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The ColecoVision is Coleco Industries' second-generation home video-game console that was released in August 1982. The ColecoVision offered a closer experience to more powerful arcade game systems compared to competitors such as the Atari 2600 and Atari 5200, along with the means to expand the system's basic hardware.
|Manufacturer||Coleco Industries, Inc.|
|Type||Home video game console|
|Units sold||over 2 million (1982-83) |
|Controller input||Joystick/Numeric Keypad|
Super Action Controller
|Best-selling game||Donkey Kong (pack-in)|
|Predecessor||Telstar series (1978)|
The initial catalog of twelve games included Nintendo's Donkey Kong as the pack-in cartridge, Sega's graphically impressive Zaxxon, and some lesser known arcade titles that found a larger audience on the console, such as Lady Bug, Cosmic Avenger, and Venture. Approximately 145 titles in total were published as ROM cartridges for the system between 1982 and 1984. Coleco released a series of hardware add-ons and special controllers to expand the capabilities of the console.
The ColecoVision was discontinued in 1985 when Coleco withdrew from the video game market.
By Christmas of 1982, Coleco had sold more than 500,000 units, in part on the strength of Donkey Kong as its bundled game. ColecoVision's main competitor was the less commercially successful Atari 5200 which used the same custom graphics and sound chips developed for the Atari 8-bit family of computers launched in 1979.
The ColecoVision was distributed by CBS Electronics outside of North America, and was branded the CBS ColecoVision. In Europe the console was released in July 1983, nearly one year after the North American release.
Over the next 18 months, the Coleco company ramped down its video game division, ultimately withdrawing from the video game market by the end of the summer of 1985. The ColecoVision was officially discontinued by October 1985. Total sales of the ColecoVision are uncertain but were ultimately in excess of 2 million units, due to the console continuing to sell modestly up until its discontinuation the following year. The video game crash of 1983 has been cited as the main cause of the ColecoVision's being discontinued less than three years after its launch.
In 1983 Spectravideo announced the SV-603 ColecoVision Video Game Adapter for its SV-318 computer. The company stated that the $70 product allowed users to "enjoy the entire library of exciting ColecoVision video-game cartridges".
The main console unit consists of a 14×8×2-inch rectangular plastic case that houses the motherboard, with a cartridge slot on the right side and connectors for the external power supply and RF jack at the rear. The controllers connect into plugs in a recessed area on the top of the unit.
The design of the controllers is similar to that of Mattel's Intellivision—the controller is rectangular and consists of a numeric keypad and a set of side buttons. In place of the circular control disc below the keypad, the Coleco controller has a short, 1.5-inch joystick. The keypad is designed to accept a thin plastic overlay that maps the keys for a particular game. Each ColecoVision console shipped with two controllers.
All first-party cartridges and most third-party software titles feature a 12-second pause before presenting the game select screen. This delay results from an intentional loop in the console's BIOS to enable on-screen display of the ColecoVision brand. Companies like Parker Brothers, Activision, and Micro Fun bypassed this loop, which necessitated embedding portions of the BIOS outside the delay loop, further reducing storage available to actual game programming.
- CPU: NEC version of Zilog Z80A @ 3.58 MHz (See chip U1, marked NEC D780C-1 in circuit board picture)
- Video processor: Texas Instruments TMS9928A (40-pin DIP located under the heat sink)
- Sound: Texas Instruments SN76489A PSG (chip U20 on circuit board)
- 3 tone generators
- 1 noise generator
- Video RAM: 16 KB (as eight 16K x 1-bit chips, marked ITT 8344 4116 3N on circuit board)
- RAM: 1 KB (as two 1K x 4-bit chips, marked UPD2114LC (U3 & U4) on circuit board)
- ROM: 8 KB Texas Instruments TMS4764 Mask ROM (chip U2, marked TMS4764NL on circuit board)
- Storage: ROM Cartridge of 8, 16, 24 or 32 KB capacity.
Expansion Modules and accessoriesEdit
From its introduction, Coleco touted the ColecoVision's hardware expandability by highlighting the Expansion Module Interface on the front of the unit. These hardware expansion modules and accessories were sold separately.
- Expansion Module #1 makes the ColecoVision compatible with the industry-leading Atari 2600, with some exceptions. Functionally, this gave the ColecoVision the largest software library of any console of its day. The expansion module prompted legal action from Atari. Coleco and Atari settled out of court with Coleco becoming licensed under Atari's patents. The royalty based license also applied to Coleco's Gemini game system, which was a clone of the 2600, but with combined joystick/paddle controllers.
- Expansion Module #2 is a driving controller (steering wheel / gas pedal) that came packaged with a port of the arcade game Turbo. The gas pedal is merely a simple on/off switch, so many gamers used the second ColecoVision controller as a gear shift for more precise speed control. Although Coleco called the driving controller an expansion module, it actually plugs into the controller port, not the Expansion Module Interface. The driving controller is also compatible with the games Destructor, Bump 'n' Jump, Pitstop, and The Dukes of Hazzard.
- Expansion Module #3 converts the ColecoVision into a full-fledged computer known as the Adam, complete with keyboard, digital data pack (DDP) cassette drives and printer.
- The Roller Controller is a trackball that came packaged with a conversion of the arcade game Slither, a Centipede clone. The roller controller uses a special power connector that is not compatible with Expansion Module #3 (the Adam computer). Coleco mailed an adapter to owners of both units who complained. The other cartridge programmed to use the roller controller is Victory. A joystick mode switch on the roller controller allows it to be used with all cartridges including WarGames, Omega Race, and Atarisoft's Centipede.
- The Super Action Controller Set is a set of two joysticks (each resembling a boxing glove) that came packaged with the game Super Action Baseball. Each joystick has four action buttons, a 12-button numeric keypad, and a "speed roller". The Super Action Controllers are also compatible with the games Super Action Football, Rocky Super Action Boxing, and a port of the arcade game Front Line.
Expansion Module #3 was originally the Super Game Module. It was advertised for an August 1983 release but was ultimately cancelled and replaced with the Adam computer expansion. The Super Game Module added a tape drive known as the Exatron Stringy Floppy with 128KB capacity, and the additional RAM, said to be 30KB, to load and execute programs from tape. Games could be distributed on tiny tapes, called wafers, and be much larger than the 16KB or 32KB ROM cartridges of the day. Super Donkey Kong, with all screens and animations, Super Donkey Kong Jr, and Super Smurf Rescue were demonstrated with the Super Game Module. The Adam computer expansion with its 256KB tape drive and 64KB RAM fulfilled the specifications promised by the Super Game Module.
During the creation of the Nintendo Entertainment System, the ColecoVision was a huge influence. Takao Sawano, chief manager of the project, brought a ColecoVision home to his family, who were impressed by the system’s capability to produce smooth graphics at the time, which contrasted with the flickering commonly seen on Atari 2600 games. Masayuki Uemura, head of Famicom development, stated that the ColecoVision set the bar that influenced how he would approach the creation of the Famicom.
In 2012 Opcode Games released their own Super Game Module expansion, which increases RAM from 16KB to 32KB and adds four additional sound channels. This expansion brings the ColecoVision close to the MSX architecture standard, allowing MSX software to be more easily ported.
- "Coleco Industries, Inc. 1983 Annual Report". Coleco Industries, Inc. 1983: 3.
The year's sales of 1.5 million ColecoVision units brought the installed base to over 2 million units worldwide.
- Forster, Winnie (2005), The encyclopedia of consoles, handhelds & home computers 1972 - 2005, GAMEPLAN, p. 50, ISBN 3-00-015359-4
- "Coleco hits with home video games", Business Week: 31, 1983-01-24,
Most of 1982's action was in the second half, when Coleco shipped 550,000 ColecoVision game machines--which sell for $169 to $189--booking orders for nearly that many more.
- Video Game Maker Says 1st-Quarter Profit More Than Tripled, Associated Press, 1983-04-20,
Arnold C. Greenberg, Coleco's president and chief executive, said more than 500,000 ColecoVision players were shipped during the first quarter, nearly equaling the number shipped in all of 1982.
- "Coleco's New Video Challenge", New York Times: 1 (Section D), 1982-11-11,
Potential Colecovision buyers have also apparently been attracted by Coleco's licensing agreement with Nintendo Inc., the Japanese creator of Donkey Kong, a current arcade hit, and Universal City Studios Inc. One Donkey Kong cartridge comes with each Colecovision unit.
- Aeppel, Timothy (1982-12-10), "Zap! Pow! Video games sparkle in holiday market", Christian Science Monitor: 7,
In recent weeks, two particularly hot-selling systems have emerged - the Atari 5200 and ColecoVision. Both are described as powerful 'third wave' machines, the Cadillacs of game systems, and priced accordingly at close to $200...[T]hey are sure to snatch most of the Christmas market.
- Harmetz, Aljean (1984-01-10), "Sigh of Relief on Video Games", New York Times: 1 (Section D),
As for game hardware, many experts said that Atari's...5200 or Coleco's Colecovision would corner the high end.
- "Coleco Strong In Marketing", New York Times, 1983-08-01,
Since its introduction last fall, Colecovision has sold about 1.4 million units...Of that total, about 900,000 were sold this year, compared with 800,000 units by Atari and 300,000 by Mattel.
- Video Game Maker Says 1st-Quarter Profit More Than Tripled, 1983-04-20
- Coleco Industries sales report, PR Newswire, 1984-04-17,
'First quarter sales of ColecoVision were substantial, although much less that [sic] those for the year ago quarter,' Greenberg said in a prepared statement. He said the company has sold 2 million ColecoVision games since its introduction in 1982.
- "Coleco Reassesses Its Video Games", New York Times, Reuters: 4 (Section D), 1985-06-13,
Coleco Industries is assessing its continuing commitment to the video game business...Arnold C. Greenberg, the chief executive, said no timetable had been set for a decision on continuing or dropping the Colecovision products or on whether the software for the games would continue to be produced if hardware production was discontinued.
- "Video games Coleco may drop out", The Globe and Mail (Canada), 1985-06-21,
Coleco Industries Inc. of West Hartford, Conn., is considering withdrawal from the video game business in both hardware and software.
- "Coleco's Net In Sharp Rise", New York Times, Associated Press, 1985-10-19,
Thursday, Coleco said the entire inventory of its troubled Adam personal computer has been sold, along with much of its Colecovision inventory. The company's chairman, Arnold Greenberg, said Coleco expects no more charges against earnings from the two discontinued products.
- "Coleco Industries, Inc. 1984 Annual Report". Coleco Industries, Inc. 1984: 2.
Sales in the Consumer Electronics segment were $98.6 million in 1984
- "Coleco Industries, Inc. 1984 Annual Report". Coleco Industries, Inc. 1984: 22.
The decline in sales of Consumer Electronics was primarily due to reduced sales of ColecoVision products. The increase in shipments of the ADAM Family Computer System in 1984 was largely offset by provisions for price reductions and returns recorded in the last half of the year.
- "Coleco Industries, Inc. 1984 Annual Report". Coleco Industries, Inc. 1984: 3.
the total of ColecoVision inventory and accounts receivable was $40.5 million at December 31, 1984. During 1985 it is expected that accounts receivable will be converted to cash and the balance of ColecoVision inventory sold.
- "Coleco Industries, Inc. 1985 Annual Report". Coleco Industries, Inc. 1985: 25.
Consumer Electronics net sales of $56.2 million consisted principally of the ADAM Family Computer and ColecoVision video game systems, accessories and software.
- Kleinfield, N. R. (1985-07-21), "Coleco Moves Out Of The Cabbage Patch", New York Times: 4 (Section 3),
Coleco is now debating whether to withdraw from electronics altogether. Colecovision still sells, but it is a shadow of its former self.
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