Palmtex Portable Videogame System

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Palmtex PVS / Super Micro
Home Computer Software Inc. Super Micro Logo.svg
Super micro branded console with cartridge and LightPak inserted.
Super micro branded console with cartridge and LightPak inserted.
Also known asPVS Command Console
ManufacturerPalmtex
TypeHandheld game console
GenerationSecond generation
Release date1984 (Possibly in January)
Introductory priceUS$49
Media4k ROM cartridge
Memory2k RAM (inside cartridge)
DisplayLCD 32x16 57.15×38.1 mm
InputR/M/P/A/B/C buttons, 2 8-directional D-pads, contrast dial, power switch
Power6 x AA batteries (4 x console / 2 x LightPak)

The Palmtex Portable Videogame System, or PVS, later renamed and distributed by Home Computer Software as the Super Micro, is a handheld video game console developed and manufactured by Palmtex, released in 1984, most likely in the month of January.

The system is incorrectly known and referred to as the Palmtex Super Micro, due to the fact that when the console was re-branded by Home Computer Software, the Palmtex logo could still be found on the console, alongside Super Micro.

The system has a number o quality issues, only three games are known to have been released, and sales seem to have been poor. As a result it is now a rare collectible system, although working units are still extremely prone to breaking with normal use.

History[edit]

Two different companies were involved with the console, Palmtex, who developed and manufactured it, and Home Computer Software, who later distributed it and published its games.

Palmtex Inc. was registered on November 12 1980 in San Fransisco, California[1].

In 1982, Palmtex distributed several electronic games, like the Tri-Screen Time & Fun series by VTech, in the United States. Most notably, they were considered by Nintendo to distribute several Game & Watch handhelds, like "Octopus" and "Donkey Kong", but it is unknown if the deal ever happened or if any Palmtex branded handhelds exist.[2]

Home Computer Software Inc. was registered on January 14 1983, in Sunnyvale California[3]. It recorded and distributed software in floppy diskettes[4].

In January 30, 1983, Palmtex announced the PVS, meaning "Palmsized Videogame System", making mention of its interchangeable cartridges, 3D effects due to several layers of glass providing depth, color graphics, sound control, and the inclusion of a pause button. The unit would retail for $30, while additional games would be $20. It's was described as a "dramatic design breakthrough" for handheld games[5].

Illustration of an early prototype with the Spellbound cartridge inserted.

In May 1983, more details about the console were revealed, showing an illustration of an early prototype, along with five different game cartridges announced for the system and a brief description of each, Crystals of Morga, Star Trooper, Mayday!, Spell Bound, and Mine Field[6]. The company hoped to have at least 12 different games including the five launch titles by the end of 1983, and release the system by March or April of 1984[7], however, by July 1983 the release date was pushed back to May 1984 [8], and Palmtex advertised that if one bought the system, the customer would additionally receive the game "Spell Bound" for free. [9]

Originally, the game cartridges would slide into the unit, compared to the final product where the cartridge clips into the back of the screen. The PVS name was changed to mean "Portable Videogame System".[10]

Palmtex also expected to release two new games each month for the system[11].

In 1984 at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which took place from January 7 to January 10, both companies attended the event;

  • Palmtex showcased the redesigned system, alongside three launch games, Outflank, React Attack, and Aladdin's Adventures[12].
  • Home Computer Software showcased three games they were publishing, Kids Say The Darnest Things To Computers, Plaqueman, and Pro Golf[13].

After Winter CES 1984[edit]

Although it had been slated for release around May, the system seems to have been released to the public for $49, with each additional game costing $15, sometime before January 26.[14] Besides this announcement, after the event, there is no further mention of Palmtex Inc., or its console, the PVS.

Home Computer Software however, kept selling their games and advertising them in magazines, from December 1983[15] after filing trademark for their logo[16] and January[17], to at least September[18]. They also helped distribute the rare Atari 2600 game The Music Machine[19] which is a clone of Kaboom!, and the Family Bible Fun series of games by Sparrow Records.[20]

This means that sometime in 1984 , Home Computer Software started to distribute the console, and in the process changing the name from PVS to Super Micro.

The systems are still branded as "Palmtex PVS", but have a sticker with "Super Micro" written on it placed over the logos in the console and cartridges. Super Micros still contain the Palmtex logo and copyright on the sticker at the bottom of the console.

This suggests that Palmtex first released the console and Home Computer Software latter took existing stock and rebranded it, however, LighPaks seem to be properly branded, and it’s unkown if they also have the PVS name underneath, as well as a retail box with Palmtex PVS branding never having been documented, puts into question if Palmtex ever released the console at all, or if existing stock was bought and redistributed with a name change.

It is unknown when or why this change took place, or when the console stopped being produced or sold, and in the end, both companies were suspended by the Franchise Tax Board at an unknown date.

The plan to release 2 new games each month doesn't seem to have materialized.

The CEO of Palmtex Esmail Amid-Hozour later went on to create Etón Corporation in 1986[21].

Hardware[edit]

The console has three different components: the PVS itself, the game cartridge, and the LightPak.

The PVS (Model Number 9000-R1) uses a clam-shell design that opens and closes using a plastic clip on the front. The two halves of the system are connected by hinges and a flexible flat cable. The top half contains the cartridge port and a polarizing layer for the LCD, which is located in each cartridge. The bottom half contains the battery compartment for 4 AA batteries, and speaker. The front of the console contains a power switch, 2 Player Controllers, which are D-pads with 8 directions, and 6 buttons, R (reset), M (mute) which turns the sound on or off from the internal speaker, P (pause) to pause the game, and three action buttons A, B and C. On the back there is a contrast dial for the LCD.

The game cartridges contain the main processor and ram, similar to the Microvision, as well as the monochrome 32x16 LCD with a color overlay with fixed sprites for the game graphics. They clip on the back of the display, and connect via 36 pins, 2 18-pin connectors on each side, and are necessary for turning on the console. The back of the cartridge contains a decal with the name of the console (PVS or Super Micro) and the name of the game.

The LightPak uses 2 AA batteries to power 6 light bulbs behind a textured diffuser to provide a back-light to the screen, and clips on top of the cartridge, enclosing it on its plastic shell, but is considered optional as it doesn't connect to the main circuit of the console like the cartridges do, and a room with adequate lighting makes it unnecessary for play, but the manual advises against direct sunlight.

It works by using the LCD to cover up the entire overlay of sprites with black squares (pixels), except the sprites being used at that moment. The light shines through the back of the translucent overlay and screen for visibility with either the light pack or ambient light.

Retail configurations[edit]

The console always came with a pack in game included alongside the LightPak. The games were both sold alongside the console or separately. One could also individually order either the console or LightPak from Home Computer Software.

The packaging for both the console and it's games follows a unique code format "A-x00x-B".

  • A represents the first letter of the game included in the packaging.
  • x00x could be either be 100x meaning it's included with the console or 200x meaning it's just the cartridge, and the last number is the number of the game.
  • B could either be P indicating the console was inside (possibly meaning PVS or Palmtex) or C indicating it was only the Cartridge.
Game Game Number Console Box Code Game Box Code
React Attack 1 R-1001-P R-2001-C
Aladdin's Adventures 2 A-1002-P A-2002-C
Outflank 3 O-1003-P O-2003-C

Hardware problems[edit]

The console is infamous for being of poor quality construction, the plastic is described as light and brittle, and due to the use of plastic clips during assembly of the cartridge and LightPak, as well as opening/closing the clam-shell design of the console, every time it is used, it seems at risk of breaking. The power switches also suffer from this problem. It is unknown if this problem exists since the launch of the console, or if age turned the plastic fragile.

The Cartridges are also prone to breaking, the LCD can easily rot and the connections can break, improperly covering up the sprites during game-play, hindering partially/completely the visuals of the game. In other cases the game just stops working at all.

The Light pack is also easily broken, the light bulbs inside often come loose, making it lose some of its functionality.

The battery compartment of the LightPak functions normally, but the one on the PVS has a problem where the cover needs to be inserted for the batteries to stay inside, and if the cover is closed all the way, it will be sealed shut, and require significant force to open, possibly scuffing or breaking the plastic.

Games[edit]

Although five games had been announced with intentions to make more, none of the five were released. Instead, only the three new games showcased at CES are known to have been released: React Attack, Aladdin's Adventures, and Outflank;[22]

React Attack[edit]

React Attack is a strategy game where the player needs to find the reactor room in 48 different rooms, before confronting a terrorist to stop a nuclear meltdown. There's a time limit of 15 minutes before the player looses the game.

Aladdin's Adventures[edit]

In Aladdin's Adventures, the player controls Aladdin against an evil genie who is trying to steal his magic carpets.

Outflank[edit]

Outflank is a game of Reversi on an 8x8 grid, with three difficulty levels. The player can undo a wrong move and swap places with an AI during game-play.

References[edit]

  1. ^ https://opencorporates.com/companies/us_ca/C1009445
  2. ^ "PALMTEX Octopus, Donkey Kong, Turtle Bridge, Snoopy Tenis". A show of Handhelds. Electronic Fun with Computer Games. Vol. 01 no. 02. Fun Games Publishing US. December 1982. p. 70. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  3. ^ https://opencorporates.com/companies/us_ca/C1131894
  4. ^ https://trademarks.justia.com/734/57/home-computer-software-inc-73457324.html
  5. ^ "Palmtex Puts Programmability In Your Palm". Arcade Express. Vol. 01 no. 13. 30 January 1983. p. 04. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  6. ^ Sharpe, Roger C. (May 1983). "Handy Crafts". Blips. Video Games. Vol. 01 no. 08. Pumpkin Press Inc. p. 10. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  7. ^ "Keyboards, Keypads, and Power". New Products. Electronic Fun with Computer Games. Vol. 01 no. 07. Fun Games Publishing US. May 1983. p. 12. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  8. ^ "Hand-Held Cartridges". Technocracy. Joystik. Vol. 01 no. 06. July 1983. p. 62. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  9. ^ "PVS Offers Two For One". Electronic Games. Vol. 01 no. 17. July 1983. p. 18. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  10. ^ "Stand-Alone Preview 83'". Electronic Games. Vol. 01 no. 17. July 1983. p. 31. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  11. ^ "Hardware Beat". Electronic Games. Vol. 02 no. 11. July 1983. p. 18. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  12. ^ Sharpe, Roger C. (April 1984). "CONVENTIONAL WISDOM Spotlighting Developments At The Winter CES". Video Games. Vol. 02 no. 07. Pumpkin Press Inc. p. 37. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  13. ^ Uston, Ken; Leyenberger, Arthur (May 1984). "Computer Games Flourish at CES". Creative Computing. Vol. 10 no. 05. Ziff Davis. p. 144. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  14. ^ "In The Palm Of Your Hand". News Desk. Popular Computing Weekly. Vol. 03 no. 4. 26 January 1984. p. 05. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  15. ^ "New Arrivals". Game Library. Softline. Vol. 03. December 1983. p. 05. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  16. ^ https://trademarks.justia.com/734/57/home-computer-software-inc-73457324.html
  17. ^ "Programs With A Purpose". Family Computing. Vol. 02 no. 1. January 1984. p. 97. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  18. ^ Bumgarner, Marlene Anne (September 1984). "Education/Fun Learning Activities". What's In Store Software Reviews. Family Computing. Vol. 02 no. 9. p. 120. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  19. ^ https://atariage.com/box_page.php?SoftwareLabelID=321
  20. ^ http://www.atarimania.com/list_games_atari-400-800-xl-xe-homecomputer-software_developer_721_8_G.html
  21. ^ https://etoncorp.com/pages/about-us
  22. ^ http://www.handheldmuseum.com/Misc/PalmtexSuperMicro.htm