Fairchild Semiconductors was the first to release a home console that, besides having a built-in Home Pong game, was also able to play games stored in dedicated cartridges sold separately. The system was first named Video Entertainment System (VES) but was soon renamed Channel F and featured Fairchild’s own F8 CPU, an 8-bit processor running at 2 MHz. The console could display color graphics (eight colors), and sported a built-in speaker and two original controllers that were able to function both
as a four-way joystick and as a paddle to be twisted/rotated clockwise or counterclockwise. Overall, it had 26 cartridges (named Videocarts) featuring mostly educational games targeted at young children (see the figure on the top of page 26).
The console sold for $169.95 and the cartridges sold separately at $19.95 each.
Original ad for the Fairchild Channel F, the first home computer cartridge-based system released in August 1976.
One of the Channel F original Videocarts.
Another system was released in January 1977, the Studio II. Its manufacturer was RCA, which, after having rejected the Odyssey years earlier, tried to acquire a significant spot in the new business. Like Fairchild, RCA decided to use a proprietary 8-bit microprocessor, the RCA 1802. The console came with five simple games preinstalled and it could also accommodate dedicated cartridges.
Unfortunately, the Studio II lacked proper controllers and relied on numeric
keypads instead. It also had very limited audio capabilities (just a simple buzzer sound) and the graphics were only black and white. These shortcomings made it a far less attractive item for most players than the more powerful Channel F, resulting in very little commercial success and only 11 games actually produced.
The RCA Studio II. Originally retailing at $149 in January 1977, it was a very rare console that was soon forgotten.
In any case, neither of these consoles had enough time to build an audience because the flood of Pong clones temporarily decreased the general public’s interest in video games. At the same time, a new star was already shining on the horizon.