Second generation of video game consoles

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History of video games

In the history of video games, the second-generation era refers to computer and video games, video game consoles, and handheld video game consoles available from 1976 to 1992. Notable platforms of the second generation include the Fairchild Channel F, Atari 2600, Intellivision, Odyssey², and ColecoVision. The generation began in November 1976 with the release of the Fairchild Channel F. [1] This was followed by the Atari 2600 in 1977, [2] Magnavox Odyssey² in 1978, [3] Intellivision in 1980 [4] and then the Emerson Arcadia 2001, ColecoVision, Atari 5200, and Vectrex, [5] all in 1982. By the end of the era, there were over 15 different consoles. It coincided with, and was partly fueled by, the golden age of arcade video games. This peak era of popularity and innovation for the medium resulted in many games for second generation home consoles being ports of arcade games. Space Invaders , the first arcade game to be ported, was released in 1980 for the Atari 2600. [6] Coleco packaged Nintendo's Donkey Kong with the ColecoVision when it was released on August 1982.

History of video games aspect of history

The history of video games goes as far back as the early 1950s, when academic computer scientists began designing simple games and simulations as part of their research or just for fun. At M.I.T. in the 1960s, professors and students played games such as 3D tic-tac-toe and Moon Landing. These games were played on computer such as the IBM 1560, and moves were made by means of punch cards. Video gaming did not reach mainstream popularity until the 1970s and 1980s, when video arcade games and gaming consoles using joysticks, buttons, and other controllers, along with graphics on computer screens and home computer games were introduced to the general public. Since the 1980s, video gaming has become a popular form of entertainment and a part of modern popular culture in most parts of the world. One of the early games was Spacewar!, which was developed by computer scientists. Early arcade video games developed from 1972 to 1978. During the 1970s, the first generation of home consoles emerged, including the popular game Pong and various "clones". The 1970s was also the era of mainframe computer games. The golden age of arcade video games was from 1978 to 1982. Video arcades with large, graphics-decorated coin-operated machines were common at malls and popular, affordable home consoles such as the Atari 2600 and Intellivision enabled people to play games on their home TVs. During the 1980s, gaming computers, early online gaming and handheld LCD games emerged; this era was affected by the video game crash of 1983. From 1976 to 1992, the second generation of video consoles emerged.

A video game console is a computer device that outputs a video signal or visual image to display a video game that one or more people can play.

Handheld game console lightweight, portable electronic device used for gaming

A handheld game console, or simply handheld console, is a small, portable self-contained video game console with a built-in screen, game controls, and speakers. Handheld game consoles are smaller than home video game consoles and contain the console, screen, speakers, and controls in one unit, allowing people to carry them and play them at any time or place.

Contents

Built-in games, like those from the first generation, saw limited use during this era. This was due to the invention of game cartridges by Jerry Lawson for the Fairchild Channel F. [7] The first system of the generation and some others, such as the RCA Studio II, still came with built-in games [8] while also having the capability of utilizing cartridges. [9] The popularity of game cartridges grew after the release of the Atari 2600. From the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, most home video game systems used cartridges until the technology was replaced by optical discs. The Fairchild Channel F was also the first console to use a microprocessor, which was the driving technology that allowed the consoles to use cartridges. [10] Other technology such as screen resolution, color graphics, audio, and AI simulation was also improved during this era.

In the history of video games, the first-generation era refers to the computer game and video games, video game consoles, and video game handhelds available from 1972 to 1983. Notable consoles of the first generation included the Odyssey series released from 1972 to 1978, the Atari Home Pong released in 1975, the Coleco Telstar series released from 1976 to 1978 and the Color TV-Game series released from 1977 to 1980. The generation ended with the Computer TV-Game in 1980 but many manufacturers had left the market prior to this due to the video game crash of 1977 and the start of the second generation.

Jerry Lawson (engineer) video game developer

Gerald Anderson "Jerry" Lawson was an American electronic engineer, and one of the few African-American engineers in the industry at that time. He is known for his work in designing the Fairchild Channel F video game console as well as pioneering the commercial video game cartridge.

Fairchild Channel F first video game console that uses programmable cartridges

The Fairchild Channel F, F for Fun, is a second-generation home video game console that was released by Fairchild Camera and Instrument in November 1976 across North America at a retail price of $169.95. It was also released in Japan in October the following year. It has the distinction of being the first programmable ROM cartridge–based video game console, and the first console to use a microprocessor. It was originally named Video Entertainment System, or VES, but when Atari released its VCS the next year, Fairchild changed the name for its machine, although they continued to use the old name alongside it. By 1977, the Fairchild Channel F had sold about 250,000 units, trailing behind sales of the VCS.

In 1979, gaming giant Activision was created by former Atari programmers [11] and was the first third-party developer of video games. [12] By 1982, the shelf capacity of toy stores was overflowing with an overabundance of consoles, over-hyped game releases, and low-quality games from new third-party developers. An over-saturation of consoles and games, [13] coupled with poor knowledge of the market, saw the video game industry crash in 1983 and marked the start of the next generation. Beginning in December 1982 and stretching through all of 1984, the crash of 1983 caused major disruption to the North American market. [14] [15] Some developers collapsed and almost no new games were released in 1984. The market did not fully recover until the 3rd generation. [4] The second generation officially ended on January 1, 1992, with the discontinuation of the Atari 2600. [16]

Activision American video game publisher

Activision Publishing, Inc. is an American video game publisher based in Santa Monica, California. It currently serves as the publishing business for its parent company, Activision Blizzard, and consists of several subsidiary studios. Activision is one of the largest third-party video game publishers in the world and was the top United States publisher in 2016.

Atari brand name owned by Atari Interactive

Atari is a brand name owned by several entities since its inception in 1972, currently by Atari Interactive, a subsidiary of the French publisher Atari, SA. The original Atari, Inc., founded in Sunnyvale, California in 1972 by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, was a pioneer in arcade games, home video game consoles, and home computers. The company's products, such as Pong and the Atari 2600, helped define the electronic entertainment industry from the 1970s to the mid-1980s.

A video game developer is a software developer that specializes in video game development – the process and related disciplines of creating video games. A game developer can range from one person who undertakes all tasks to a large business with employee responsibilities split between individual disciplines, such as programming, design, art, testing, etc. Most game development companies have video game publisher financial and usually marketing support. Self-funded developers are known as independent or indie developers and usually make indie games.

Home systems

Fairchild Channel F

The Fairchild Channel F, also known early in its life as the Fairchild Video Entertainment System (VES), was released by Fairchild Semiconductor in November 1976 and was the first console of the second generation. [17] It was the world's first CPU-based video game console, introducing the cartridge-based game code storage format. [18] The console featured a pause button that allowed players to freeze a game. This allowed them to a break without the need to reset or turn off the console so they did not lose their current game progress. [19] Fairchild released twenty-six different cartridges for the system, with up to four games being on each cartridge. The console came with two pre-installed games, Hockey and Tennis. [20]

Atari 2600 & 5200

An Atari 2600 game joystick controller Atari-2600-Joystick.jpg
An Atari 2600 game joystick controller

In 1977, Atari released its CPU-based console called the Video Computer System (VCS), later called the Atari 2600. [21] Nine games were designed and released for the holiday season. Atari held exclusive rights to most of the popular arcade game conversions of the day. They used this key segment to support their older hardware in the market. This game advantage and the difference in price between the machines meant that each year, Atari sold more units than Intellivision, lengthening its lead despite inferior graphics. [22] The Atari 2600 went onto to sell over 30 million units over its lifetime, considerably more than any other console of the second generation. [23] In 1982, Atari released the Atari 5200 in an attempt to compete with the Intellivision. While superior to the 2600, poor sales and lack of new games meant Atari only supported it for two years before it was discontinued. [24]

Arcade game Coin-operated entertainment machine

An arcade game or coin-op game is a coin-operated entertainment machine typically installed in public businesses such as restaurants, bars and amusement arcades. Most arcade games are video games, pinball machines, electro-mechanical games, redemption games or merchandisers. While exact dates are debated, the golden age of arcade video games is usually defined as a period beginning sometime in the late 1970s and ending sometime in the mid-1980s. Excluding a brief resurgence in the early 1990s, the arcade industry subsequently declined in the Western hemisphere as competing home video game consoles such as the Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox increased in their graphics and game-play capability and decreased in cost. The eastern hemisphere retains a strong arcade industry.

Early Atari 2600 cartridges contained 2 kilobytes of read-only storage. This limit grew steadily from 1978 to 1983: up to 16 kilobytes for Atari 5200 cartridges. Bank switching , a technique that allowed two different parts of the program to use the same memory addresses, was required for the larger cartridges to work. The Atari 2600 cartridges got as large as 32 kilobytes through this technique. [25] The Atari 2600 had only 128 bytes of RAM available in the console. A few late game cartridges contained a combined RAM/ROM chip, thus adding another 256 bytes of RAM inside the cartridge itself. The Atari standard joystick was a digital controller with a single fire button released in 1977. [26]

Bank switching

Bank switching is a technique used in computer design to increase the amount of usable memory beyond the amount directly addressable by the processor. It can be used to configure a system differently at different times; for example, a ROM required to start a system from diskette could be switched out when no longer needed. In video game systems, bank switching allowed larger games to be developed for play on existing consoles.

Memory address data concept used at various levels by software and hardware to access the computers primary storage memory; fixed-length sequence of digits conventionally displayed and manipulated as unsigned integers

In computing, a memory address is a reference to a specific memory location used at various levels by software and hardware. Memory addresses are fixed-length sequences of digits conventionally displayed and manipulated as unsigned integers. Such numerical semantic bases itself upon features of CPU, as well upon use of the memory like an array endorsed by various programming languages.

Bally Astrocade

The Bally Astrocade was released in 1977 and was available only through mail order. [27] It was originally referred to as the Bally Home Library Computer. [27] [28] Delays in the production meant that none of the units shipped until 1978. By this time, the machine had been renamed the Bally Professional Arcade. [28] In this form, it sold mostly at computer stores and had little retail exposure, unlike the Atari VCS. The rights to the console were sold to Astrovision in 1981. They re-released the unit with the BASIC cartridge included for free; this system was known as the Bally Computer System. [28] When Astrovision changed their name to Astrocade in 1982 they also changed the name of the console to the Astrocade to follow suit. It sold under this name until the video game crash of 1983 when it was discontinued. [29]

Magnavox Odyssey²

In 1978, Magnavox released its microprocessor-based console, the Odyssey², in the United States and Canada. [30] It was distributed by Philips Electronics in the European market and was released as the Philips G7000. [31] A defining feature of the system was the speech synthesis unit add-on which enhanced music, sound effects and speech capabilities. [32] The Odyssey² was also known for its fusion of board and video games. Some titles would come with a game board and pieces which players had to use in conjunction to play the game. Although the Odyssey 2 never became as popular as the Atari consoles, it sold 2 million units throughout its lifetime. This made it the third best selling console of the generation. [33] It was discontinued in 1984.[ citation needed ]

Intellivision

The Intellivision was introduced by Mattel to test markets in 1979 [34] and nationally in 1980. The Intellivision console contained a 16-bit processor with 16-bit registers and 16-bit system RAM. This was long before the "16-bit era". [35] Programs were however stored on 10-bit ROM. It also featured an advanced sound chip that could deliver output through three distinct sound channels. [35] The Intellivision was the first console with a thumb-pad directional controller and tile-based playfields with smooth, multi-directional scrolling. The system's initial production run sold out shortly after its national launch in 1980. [35] Early cartridges were 4 kilobyte ROMs, which grew to 24 kilobytes for later games.

The Intellivision introduced several new features to the second generation. It was the first home console to use a 16-bit microprocessor and offer downloadable content through the PlayCable service. [36] It also provided real-time human voices during gameplay. It was the first console to pose a serious threat to Atari's dominance. A series of TV advertisements featuring George Plimpton were run. They used side-by-side game comparisons to show the improved graphics and sound compared with those of the Atari 2600. [35] It sold over 3 million units [37] before being discontinued in 1990. [38]

Vectrex

The Vectrex was released in 1982. It was unique among home systems of the time in featuring vector graphics and its own self-contained display. [39] At the time, many of the most popular arcade games used vector displays. Through a licensing deal with Cinematronics, GCE was able to produce high-quality versions of arcade games such as Space Wars and Armor Attack. Despite a strong library of games and good reviews, the Vectrex was ultimately a commercial failure. [40] It was on the market for less than 2 years. [41]

Comparison

Name Fairchild Channel F Atari VCS/2600
Sears Video Arcade
Bally Astrocade Magnavox Odyssey² Intellivision
Manufacturer Fairchild Semiconductor Atari Bally Technologies Magnavox Mattel
Console Fairchild-Channel-F-System-II-Console.png Atari-2600-Console.jpg Bally-Arcade-Console.png Magnavox-Odyssey-2-Console-Set.png Intellivision-Console-Set.png
Launch pricesUS$169.95 (equivalent to $750in 2018)US$199 [42] (equivalent to $830in 2018)US$299 [27] (equivalent to $1,240in 2018)US$200 (equivalent to $770in 2018)

JP¥49,800 (equivalent to ¥ 75,900in 2019)

US$299 [34] (equivalent to $910in 2018)
Release date
  • USA: November 1976
  • JP: October 1977
  • USA: September 1977
  • EU: 1978
  • JP: May 1983
[43]
  • EU: December 1978
  • USA: February 1979
  • JP: 1982
  • BR: 1983
  • USA: Test marketed in 1979. Official release in 1980
  • EU: 1982
  • JP: 1982
MediaCartridgeCartridge and Cassette (Cassette available via special 3rd party attachment)Cartridge and cassette/Floppy, available with ZGRASS unitCartridgeCartridge
Top-selling games Videocart-17: Pinball Challenge Pac-Man , 7 million (as of September 1, 2006) [44] [45] N/AN/A:Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack 1.939 million
Major League Baseball 1.085 million (as of June 1983) [46] [47]
Backward compatibility N/AN/AN/ANoneAtari 2600 games through the System Changer module
Accessories (retail)N/A
  • ZGRASS unit
  • The Voice
  • Chess Module
CPU 1.79 MHz (PAL 2.00 MHz) Fairchild F8 1.19 MHz MOS Technology 6507 1.789 MHz Zilog Z80 1.79 MHz Intel 8048 8-bit microcontroller 894.886 kHz General Instrument CP1610
Memory Main RAM 64 bytes
Video RAM 2 kB (2×128×64 bits)
128 bytes RAM within MOS Technology RIOT chip (additional RAM may be included in game cartridges)Main RAM 4 kB (up to 64 kB with external modules in the expansion port)CPU-internal RAM: 64 bytes
Audio/video RAM: 128 bytes
Main RAM 524 bytes

Video RAM 932 bytes

Video Resolution

102×58 to 128×64 [48]

160×192

True: 160×102
Basic: 160×88
Expanded RAM: 320×204

160×200 (NTSC)

160x96 (20x12 tiles of 8x8 pixels)

Palette

8 colors

128 colors (NTSC)
104 colors (PAL)
8 colors (SECAM)

32 colors (8 intensities)

16 colors (fixed); sprites use 8 colors

16 color

Colors on Screen

8 simultaneous (maximum of 4 per scanline)

128 simultaneous (2 background colors and 2 sprite colors (1 color per sprite) per scanline)

True: 8
Basic: 2

16 simultaneous

Sprites

1

2 sprites, 2 missiles, and 1 ball per scanline

Unlimited (software controlled)

  • 4 8×8 single-color user-defined sprites
  • 12 8×8 single-color characters; 64 shapes built into ROM BIOS;
  • 4 quad characters;
  • 9×8 background grid; dots, lines, or blocks

8 sprites, 8x16 half-pixels

OtherSmooth multi-directional hardware scrolling
AudioMono audio with:
  • 500 Hz, 1 kHz, and 1.5 kHz tones (can be modulated quickly to produce different tones)
Mono audio with:
  • two channel sound
  • 5-bit frequency divider and 4-bit audio control register
  • 4-bit volume control register per channel
Mono audio with:
  • 3 voices
  • noise/vibrato effect
Mono audio with:
  • 24-bit shift register, clockable at 2 frequencies
  • noise generator
Mono audio with:
Name Emerson Arcadia 2001 ColecoVision Atari 5200 Vectrex
Manufacturer Emerson Radio Corporation Coleco Atari General Consumer Electric and Milton Bradley
Console Emerson-Arcadia-2001.png ColecoVision-wController-L.jpg Atari-5200-4-Port-wController-L.jpg Vectrex-Console-Set.png
Launch pricesUS$200 [49] (equivalent to $520in 2018)US$175 [42] (equivalent to $450in 2018)US$270 [42] (equivalent to $700in 2018)US$199 [50] (equivalent to $520in 2018)
Release date
  • USA: August 1982
  • EU: 1982
  • USA: November 1982
  • USA: November 1982
  • EU: May 1983
  • JP: June 1983
MediaCartridge [49] Cartridge and Cassette, available with Expansion #3CartridgeCartridge
Top-selling games N/A Donkey Kong (pack-in)N/AN/A
Backward compatibility N/ACompatible with Atari 2600 Via Expansion #1Atari 2600 games through the 2600 cartridge adapterN/A
Accessories (retail)N/A
  • Expansion #1
  • Expansion #2
  • Expansion #3
  • Roller Controller
  • Super Action Controller Set
  • Trak-Ball Controller
  • Atari 2600 adaptor
  • 3-D Imager
  • Light Pen
CPU 3.58 MHz Signetics 2650 CPU3.58 MHz Zilog Z80A 1.79 MHz Custom MOS 6502C 1.5 MHz Motorola 68A09
Memory512 bytes RAMMain RAM 1 kB
Video RAM 16 kB
Main RAM 16 kB DRAM Main RAM 1 kB
Video Resolution

128x208 / 128×104

256×192

80×192 (16 color)
160×192 (4 color)
320×192 (2 color) [51]

Palette

16 colors

15 colors, 1 transparent

256 colors

2 (black and white)

Colors on Screen

16 simultaneous (1 color per sprite)

16 simultaneous, [51] Up to 256 (16 hues, 16 luma) on screen (16 per scanline) with display list interrupts

2 simultaneous (black and white)

Sprites

32 sprites (4 per scanline), 8×8 or 8×16 pixels, integer zoom

8 single-color sprites, full height of display; 1/2/4x width scaling

Other

Tilemap playfield, 8×8 tiles

Built in vector CRT

AudioMono audio with:
  • Single Channel "Beeper"
  • Single Channel "Noise"
Mono audio with:
  • 3 tone generators
  • 1 noise generator
Mono audio with:
  • 4-channel sound
Mono (built-in speaker)

Sales standings

The best-selling console of the second generation was the Atari 2600 at 30 million units. [53] As of 1990, the Intellivision had sold 3 million units. [54] [34] [38] This is around 1 million higher than the Odyssey² and ColecoVision sales [55] [56] and eight times the number of purchases for the Fairchild Channel F, which was 250,000 units. [57]

ConsoleUnits sold worldwide
Fairchild Channel F 0.25 million (as of February 12, 2012) [57]
Atari 2600 30 million (as of 2004) [53]
Magnavox Odyssey² 2 million (as of 2005) [33]
Intellivision 3 million (as of 2004) [37] [34] [58]
ColecoVision 2 million (as of 1983) [59]
Atari 5200 1 million (as of 1984) [60]
Bally Astrocade Unknown
Emerson Arcadia 2001 Unknown
Vectrex Unknown

Other consoles

Handheld systems

Bradley Microvision

The Microvision, manufactured and sold by Milton-Bradley. was released in 1979. [66] It was the first handheld game console that used cartridges that could be swapped out and that contained their own processor as the console itself had no on-board processor. It had a small game library which was prone to damage from static electricity and the LCD screen could also rot. These two factors contributed to its discontinuation two years after release. [67]

Entex Select-A-Game & Adventure Vision

Entex released two handheld systems in the second generation, the Select-A-Game and the Adventure Vision. There were 6 games available for the Select-A-Game but it was only available for a year until focus shifted to the Adventure Vision which was released in the following year.

The Adventure Vision was released only in North America in 1982 by Entex and was the successor to the Select-A-Game. [68] It was unique among the consoles as it used spinning mirror system for it's built in display and had to be used set down on a surface due to its size and shape. [69] It was discontinued one year later in 1983 after selling just over fifty thousand units. [68]

Palmtex Super Micro

Developed and manufactured by Palmtex, the Super Micro was released in 1984 and discontinued later that year. Due to financial problems between Palmtex and Home Computer Software, only 3 games were released for the system despite more being planned. It was criticized for its poor build quality and how easily it would break and went on to sell less than thirty seven thousand units.

Epoch Game Pocket Computer

The Epoch Game Pocket Computer was released in Japan in 1984. [70] Due to poor sales, only five games were made for it and was not released outside of Japan. [71]

Nintendo Game & Watch

The Game & Watch was a series of 60 handheld consoles that contained a single game in each release. The first, titled "Ball" was released in 1980 and titles were released up until it was discontinued in 1991. [72] Unlike the other handheld consoles in the second generation, the Game & Watch had a segmented LCD screen similar to a digital watch which limited the display to the configuration of the segments. The series sold a combined 43.4 million units making it the most popular handheld of the generation.

Comparison

Console Microvision Entex Select-A-Game Adventure Vision
Manufacturer Milton Bradley Entex Industries Entex Industries
Image Milton-Bradley-Microvision-Handheld-FL.jpg Entex-SelectAGame.jpg Entex-AdventureVision.jpg
Launch priceUS$49.99 (equivalent to $173in 2018)US$59 (equivalent to $163in 2018) [73] US$79.99 (equivalent to $208in 2018)
Release dateNovember 1979 [74] 1981 [75] Flag of the United States.svg 1982
Units sold UnknownUnknown50,757
MediaCartridgeCartridgeCartridge
CPUMain: None

Cartridge: 100 kHz Intel 8021

Main: None (CPU was contained within the cartridge)

Cartridge: Hitachi HD38800

733 kHz Intel 8048
Memory64 bytes RAM64 bytes RAM (on CPU)

1 kilobyte (on main PCB)

Video16 x 16 pixel LCD 7 x 16 pixel VFD

2 colors (red & blue)

150 x 40 pixel spinning mirror system

Monochrome

AudioPiezo Buzzer National Semiconductor COP411L @ 52.6 kHz
Console Super Micro Epoch Game Pocket Computer Game & Watch
ManufacturerPalmtex Epoch Nintendo
Image Palmtex-SuperMicro.jpg Epoch-Game-Pocket-Computer-FL.jpg Game&watch-donkey-kong-2.jpg
Launch priceUS$39.95 (equivalent to $96in 2018)¥12,000 (equivalent to ¥14,547in 2019)¥5,800 (equivalent to ¥7,031in 2019) [76]
Release dateMay 1984 [77] Flag of Japan.svg 1984April 28, 1980
Units sold Fewer than 37,200Unknown43.4 million
MediaCartridgeCartridge1 built in game per device
CPUNone (CPU was contained within the cartridge)6 MHz NEC D78c06
Memory2 kilobytes RAM
Video32 x 16 pixel LCD

57.15 x 38.1mm

75 x 64 pixel LCDSegmented LCD
AudioPiezo Buzzer

Software

Milestone titles

See also

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Atari, Inc. Defunct American video game and home computer company

Atari, Inc. was an American video game developer and home computer company founded in 1972 by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney. Primarily responsible for the formation of the video arcade and modern video game industries, the company was closed and its assets split in 1984 as a direct result of the Video game crash of 1983.

A home video game console, or simply home console, is a video game device that is primarily used for home gamers, as opposed to in arcades or some other commercial establishment. Home consoles are one type of video game consoles, in contrast to the handheld game consoles which are smaller and portable, allowing people to carry them and play them at any time or place, along with microconsoles and dedicated consoles.

M Network former video game division of Mattel

M Network was a video game division of Mattel that, in the 1980s, produced games in cartridge format for the Atari 2600 video game system.

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