Fairchild Channel F
The Fairchild Channel F (short for "Channel Fun" and initially released as the "Video Entertainment System"/VES) was the first ever console released with a microprocessor as well as programmable ROM cartridges, kickstarting the second generation of videogames as a result.
While the console represented a big technological leap compared to the earlier released Magnavox Odyssey, it failed to gain any serious ground and was completely overshadowed by the Atari 2600 which released a year later. (And who's initial name of "Video computer System"/VCS was chosen specifically to confuse people over which console was which).
The poor sales of the Channel F made Fairchild sell the design in 1979 to a company known as Zircon, who tinkered with the console's design/features and re-released it as the Channel F System II. But still not to much success. The console was discontinued in 1982 with 27 cartridges (some containing multiple games) released during its lifespan.
Why It Flopped
- Bad games. One of the biggest factors to the Channel F's lack of success was that many of its games (which initially consisted of titles such as "Tic-Tac-Toe", "Video Blackjack" and "Math Quiz") simply wasn't fun to play. Especially not compared to the stuff Atari put out.
- High production price: while Atari's decision to use only off-the-shelf parts for the 2600 might have came back to bite them later with The North American Video Game Crash of 1983, there is no denying that it greatly reduced cost compared to the custom parts used by Fairchild.
- While the console might have been superior to the Odyssey and the RCA Studio 2, the 2600 still blew it out of the water in terms of both sound and graphics.
- The console could only output three colors out of palette of eight (B&W included), which again, was highly inferior to the 128 that the 2600 could use.
- The sound was generated by a speaker inside the console itself, instead of by the TV. (Fixed by the system II)
- The controllers were hardwired to the console (Also fixed by the system II). They were also complex and hard to figure out as they tried to combine the features of a paddle and a joystick.
- The buttons on the console itself are also poorly labeled. A problem amplified with their tendency to do different things in different games.
- Despite being called "System II", the Zircon re-release was electronically identical to the original Fairchild release. (A stunt Mattel would later also try with the Intellivision II, with just as little success.)
- It's still undeniably part of video game history.
- While Atari was playing around with using ROM chips in 1976. It was the launch of the Channel F that made them double down on the production of the Atari 2600. Who knows what form said console would have taken if Fairchild hadn't proved the technology as viable.
- Once you do learn how to use the controllers, you will quickly find out just how initiative they where. Being arguably an early example of a 3D joystick.
- The Fairchild Channel F was the first console ever to include the ability to pause games.
- The console did have some success in Europe where it was licensed to several different companies. Including as the Luxor Video Entertainment System (Sweden), the Adman Grandstand Video Entertainment Computer (UK), the Nordmende Color TelePlay µP, the ITT Telematch Processor and the SABA Videoplay (all Germany).