Intellivision by Mattel

16-bit Game Console - Dismantled for reference and curiosity


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Originally released in 1979 by Mattel, the Intellivision was Atari's first real competitor for its Atari 2600 console.

The Intellivision is a game console that uses ROM cartridges to provide program data. The main unit or 'Master Component' houses the smarts, the controllers when not in use and the internal power supply. The unit outputs both audio and video via an internal RF modulator to the television via a coaxial cable.

It was a great system, the graphics and sound are more often than not superior to those produced by the Atari 2600 but sadly it didn't have the 2600's huge catalogue of games to support it.

The controllers, similar to those released with Coleco's ColecoVision game console made use of a directional pad. Having been designed before the ColecoVision makes the Intellivision the first console based game system to offer a directional pad. The controllers also offer two fire/action buttons and twelve function keys. The function key pad allowed for game manufacturers to supply thin, plastic overlay sheets that slot into the controllers customising them for that specific game. While this concept rapidly fell out of fashion, it was a huge help for players not used to more complex games needing them to remember a lot of functions linked to random buttons; eg Golf allows for stroke type, length and club selection.

It's not all good though; to start with the controller cables are criminally short. The cables are nice and robust but as a result, they take up a lot of space when packed away inside the unit. This meant they had to be short to compensate. Storing the controllers in the console I'm sure looked good on paper. Unfortunately in practice it was regularly frustrating. Also, if you got a little excited you were fairly likely to pull the whole console off of whatever piece of tacky 70's furniture it was on and onto the shag pile carpet.

The directional pad on the controllers are horrible to use, especially for any prolonged use and the fire buttons aren't much better.

Technical Firsts: the Intellivision was arguably the first 16-bit game system as its General Instrument CP1610 CPU is 16-bit. It was also the first to offer an upper and lower case font set with most standard punctuation, a music synthesizer keyboard and the addition real-time human voices during games with the addition of the Intellivoice; see separate page on this site for that hardware. Another first was the ability to download games via the cable TV networks with the use of the PlayCable adapter. A number of games for the system saw the creation of new genres and software design standards. The game Utopia is celebrated as the first CMS / Construction and Management Simulation (SimCity style) title.

KALEX Release: This version has the stamping 'KALEX' on the solder side near one of the connectors; seen in KALEX image nine, bottom left corner. The entire casing is slightly larger by about two millimeters all around making it impossible to properly seat a standard Intellivision case top onto the base of a KALEX one.

There are numerous component changes; the most notable being the addition of a smaller PCB see in images eleven and twelve.

The KALEX version uses the same Rev 5 controllers as the other Intellivision releases; no size or design changes.


16-bit Game Console

Intellivision Game Console
Intellivision Serial Number Intellivision Inside Intellivision Motherboard Intellivision Power Supply Intellivision Controller Intellivision RF Switch


Intellivision - KALEX Release
16-bit Game Console

Intellivision KALEX Power Supply Intellivision KALEX Motherboard



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