History of video game consoles (second generation)

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The second generation of video game consoles began in 1976. The second generation began with the release of the Fairchild Channel F and Radofin Electronics' 1292 Advanced Programmable Video System. This generation is sometimes called the "early 8-bit era". Many consoles were released in the second generation. The Atari 2600 was the most popular video game console for much of the second generation. Other consoles such as Intellivision, the Odyssey 2, and ColecoVision were also popular.

The second generation ended in 1984. This was because of the video game crash of 1983. As of 2004, the Atari 2600 has sold 30 million units.[1] As of 1990, the Intellivision had sold 3 million units.[2][3][4] As of April 1984, the ColecoVision had sold 2 million units.[5] As of 1977, the Fairchild Channel F had sold 250,000 units.[6]

Home systems[change | change source]

Comparison[change | change source]

Name Fairchild Channel F Atari 2600 Magnavox Odyssey² Intellivision Atari 5200
Manufacturer Fairchild Semiconductor Atari Magnavox Mattel Atari
Launch prices US$169.95 US$199 US$200


US$299 US$270
Release date
  • US: August 1976
  • US: October 1977
  • EU: December 1982
  • US: November 1982
Media Cartridge Cartridge and Cassette (Cassette available via special 3rd party attachment) Cartridge Cartridge Cartridge
Top-selling games N/A Pac-Man, 7 million (as of September 1, 2006)[7][8] N/A Astrosmash (1 million)[9] N/A
Backward compatibility N/A N/A None Atari 2600 games through the System Changer module

accessories (retail)

  • The Voice
  • Chess Module
  • Keyboard component (cancelled)
  • Entertainment Computer System
  • Intellivoice
  • Trak-Ball Controller
  • Atari 2600 adaptor
CPU Fairchild F8

1.79 MHz (PAL 2.00 MHz)

MOS Technology 6507

1.19 MHz

Intel 8048 8-bit microcontroller

1.79 MHz

General Instrument CP1610

894.886 kHz

Custom MOS 6502C

1.79 MHz (not a 65c02)

Memory 64 bytes, 2 kB VRAM (2×128×64 bits) (within a MOS Technology RIOT chip): 128 bytes (additional RAM may be included in the game cartridges) CPU-internal RAM: 64 bytes

Audio/video RAM: 128 bytes

1456 bytes main RAM 16 kB main RAM
  • 102 × 58 pixels visible
  • 8 colors, maximum of 4 per scanline
  • 160 x 192 resolution
  • 2 sprites, 2 missiles and 1 ball per scanline. Sprites can be use multiple times through the HMOVE command.
  • 2 backgrounds colors and 2 sprite colors per scanline
  • 128 colors (NTSC)
  • 104 colors (PAL)
  • 160×200 resolution (NTSC)
  • 16-color fixed palette; sprites use 8 colors
  • 4 8×8 single-color user-defined sprites
  • 12 8×8 single-color characters; 64 shapes built into ROM BIOS;
  • 4 quad characters;
  • 9×8 background grid; dots, lines, or blocks
  • 159x96 pixels (159x192 display on a TV screen, scanlines being doubled)
  • 16 color palette, all of which can be on the screen at once
  • 8 sprites.
  • 320×192 resolution,
  • 16 (out of 256) on-screen colors per scan line with 256 colors capable of being displayed at once.
Audio Mono audio with:
  • 500 Hz, 1 kHz, and 1.5 kHz tones (can be modulated quickly to produce different tones)
Mono Mono audio with:
  • 24-bit shift register, clockable at 2 frequencies
  • noise generator
Mono audio with:
  • three channel sound
  • one noise generator
Mono audio with:
  • 4-channel sound
Name Vectrex Arcadia 2001 ColecoVision Bally Astrocade
Manufacturer General Consumer Electric and Milton Bradley Emerson Radio Corporation Coleco Bally Technologies
Launch prices US$199 N/A US$199 N/A
Release date
  • US: November 1982
  • EU: May 1983
  • JP: June 1983
  • US: August 1982
  • EU: May 1982
Media Cartridge Cartridge Cartridge and Cassette, available with Expansion #3 Cartridge and cassette/Floppy, available with ZGRASS unit
Top-selling games N/A N/A Donkey Kong (pack-in) N/A
Backward compatibility N/A N/A Compatible with Atari 2600 Via Expansion #1 N/A
Accessories (retail)
  • 3-D Imager
  • Light Pen
  • Expansion #1
  • Expansion #2
  • Expansion #3
  • Roller Controller
  • Super Action Controller Set
  • ZGRASS unit
CPU Motorola 68A09

1.5 MHz

Signetics 2650 CPU

3.58 MHz

Zilog Z80A

3.58 MHz

Zilog Z80

1.789 MHz

Memory 1 kB main RAM 512 bytes 8 kB main RAM

16 kB VRAM

4k (up to 64k with external modules in the expansion port)
Video Built in vector CRT
  • 128x208 / 128x104
  • 8 Colours
  • 256x192 resolution
  • 32 sprites, maximum of 4 sprites per scanline
  • 16 colors
  • Resolution: True 160x102 / Basic 160x88 / Expanded RAM 320x204
  • Colors: True 8* / Basic 2
Audio Mono (built in speaker) Mono audio with:
  • Single Channel "Beeper"
  • Single Channel "Noise"
Mono audio with:
  • 3 tone generators
  • 1 noise generator
Mono audio with:
  • 3 voices
  • noise/vibrato effect

Handheld systems[change | change source]

The first handheld game console was the Microvision designed by Smith Engineering. It was distributed and sold by Milton-Bradley in 1979. It was the first handheld game console that could use different game cartridges. The Microvision had a small LCD display. There were only a few games that could be played with this system. It was discontinued two years later.

The Epoch Game Pocket Computer was released in Japan in 1984. The game system did not sell very well. Because of this, only five games were made for it. Nintendo's Game & Watch was more successful. It was very popular until it was discontinued in 1991.

List of handheld systems[change | change source]

Software[change | change source]

Popular games[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. "Atari VCS (Atari 2600)". A Brief History of Game Console Warfare. BusinessWeek. Archived from the original on 2014-07-15. Retrieved 2007-12-04.
  2. "Mattel Intellivision - 1980-1984". ClassicGaming. IGN. Archived from the original on 2013-10-17. Retrieved 2008-05-16.
  3. "Ask Hal: Frequently Asked Questions to the Blue Sky Rangers". Intellivision Productions. Archived from the original on 2017-09-20. Retrieved 2008-11-03.
  4. "playstaion 303". Archived from the original on 2018-10-09. Retrieved 2013-05-22.
  5. 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.
  6. Gareth R. Jones; Charles W.L. Hill (2007). Strategic management: an integrated approach (7th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin. p. C-123. ISBN 978-0-618-73166-4. Retrieved 25 February 2012. By this point, second-place Fairchild sold around 250,000 units of its system.
  7. Jeremy Reimer (2006-09-01). "EA's Madden 2007 sells briskly, but are games gaining on movies?". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  8. Kent, Steven (2001). The Ultimate History of Video Games. Three Rivers Press. ISBN 0-7615-3643-4.
  9. "Mattel Intellivision — 1980–1984". ClassicGaming. IGN. Archived from the original on 2013-10-17. Retrieved 2008-05-16.

Other websites[change | change source]