DECO Cassette System

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DECO Cassette System
Not exactly art deco, now is it?
Developer: Data East
Release Date: December 1980
Discontinued: 1985

The DECO Cassette System is an arcade system board first introduced in December 1980 by Data East.

It had the distinction of being the first standardized arcade system that allows arcade owners to change out games on the machine without having to change out the motherboard, years before the Nintendo PlayChoice, the Sente System, and SNK's Neo Geo MVS.

The idea behind it, is that the arcade owner would buy a base cabinet, while the games are stored on tiny cassettes, particularly of the Hewlett-Packard 82176A Mini Data Cassette format. The arcade owner would insert the cassette and the corresponding key module into the system. When the cabinet is started up, the program from the tape would be copied onto the system's RAM chips, after which the game could be played until the cabinet is rebooted.

Support for the system was withdrawn in 1985, and by this point, it had been largely replaced by conventional ROM-based boards.

Why It Flopped

  1. The cassette medium wasn't as robust as Data East had hoped, as they had a bad habit of failing to load after a few months.
  2. The tapes easily demagnetized, meaning that they're not ideal for the environments of video arcades.
  3. The EPROMs in the games' corresponding key modules would also go bad after a time.
  4. The load times for the system range from 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. A majority of the Cassette System's software titles were considered to be underwhelming at best and failed to attract the large crowds that Data East had promised in advertisements for the system.
    • Making things worse for it, is that a few of the games that did prove popular were released on their own dedicated arcade machines, giving operators even less of a reason to invest into the Cassette System.

Redeeming Qualities

  1. Classics such as BurgerTime, Bump 'n' Jump, and Lock 'n' Chase were released on the DECO Cassette System.
    • In fact, BurgerTime was first released on the DECO Cassette System before the dedicated cabinet of the game was released.
  2. The system actually did better in Japan, where there were many more games released for it.
  3. The key module that comes with each game is a means of preventing unscrupulous arcade owners from illegally copying the contents of the cassette. They are also referred to by some as security dongles for this reason.


  • The 82176A Mini Data Cassette format was a competitor to the Mini-Cassette format developed by Philips.