Untold Story of the Game Cartridge

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VideoGameCritic
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Untold Story of the Game Cartridge

Postby VideoGameCritic » January 23rd, 2015, 8:03 pm

A friend a mine send me an article about the Untold Story of the Game Cartridge.

It's a neat little history lesson you might find interesting.

Wallyworld1
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Untold Story of the Game Cartridge

Postby Wallyworld1 » January 27th, 2015, 11:33 am

Maybe if the cartridges for the Fairchild Channel F didn't look like 8 track tapes it could have fared better. They are the first and probably ugliest carts of all time.

scotland171
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Untold Story of the Game Cartridge

Postby scotland171 » January 27th, 2015, 12:12 pm

That was a fun article.  The 70s were a time for chip makers to get into consumer electronics.    

Top 10 list of Interesting Thoughts about this Article

1) Magnetic Storage is misunderstood -  There is little mention of magnetic storage, with the article initially talking about optical storage.  Later when it does discuss magnetic storage, it calls it far too expensive to be practical in a consumer product.  I like ROM carts as much as the next retro gamer, but come on, a magnetic storage medium was the simple cassette tape and a datasette basically a cassette player.  Cassette tapes would be used to great effect as a consumer product for music and software (ask Sut and his Speccy about tapes).   I think its possible to envision a history of consoles without ROM carts...it could have been tapes and diskettes like in the family computers up until the 90s (and Nintendo experimented with famicom diskettes too).

2) Race is not always to the swiftest - The article makes it clear there was a race for ROM carts, and that Atari was only a few months behind.  The idea of using the 8 track and a EPROM in a circuit board inside seemed to be a common starting point. (The Hu-card idea did not seem to come up)  Atari poached a bit of expert help (it happens) and really knew what to put on the carts once they had the hardware in place. While Fairchild and RCA had no real understanding of entertainment.  Its better to come in second and know what to do with the tech than come in first and not understand it.

3) Code names - Project RAVEN and Project STRATOS are both great code names

4) Bowling - Who knew the ancient connection between bowling technology and video game consoles!

5) Predictions - The article says Fairchild was pitched a business case predicting sales would be 5.5 million in about two years.  That was a bit off... 

6) Controllers - Seems the unique controllers of the Fairchild were in part driven by the Hockey software that could use the rotational part.  That's really cool, and to this day, rotational axis is not a big part of any standard controller.  (Driving controllers yes, but not stock ones)

7) Channel F - I thought the F stood for Fairchild...now I know different!

8) Make it or Buy it - The article credits Atari with an advantage for buying chips, searching for the best price over Fairchild.  Yet Commodore would go on to great success in part from cheaper pricing because it did make its own chips.  Which is it?

9) The Key is Fun - The article says Atari won out because they understood what kids wanted ... fun vibrant arcade like games.  Meanwhile, Fairchild just saw the unit as a means to sell chips, to the point of they were ready to tool the console without even having the ROM cart figured out. So, if they were rushing the hardware to sell the chips, the software to put on the system not really low on the priority list.

10) The Moral - This is a great takeaway, especially if you work for a large entity yourself.  The article says one of the reasons Atari prospered was that Fairchild had an intramural fight.  The manufacturing division sold the chips to the consumer products division at a profit (for the manufacturing division) and sometimes at a cost over what it sold the same chips to other companies.  So, while one division prospered the company as a whole suffered.  

Oh, and that picture of Larry Haskel...that's some photograph.

eraserhead1
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Untold Story of the Game Cartridge

Postby eraserhead1 » January 28th, 2015, 12:49 pm

It's amusing to hear about BusinessWeek talk about "The Smart Machine Revolution" comparing 70s tech to today's "smart" phones. I wonder what "smart" will look like in another 40 years. It reminds me of all the movements called post-this or modern that.

[QUOTE=Wallyworld]Maybe if the cartridges for the Fairchild Channel F didn't look like 8 track tapes it could have fared better. They are the first and probably ugliest carts of all time.[/QUOTE]
8-tracks were not supplanted because of their looks. I don't see that the Channel F carts look any worse than the generic 2600 carts. The article is pretty clear that higher cost and lower fun are what allowed it to be overtaken.  And they were first--what consumer device forerunner has ever successfully navigated mass-market penetration?

[QUOTE=scotland17]
8) Make it or Buy it - The article credits Atari with an advantage for buying chips, searching for the best price over Fairchild.  Yet Commodore would go on to great success in part from cheaper pricing because it did make its own chips.  Which is it?[/QUOTE]
Both. Different methods at different times under different circumstances.



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