RDI Halcyon

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RDI Halcyon
RDI Halcyon.jpg
To be fair, if your house is big enough to put this in you can probably afford it.
Developer: RDI Video Systems
Release Date: Unreleased (planned release for January 1985)
Generation: Third generation


The Halcyon is a video game console developed by RDI Video Systems, which is believed to have not made it to retail before RDI went bankrupt. It consisted of two modules, a console unit and a LaserDisc player that plugged into it.

Issues

The system was originally slated to use an obscure format called a Capacitance Electronic Disc (CED), more or less a high-density LP that can store video manufactured by RCA. This suffered from numerous problems, not least that wear would render the disc unreadable after only about 500 reads because it used a physical stylus rather than a laser to read data. Ultimately, manufacturers gave up on the format and the Halcyon had to switch to the vastly more expensive LaserDisc format. The LaserDisc player is a Pioneer LD-700 model, with the only difference being a new faceplate.

At the time, the console and player was priced at $2,500. Adjusted for inflation, this is $5,845.45. There were plans to produce a cheaper version for customers who already had a Pioneer VP1000/PR8210, Magnavox VC8040 or Sylvania VP720 Laserdisc player which consisted of just the console unit, which would connect to the player using an IR emitter that secured over the player's remote control receiver lens (as opposed to a serial port connector on the Pioneer LD-700).

RCI made several technically unlikely claims regarding the device, saying it would be entirely voice-activated (despite the presence of a keyboard) with the ability to recognize 1000 words: they also claimed the system had an "AI" that was able to learn further words and even conduct rudimentary conversations with the user, speaking using a synthesized voice. The system was even envisioned as the hub of an early "smart home" concept, with plans to sell modules so it could communicate with and control other household appliances.

The system was imagined as primarily for playing LaserDisc QTE "games" like Dragon's Lair and Space Ace, which were a huge fad in arcades at the time: indeed, Dragon's Lair was one of the few games to be a runaway success during The North American Video Game Crash of 1983. Their popularity was, however, already fading by the time the Halcyon came along: Space Ace had met with lukewarm reception in 1984, and arcade owners disliked RDI's cabinets because the LaserDisc players were temperamental (since they were designed to play continuous movies, not rapidly search around the disc for specific sectors, the players would frequently burn out their motors or break their laser emitters from constantly jerking the read assembly around) and expensive to repair. Whether the console suffered from the same issues is unclear, as most of the known examples have never been used.

Each game for the system would consist of a LaserDisc for full-motion video and sound, along with an accompanying 16K firmware cartridge containing the actual game data. Only two of the planned six games were released for the system before RDI went bankrupt, Thayer's Quest and NFL Football: Chargers vs. Raiders.

The only reason this is not regarded as beating the Commodore 64 Games System for the title of "worst-selling console of all time" is that nobody actually knows if the system was even put into production. Only 10 Halcyon systems are known have been built, all of them hand-made pre-production models given to RDI's investors. Five of them are confirmed to have survived to the present day, having been sold by their previous owners and ended up in the hands of private collectors, and a sixth was sold on eBay in 2005.

Video

Trivia

  • In one TV news segment detailing the Halcyon, Cobra Command (Thunder Storm in Japan) is seen being played on the system, suggesting that it, too, was going to be a title on the Halcyon.

Comments


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LuigiMan050-5

2 months ago
Score 0
What a really sad story.
avatar

NoveltyMan

2 months ago
Score 1
To be honest, it had some potential, but the concept was too ambitious and the console would very likely be very expensive at the time.

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