The Intellivision console is a home video game system introduced by Mattel in 1979. The name is a portmanteau of "intelligent television". Development began in 1977, the same year as the launch of its main competitor, the Atari 2600, and game development ran from 1978 to 1990 when the console was discontinued. From 1980 to 1983, more than 3 million systems were sold. When introduced, Atari knew it finally had a serious contender. The Intellivision was more advanced than the popular 2600 and featured distinctive software, smart marketing campaigns and sophisticated controllers. Mattel cultivated a unique and long-lasting brand identity, and it's not hard to find loyal collectors of the system even today.
The heart of the console was a 16-bit microprocessor from General Instruments. That was quite a step up from most other systems at the time, which would continue to rely on 8-bit microprocessors for years. The sound chip was also impressive, allowing output of three distinct sound channels.
The system also boasted a 16-color palette, but could only display eight simultaneous moving objects onscreen. Fortunately, clever programming could minimize this limitation on moving objects.
In 1983, Mattel introduced the Intellivision II. This console was a cheaper, more compact redesign of the original, and was designed to be less expensive to manufacture and service. It also had longer controller cords. The console was initially released without a pack-in game but was later packaged with BurgerTime in the US and Lock'N'Chase in Canada. In 1984 the Digiplay Intellivision II was introduced in Brazil. Brazil was the only country outside North America to have the redesigned Intellivision II.
The two controllers were permanently attached to the system. They consisted of thumb-operated control discs with 16 possible movement directions, which was twice the number of a typical joystick. They also had 12 button keypads with two action buttons on each side. The top two action buttons were wired together, so in actuality only three unique functions could be performed by the four action buttons. Finally, the control disc and action buttons could not be used simultaneously with the keypad buttons; internally, they registered as the same inputs. Because of these quirks, the controllers were notoriously difficult to use.
Ultimately, 125 games were released between 1979 and 1990, with a small portion requiring the IntelliVoice or ECS add-ons. A few additional Intellivision homebrew games for an original console (or through emulation) have been released since 2000.
Looking for the instructions?
Download here the Intellivision manual (PDF).
What's your Intellivision worth in 2021? Here are some recently sold items with prices.
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