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Reviving the video gaming era of the 80's

Mattel Electronics Intellivision Video Game System

As computer technology improved during the 1970's, home video game systems started appearing.  Magnavox had introduced the first game system to be used on home television sets in 1972.  As the system grew in popularity, Mattel, who then manufactured doles and toys, started to develop a blue print for it's own game system by 1977.  Afraid that it would only be a passing phase, Mattel shelved the plans and instead developed a number of hand held electronic games.  These had became successful, as the company started marketing merchandise under the "Mattel Electronics" name.  With help from a computer consultancy firm (APh) and a micro processor manufacturer (General Instruments), Mattel further developed the blue print.  By the later part of 1978 into 1979, the Engineering and manufacturing of test units had started,

After developing the Intellivision Master Component system, it was test marketed in 1979 in Fresno California.  With promising results, Mattel decided to release the Intellivision into the market, and by 1980 the system sold well. With a advertising blitz in the later part of 1980, the systems sales had skyrocketed.  Giving its then rival gaming system (Atari 2600), its first piece of real competition, the sales war between the two gaming companies was on in earnest. 

Mattel positioned it's marketing as the "Intelligent Television".  Rather then just another video game console, the Intellivision was promoted as the cornerstone for a complete computer system.

The Keyboard Component was created, and was sold to a limited amount of customers during the later part of 1981.  The keyboard featured a sophisticated block-addressable cassette interface, which allowed the unit to play a synchronised audio track with it's programs, which were recorded on to audio cassettes.  The audio tracks could be recorded during game sessions with a microphone.  This gave the intellivision capabilities to play back recorded material from audio cassettes, like recorded voices and etc.  This was useful for educational software and a multitude of other applications, such as learning to speak new languages.  The Intellivision master component would drop into a slot that was in the back portion of the Keyboard Component.  A thermal printer was also made available, with a capacity of printing a page of 40 characters wide.

Intellivision Master Component  (1979)

Keyboard Component (1981) (1982)

With sales of the master component units going through the roof, computer programmers, game designers and screen artists where employed as quickly as possible and by 1982, became a dynamic, hard working production team of over 100 young staff.  Many of them worked late at night, and some for 24 hours.  The ethos of the place was not so much the background experience, but to be imaginative and to have fun.  With Mattel putting Intellivision staff, wherever they could find room in their office complex, efforts were then concentrated on moving the team to a larger facility.  This led to the team being moved to where house premises, a few blocks down the road from the Mattel offices.  The team spirit between staff was so successful, the members often made it a place of socialising and meeting new friends.  A strong bond had developed between many of the members, and through to intellivision's end in the mid-eighties, stuck together through every twist and turn.

The video game wars were in full swing by September 1982, as Atari had sold 10 million components, and Intellivision has sold just over 3 million.  With the games industry being valued at this time at $1.5 billion, other companies started to join the video game publishing frenzy.  Activision and Imagic released a number of popular titles, specially modified for the Intellivision and Atari.  These included Pac-Man, Frogger, Star Wars, Ventura and many more.  At this time writing video games seemed like a license to print money. 

Other peripherals like Speech Synthesis Connectors, Game Cables, Atari / Intellision Game Converters and other devices further increased the success of Intellivision into America, Australia and the rest of the World.  Another game manufacturing facility was set up in the south of France during the popularity height of Intellivision.   In October 1982 Mattel Electronics reported a profit to its shareholders, of nearly $100 million on nearly 500 million sales. 

In 1982, Mattel and a number of other manufacturers developed new versions of the master component, like the Intellivision II and the Tandy-Vision.  ColecoVision had released a replica of the Intellivision by mid 1982, which harmed Mattel, who had promoted the Intellivision as the game system with superior graphics.  As Coleco was now producing the same system, Mattel could no longer lay claim to be the only system with such graphics.  Mattel was further hurt by a saturation of game cartridges from a multitude of manufacturers.  With Atari making exclusive deals with some Movie Studios for its game cartridge range, and new sources of entertainment on TV, such as MTV and Cable Television, Mattel found itself in heavy competition. 

TandyVision System I (1982)

Intellivision System II (1983)

During the course of 1983, Mattels sales started to diminish.  With a strong resolve and a firm belief, the staff and programmers of the Mattel Electronics division continued to lavishly splash out on further product development, promotional fairs across America, and the hiring of more programmers.  This inevitably placed the company in to large financial losses, which caused considerable staff lay-offs by October and November 1983.  On Friday the 20th January 1984, the party was over as Management of Mattel officially closed down the Electronics division.  This was the end of Intellivision.... Or was it?

The former Marketing VP of Mattel bought the rights to the system and started a new company; Intv Corporation, which employed many of the original programming team.  This was a low cost operation that purely concentrated on producing software for the existing Intellivision systems for the rest of the 1980's.  With the onset of new gaming systems such as Nintendo, Intv was forced to call it a day at the end of 1990. 

Snafu  -  Mattel  -  1981

Space Armada  -  Mattel  -  1981

Check out these Intellivision Links:

Whether you love playing the games, or want to find out more info about the systems history, check out the following links for more great stuff.  All sites are pop-up free for easy surfing.  Enjoy! 

Notations are as follows: (clear); no pop ups; no banners. (banner); may contain some advertising banners, but no pop ups.  (pop-up) Site contains no banners but may have one pop-up.  (banner-pop up); Site contains both banners and at most, 1 pop-up.  Sites with more advertising will not be added to the list.

2PR FM Intelligaming Spotlight Link

Excellent Site that contains more roms for both MAME and Intellivision for PC.
(site currently going reconstruction)
(may take some extra time to load up)  (clear)
Contains a large list of Easter Eggs for both Intellivision and Atari.

Pete2049's Intellivision Links Directory [Pete2049]  (clear)

Intellivision Lives  -  Blue Sky Rangers  (clear)

The Intellivision Library (clear)

Giga Intellivision (under construction)

Intv Funhouse (clear)

Decle's ROM variations page (clear)

Intellicart: Intellivision Cartridge Emulator (clear)

Intellivision Exhibition (Screenshots and overlays) (clear)

Intellivision Schematics (clear)

Intellivision Gaming Network (clear)

The Intellivision Graphics Library (clear)

"Intellivision" The Classic Video Game Collector (clear)

Lock 'n' Chase  -  Mattel  -  1982

Space Battle  -  Mattel  -  1979

As the popularity of the internet took off in the mid 1990's, the linking of people with similar interests became much easier.  This led to news-groups, special interest groups, and above all, a revival of many things that had been lost to obscurity, through the passing of time. 

The original programmers of the Intellivision games (the blue sky rangers) had launched a website in 1995, that detailed the history of Mattel Electronics, and the Intellivision gaming system.  The interest in the site was overwhelming, which led to the release of associated merchandise.  This included hats, shirts, and CD-Roms that contained all the original games.  As the popularity was strong, many more versions of the disc became available, such as Intellivision Rocks, Intellivision for the PlayStation, and so on.

May Intellivision live for eternity!!!

You can see a more detailed history of the Intellivision at:

     Introduction to computers and the start of computer games.
     History of Mattel Electronics and the Intellivision Video Game System.
     Games Review Page One  -  Space Armada.
     Games Review Page Two  -  Pinball.
     Games Review Page Three  -  Snafu and some game bugs.
     Pretty Patterns in Snafu.

     The all time top five games.
     Games Review Page One.
     Games Review Page Two.
     Games to avoid.
     The worlds best MAME Links.

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