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3.0) Hardware Descriptions:

3.1 - Intellivision Master Component

The original, the one the started it all. It has a brown molded plastic case with gold trim on the top. Two controller wells are recessed in the top for housing the two hard-wired controllers. The controllers are also brown molded plastic, with a 12-key numeric keypad, two fire buttons located on each side, and a gold disk centered in the bottom third of the controller which is used to control your on-screen persona. The power and reset switches are located on the top of the unit, in the lower right hand corner:

                                (Top View) 
                            _||_             _|_ 
              Power Cable --+||               |+-- RF Cable 
                             ||               | 
                      |                              || 
                      | ---------------------------- || 
                      |  /\ .... |        | .... /\  || 
                      |  \/ .... |        | .... \/  || 
                      | ---------------------------- || 
                      |                       [ ][|] || 
                                               ^  ^--- Power Switch 
                                               |--- Reset Switch 

3.2 - Sears Super Video Arcade

Up until recently, if you wanted to market your product through Sears, it had to have their name on it. Much like Atari with the Tele-Games Video Arcade, Mattel created a clone that was similar yet different to the INTV I. Functionally identical, this unit has a cream-colored case with a wood-grain front, and removable controllers that rest in the center of the console. The power and reset switches are circular in shape and about an inch in diameter:

                                (Top View) 
                           _||_             _|_ 
             Power Cable --+||               |+-- RF Cable 
                            ||               | 
                     |                              || 
                     | ---------------------------- || 
                     |          |... |... |         || 
                     |          |... |... |         || 
                     |__________| /\ | /\ |_/-\_/-\_|| 
                     |          | \/ | \/ | \-/ \-/ || 
                                             ^  ^--- Power Switch 
                                             |--- Reset Switch 

3.3 - Radio Shack Tandyvision I

Yet another clone, this console has faux wood-grain (what was it with video games and wood-grain in the early eighties??) paneling in the place of the INTV I's gold panels. Otherwise, this unit is totally identical to the INTV I.

3.4 - GTE / Sylvania Intellivision

Still another clone, this console is identical to the original Intellivision except for the brand name. The box has a very detailed description of the Computer Adapter that was never released... Rumor has it that these were given away for free with the purchase of a Sylvania television.

3.5 - IntelliVoice Voice Synthesis Module

This module attaches to the cartridge port of your Intellivision, and through the use of special voice-enhanced games, your INTV could talk. There were 5 games released to take advantage of the unit's capabilities (Space Spartans, B-17 Bomber, Tron Solar Sailor, Bomb Squad, and World Series Major League Baseball (also requires the ECS) ). The module has a dial on the front to control the voice's volume. Voice games will work without the adapter, but since the voice was made to be an integral portion of the game, they're extremely difficult to play.

Underneath the plastic Mattel Electronics logo on the top is an expansion connector. Everyone pop the cover off and make sure it's there? =)

3.6 - Intellivision II

In 1982, Mattel decided that they needed to spice up the design of the Intellivision, as well as attempt to shave some costs; the Intellivision II was the result. Some key differences include:

  • A much smaller footprint
  • Grey plastic case with a thin red stripe circling the unit
  • External power supply (not standard by any means)
  • Detachable controllers (although the fire buttons on these
    controllers are nearly impossible to use, and darn uncomfy =) )
  • Combination Power/Reset switch (probably the most annoying feature of all,
    you have to hold the switch for 5 seconds in order to turn the unit off)
  • Power LED Indicator
                                (Top View) 
                        |         || ...  || ...  || 
                        |         || ...  || ...  || 
                        |         || ...  || ...  || 
                        |    ___  || ...  || ...  || 
       Power LED Ind.--+| * |   | ||  /\  ||  /\  || 
                        |   |___| ||  \/  ||  \/  || 
                              ^--- Power / Reset Switch 

This unit contained a revised ROM which was necessary for the System Changer (more on that later), but also caused incompatibilities with certain Coleco games and some Mattel games (Donkey Kong, Mouse Trap, and Carnival DEFINITELY do not work, Chess is a maybe).

This unit also used a non-standard AC Adapter, making it near impossible to find a replacement at your local Radio Shack. For those who are handy enough to construct their own, here are the specs:

Input: 120V 60Hz 25 Watts
Output: 16.7V AC 1.0A

3.7 - INTV System III (Model #3504)

In 1984, the vice president of marketing for Mattel Electronics bought the rights to the Intellivision and formed a company called INTV Corp. The result of this venture was the release of the INTV III, or Super Pro System. This redesigned unit is physically identical to the original INTV I, except that it has a black plastic case with silver plates, and also has a Power LED indicator between the Power and Reset switches. The controllers are black with silver discs, and the keypads were either silver with black lettering or black with silver lettering.

3.8 - Computer Adapter

This unit only saw a limited test marketing run of less than one thousand units in late 1981. It was color-keyed to match the INTV I, and the entire game console fit into the top of the unit. It sported a full-stroke 60-key keyboard, built in cassette recorder, and brought the total memory capacity of the Intellivision to 64K. A modem expansion module was also planned. Due to it's high street price (around $700, versus an announced price of $150), the plans to market this unit nationally were shelved.

3.9 - Entertainment Computer System

Spurred on by the increasingly popular home computer market, Mattel introduced the Entertainment Computer System along with the INTV II in 1983. This unit plugs into the cartridge port of the INTV II, and has its own cartridge slot, two additional controller ports, a cassette interface, and a balance dial for controlling the output level of the ECS's three additional voices. The unit requires an additional power supply. Here again, Mattel used something completely different from the rest of the industry:

Input: 120V 60Hz 17 Watts
Output: 10.0 VAC, 1.0 A

The ECS came packaged with a 49-key chiclet-style keyboard, power supply, and a well-written manual describing INTV BASIC. Upon returning your registration card, you would receive "The Step-By-Step Guide To Home Computing", which included a very detailed BASIC Tutorial, and some more in-depth study of the ECS's abilities. For the techies, the unit sported an additional voice chip (bringing the grand total to 6), 10K of ROM and 2K of RAM for programming purposes.

This unit comes in two flavors, the grey mentioned above, and also a dark brown color keyed to the original Intellivision. Functionally, the units are identical. The dark brown variety is extremely difficult to find.

Expansions announced for this unit include a 16K RAM, 8K ROM expansion, a 32K RAM, 12K ROM expansion, data recorder, and a 40 column thermal printer. None of these peripherals ever made it to market.

3.10 - Music Synthesizer

This was an add-on for the ECS, a full 49 key piano style keyboard. It has 6 note polyphony (for you non-musicians, can play 6 notes at once), and plugs into the controller ports on the ECS via a dual 9 pin connector. Melody Blaster was the only program released by Mattel to specifically take advantage of this component.

This unit also came molded either in light gray or dark brown plastic. Although they are both pretty tough to find, the brown variety is extremely rare.

3.11 - System Changer

The Atari 2600 had the biggest library of games at the time, and Mattel added the capability of playing 2600 carts to the INTV II with this module. This unit also interfaces with the INTV II via the cartridge port. It has a cartridge port on the top of the module, Game Select and Reset keys flanking the two difficulty and color/BW switch:

                                (Top View) 
                        |     _____________     |       Legend: 
                        |    | _         _ |    | 
                  ______|    |_____________|    |    1 - Game Select 
                  |                             |    2 - Left Difficulty 
                  | +--- To INTV                |    3 - Color / BW Switch 
                  |_______ ___________________  |    4 - Right Difficulty 
                        |  |  1  |2|3|4|  5  |  |    5 - Game Reset 
                        |  |_____|_|_|_|_____|  | 

The controller ports are located on the front of the module, and any of your favorite 2600 compatible controllers work just fine. If you don't happen to have Atari controllers lying around, you can use the disc controller attached to the INTV II in lieu of them.

If you happened to own an original Intellivision, sending in your Master Component and $19.95 would get you a ROM upgrade that was required for this unit to work with the older equipment.

3.12 - Joystick Substitutes

For the masses who couldn't stand to use the Intellivision's awful disc controllers, there were a couple solutions:

  • INTV Corp. released a set of clip-on Joysticks which snapped onto the lower half of your controller, these are of questionable quality and value:
                /       \ 
                |-------|               ________________________ 
                \_______/               |                       | 
                   | |                  |       _________       | 
                   | |                  |      /         \      | 
                   | |  (Side View)     |     (  (INTV)   )     | 
                   | |                  |      \_________/      | 
        ___________| |___________       |                       | 
        | _________| |_________ |       |_______________________| 
        | |    ____| |____    | | 
        | |_   -----------   _| |               (Top View) 
        |___|               |___| 
  • A couple of other companies released sticks that either glued onto the existing discs, or replaced the disc entirely, with a shaft that screwed into a hole drilled into the center of the replacement disc. One of these add-ons also came with oversized fire buttons that clipped over the existing buttons.

3.13 - Compro Electronics (CEI) Videoplexer

Tired of switching between your 8 favorite games?? Get a Videoplexer! Similar to the RomScanner for the Atari 2600, this unit would store 8 Intellivision games and allow you to switch them on the fly via a touch panel on the front of the unit. (Anyone ever seen one of these???)

3.14 - PlayCable

The idea of beaming Junior video games through Cable TV is not new; a company called PlayCable created an adapter for the Intellivision that plugged into the cartridge port, and the service would have had a selection of 20 of the most popular games available every month. Steven Roode and his brother were fortunate enough to have this service, and what follows is his description of the hardware and the service provided:

When you signed up for PlayCable, you were given a box which would plug into the Intellivision's (INTV's) cartridge port. The box had the same color scheme as an INTV I, and it's dimensions were the same height and depth of the INTV I, with the length of an INTV II. It had a power cord coming out of it. Additionally, you were given a RF box which had a coaxial in, a coaxial out, and two RCA outs. One RCA out was connected to the INTV, and one was connected to the PlayCable unit. The setup looked roughly like this:

                                                Cable In 
                                                   | | 
                                               |  ----+  |  +--- RF Box 
                                   ______________|  T  | 
                                   |                V  | 
                                   |                   | 
        |                              ||               | 
        | ---------------------------- || ------------- | 
        |  /\ .... |        | .... /\  ||               | 
        |  \/ .... |        | .... \/  ||               | 
        | ---------------------------- || ------------- | 
        |                       [ ][|] ||               | 
                 Intellivision            PlayCable Box 

For about $4.95 a month, the cable company would transmit 20 games (Although for the first few months, there were only 15 games). When you turned on the INTV, a sort of 'boot screen' would come up and you would hear a sound that sort of sounded like a clock ticking. After a couple of seconds, you would hear 4 long beeps and the PlayCable title screen would pop up. There would be one of four different songs in the background (I know that one was the victory song in checkers, one was The Entertainer, one was Music Box Dancer, and I forget the other one). Each screen listed 5 games (I think, it may have been 4), and you could cycle through the games lists by pressing the disc. When you found the game that you wanted, you would press the number next to it, and press enter. A title screen of the game would pop up, and again you would hear ticking. After a couple of seconds, you would hear the same 4 long beeps and the game would be ready to play.

The following are excerpts from a PlayCable-specific game manual describing the game loading process:


  • - Set the PlayCable TV/Game switch to GAME.
  • - Turn on your television and turn to Channel 3 or 4. (The same setting as the switch on the bottom of the Mattel Electronics Master Component.)
  • - Turn on the Master Component; push the RESET button.
  • - The screen will read, "PLAYCABLE CATALOG." The screen will then change to: "PLAYCABLE PRESENTS INTELLIVISION. PUSH DISC."
  • - Push the directional disc (the big, round button on either hand control) to see each page of the catalog. The series will start again automatically as you keep pushing the disc.
  • - To call up a game, find the page on which the game appears. Press the number of the game on your keypad, then press ENTER. Wait about 10 seconds. When the four rectangles in the upper left hand corner of your screen turn white, your game is ready.
  • - Push the disc again and the game will appear.
  • - To select a new game, push RESET. The catalog will re-appear.

One of the neater aspects of PlayCable was that they would rotate out about half of the games every month. When they did, you would get instruction books and overlays for each new game in the mail (and all of the overlays were attached with perforations; so you would have to sort of tear them apart).

PlayCable tended to have some pretty decent games on it. You would always have a couple of the 'classics' every month (i.e., I don't think Baseball and Astrosmash ever came off!), and you would get some pretty recent games as well. Once in a while they were slow in changing the games. They were supposed to be rotated out on the 1st of each month. Believe me, my brother and I would fake sick to stay home from school sometimes on the 1st! If by noon they weren't changed, we would call the cable company and by the end of the day they were updated (One other neat little side note: When they changed the games out, the system would still be up. First, all game choices would disappear. Then, two by two, new games would pop up. You could actually see them appear!)

We had PlayCable for about two years (I think 81-82), and our cable company was big into promoting it. They had INTV play-a-thons at some of the local malls, giving away free INTVs to high scorers in certain games. During one promotional weekend, the cable company showed nothing but people playing INTV and the announcers commenting on how realistic the gameplay was. I think we even have one PlayCable T-shirt laying around somewhere!

Finally though, our cable company stopped carrying PlayCable, and unfortunately, we had to surrender the box. I would liked to have kept it to see how it worked. All in all, our family has a lot of fond memories of PlayCable... I think it helped to enhance the uniqueness and mystery of the Intellivision.

| Larry Anderson -               | 
| Classic Games Collector with a bug for information =) | 
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