APF Imagination Machine

The APF Imagination Machine is a combination home video game console and home computer system released by APF Electronics Inc. in late 1979.[1] It has two separate components, the APF-M1000 game system, and an add-on docking bay with full sized typewriter keyboard and tape drive.[2] The APF-M1000 was built specifically to compete with the Atari 2600. The full APF Imagination Machine, including the APF-M1000 console and the IM-1 computer component, originally sold for around US$599 (equivalent to $2,110 in 2019).[3]

APF Imagination Machine
APF Imagination Machine Logo.png
ManufacturerAPF Electronics Inc.
TypeHome video game console, home computer
GenerationSecond generation
Release dateNovember 1979; 41 years ago (November 1979)[1]
Introductory priceUS$700 (equivalent to $2,466 in 2019)
MediaCartridges, Compact Cassette
CPUMotorola 6800 8-bit @ 0.89 MHz (3.579 MHz Oscillator divided by 4)
Memory9 KB RAM (expandable to 17 KB (8 KB / 16 KB + 1 KB)) , 14 KB ROM
GraphicsVideo Display Controller MC6847 @ 256×192×4, 128×192×8
SoundOne sound channel in 5 octaves


  • CPU: 8-bit 0.89 MHz Motorola 6800 (3.579 MHz Oscillator divided by 4)
  • ROM: 14 KB
  • RAM: 9 KB expandable to 17 KB (8 KB / 16 KB + 1 KB)
  • Video Display Controller: MC6847
  • Resolutions: 256×192×4 / 128×192×8
  • Colors: 8
  • One sound channel in 5 Octaves
  • Controllers: 2
    • 13 buttons
      • 0-9 numeric keypad
      • Clear and End key
      • Trigger
    • 4 way joystick


APF BasicEdit

The bundled APF Basic compiler allows any users to develop their own programs. Most retailers of the system offered a full and hefty instruction manual to explain how the specialized code works, and a tech sheet that specifies every function of every chip on the console, so as to allow the users to make the most efficient code possible. To encourage more home users to create their own games and trade them, a monthly mailing list lasted well through the video game crash of 1983 and into the next generation of consoles.

Special cassetteEdit

One of the most marketed features of the console is the dual-sided cassette drive that allows the user to write or use a stored program, and also to record or play audio. The feature is generally used for programmers to leave notes about their work, or for instructions to be read aloud before a game is played.


The console has a number of aftermarket add-ons:

  • RS232 Storage Cartridge
  • Floppy Disk Storage
  • 8k RAM Cartridge
  • Mini Floppy Disk Storage
  • Telephone Modem

It has a hub of sorts, generally called the "building block", which allows for the connection of some standard computer accessories.


In addition to the 1 Basic interpreter cartridge bundled with the system, only 15 official game cartridges were ever released by APF Electronics Inc, although several cartridges contain multiple games. Many games were created by an active programming community of owners and distributed through the monthly newsletter, released on cassette tape or printout.

The official game list is as follows:

  • Artist and Easel
  • Backgammon
  • Baseball
  • Blackjack
  • Bowling / Micro Match
  • Boxing
  • Brickdown / Shooting Gallery
  • Budget Manager
  • Casino
  • Catena
  • Hangman / Tic-Tac-Toe / Doodle
  • Pinball / Dungeon Hunt / Blockout
  • Rocket Patrol
  • Space Destroyers
  • UFO / Sea Monster / Break it down / Rebuild / Shoot

APF IM-2 consoleEdit

APF had planned on releasing a follow up to the original M1000 Imagination Machine game console, but went out of business just before the console could go to market. No official specs have ever been released, although some former employees have mentioned that it was essentially the same M1000 core with typical upgrades.[4]


The impetus for the Imagination Machine was to beat to market Atari's preannounced but never-launched plans to extend the Atari 2600 to become a home computer. The design was inspired by reverse engineering the TRS-80, Commodore Pet, and Apple I home computers. Working directly with Fairchild Semiconductor, the team got much of its I/O design from Andy Grove. The engineering department wanted to make the design modular for optional expansion, but the marketing department wanted to bundle some features, so the preliminary result was an integrated cassette tape drive. This was removed when, three months later, the first floppy drives appeared on the market as a superior storage technology.[4]


Games magazine said in mid-1980, "APF's hardware is impressively solid in both design and performance, and if you're not ready to plunk down $600, you can buy just the game system (MP 1000) for $130 and decide later if you really want the computer component. But it's the whole system that's exciting. If what you want is just a video game, you may as well stick with Atari."[2] Mechanix Illustrated in October 1980 called the system "one smart television that's inexpensive, completely programmable, and easy to use". The magazine praised its large RAM and ROM capacities, and called it the first computer that can let the user store new data on the same cassette as the application.[5]


  1. ^ a b Bassett, S. B. (May 12, 1980). "APF's Imagination Machine". InfoWorld. Vol. 2 no. 7. Palo Alto, CA: Popular Computing. pp. 14, 16. ISSN 0199-6649.
  2. ^ a b "The Imagination Machine". Games. July–August 1980. p. 59.
  3. ^ "The Imagination Machine - Georgia State University News -". Georgia State News Hub. 15 March 2018. Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  4. ^ a b Greenfield, Larry (May 2010). "The APF Imagination Machine". Retrieved July 26, 2013.
  5. ^ "Mechanix Illustrated Personal Computers Number 2". Mechanix Illustrated. October 1980.

External linksEdit