What are we going to talk about today? Something from Bandai? I don’t think so. Today we’re going to talk about the first game console that used programmable ROM cartridges, the Fairchild Channel F. This system was launched in August of 1976 for $169.95. Originally it was named the Video Entertainment System, but Atari would release a system the next year called the VCS so Fairchild changed the name of their system. Despite the fact that you plugged the system into your TV the sound for the games would actually come out of a speaker built into the console itself. It also had about half the system memory of the Atari 2600 which would launch the following year.
The most unique feature of the system was, without a doubt the controller that was used. It was essentially just the stick portion of a traditional joystick with no base. The top part of the unit moved and you had eight direction control with that triangular shaped cap on the top. If you didn’t like the speed that the game was playing at you could press a button, called the Hold button, which would pause the action and allow you to change how fast the speed of the game was.
There were 26 games in total released for the system during it’s lifetime. These games came on cartidges that were about the size of an eight track tape and were called Videocarts. They were usually sold at retail for approximately $19.95 and could sometimes hold more than one game. The system also came with two games built in, Hockey and Tennis, that were both essentially the same game.
Despite the system not being a retail success it can be given credit for Atari making the 2600 as good as it was. It has maintained a fairly cult following with people dedicated to creating homebrew games for the system, such as the 2009 released of Pac-Man.