Standard Television Interface Chip (STIC): General Instrument AY-3-8900/AY-3-8900-1[57]
    • 20x12 tiled playfield, tiles are 8x8 pixels for a resolution of 159x96 (right pixel not displayed)
      • 16 color palette, any two colors per tile
      • Colored Squares mode[58] allows each tile to have four different colored 4x4 blocks (eg. Snafu)
      • fine horizontal and vertical pixel scrolling
    • 8 sprites. Hardware supports the following features per-sprite:
      • coordinate addressable off screen for smooth edge entries and exits
      • Size selection: 8x8 or 8 pixels wide by 16 half-pixels high
      • Stretching: horizontal (1× or 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.
  • Three-channel sound, with one noise generator (audio chip: General Instrument AY-3-8914)
  • Connections:
    • 44-pin cartridge/expansion port
    • 2 x 9-pin controller connectors
      • inline pin connectors internally accessible on original Intellivision and INTV systems
      • DE-9 connectors externally accessible on Super Video Arcade and Intellivision II
    • RF audio/video connector (RCA style)

Game controller[edit]

The Intellivision controller features:

  • 12-button numeric keypad (0-9, clear, and enter)
  • Four side-located action buttons (where the top two are actually electronically the same, giving three distinct buttons)
  • A directional pad, capable of detecting 16 directions of movement
  • Laminated overlays that slide into place as an extra layer on the keypad to show game-specific key functions

The controller was ranked the fourth worst video game controller by IGN editor Craig Harris.[59]


  • Keyboard Component (limited availability)
  • PlayCable (availability through cable TV provider 1981-1983)
  • Intellivoice
  • Computer Module (includes the following)
    • Computer Adapter
      • adds two DE-9 hand controller connectors
      • supports standard audio cassette players, and serial printers[60]
    • Computer Keyboard
  • Music Synthesizer (requires Computer Adapter)
  • System Changer
  • Videoplexer (from Compro)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Mattel Intellivision — 1980–1984". ClassicGaming. IGN. Archived from the original on June 23, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-16. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Ask Hal: Frequently Asked Questions to the Blue Sky Rangers". Intellivision Productions. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Intellivision Productions Timeline". Intellivision Productions. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Marley, Scott (December 2016). "SG-1000". Retro Gamer. No. 163. Future Publishing. pp. 56–61. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b "Intellivision Historia Brasil"
  8. ^ Forster, Winnie (2005). The encyclopedia of consoles, handhelds & home computers 1972–2005. GAMEPLAN. p. 42. ISBN 3-00-015359-4. 
  9. ^ Top 25 Videogame Consoles of All Time: Intellivision is number 14, IGN. Retrieved November 2, 2011.
  10. ^ a b c d Barton, Matt and Loguidice, Bill (May 2008). A History of Gaming Platforms: Mattel Intellivision, Gamasutra.
  11. ^ a b c d e Intellivision History and
  12. ^ "Intellivion Productions - Intellivision hardware". 
  13. ^
  14. ^ Gimini TV game circuits
  15. ^ "DP Interview with David Rolfe"
  16. ^ a b Christian Science Monitor 1982/0504
  17. ^ "Playing Hardware to Get". Video Games. March 1983. pp. 19–20. Retrieved 26 May 2014. 
  18. ^ a b Where Are They Now?
  19. ^ a b Best Intellivision games
  20. ^
  21. ^ a b "Keyboard Component". Intellivision Lives. 
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ a b hardware
  27. ^ "Dumbest Moments". GameSpy. Archived from the original on 2008-12-31. 
  28. ^
  29. ^ "Intellivision Classic Video Game System / Intellivision II Console". Retrieved 1 January 2017. 
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^ Mitchell, Peter W. (1983-09-06). "A summer-CES report". Boston Phoenix. p. 4. Retrieved 10 January 2015. 
  36. ^ a b c "Intellivision Lives! PC/Mac CD"Intellivision Productions
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^ a b c New York Times 1984/02/04
  41. ^ a b c INTV Corp
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^ VH1 INTV from Quicksilver Software, Inc., another company run by a former Mattel programmer.
  47. ^
  48. ^ Fried, Ina (2010-03-24). "Xbox Game Room launches, but with issues". CNET News. Retrieved 2010-03-25. 
  49. ^ Cohen, D.S. (9 January 2011). "CES 2011 – Microsoft's Retro Game Room Announced for Windows Phone 7". Retrieved 9 January 2011. 
  50. ^!/promotion/88
  51. ^ Uston, Ken. Ken Uston's Guide to Buying and Beating the Home Video Games (Signet, 1982), p. 8.
  52. ^ "The Complete Guide to Conquering Video Games" by Jeff Rovin, Collier Books, 1982.
  53. ^ "The Next Generation 1996 Lexicon A to Z: Intellivision". Next Generation. No. 15. Imagine Media. March 1996. p. 35. 
  54. ^ "Intellivision Classic Video Game System / Intellivoice Module". Retrieved 1 January 2017. 
  55. ^ "Controller Update: Probing the World of the Exotic". Electronic Games. June 1983. pp. 24–28. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  56. ^
  57. ^
  58. ^
  59. ^ "Top 10 Tuesday: Worst Game Controllers". IGN. 2006-02-21. Retrieved 2013-09-25. 
  60. ^

External links[edit]