Long-time gamers remember the big systems of days gone by. The Atari 2600, Intellivision, the original NES, Super NES, and Sega Genesis are storied consoles to be sure. Thanks to so-called plug-and-play or all-in-one systems released in recent years, younger gamers can experience these historic systems first hand, while older ones can stroll down memory lane, and both can do so quite affordably.
However, for every Atari 2600 and NES system, several consoles existed for only a brief time before disappearing like Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde.
1. Fairchild Channel F
Though Atari had successfully launched a home version of its popular Pong game in 1974, they were still a year away from releasing their landmark 2600 system when Fairchild introduced their Channel F system in 1976. At the time, Fairchild was a highly regarded manufacturer of semiconductors and had been in business since 1957.
Fairchild's Channel F actually beat Atari's 2600 to the market
Their video game system’s big claim to fame was being the first programmable ROM cartridge-based video game console. It was also the first one to use a microprocessor. Originally named Video Entertainment System, or VES, it became Channel F when Atari rolled out the 2600. The system remained fairly popular into the early ‘80s but was soon seen as antiquated and lacking in titles.
Fairchild got out of the video game business shortly after and today is a subsidiary of ON Semiconductor based in Phoenix.
2. Coleco Telstar/ColecoVision
Coleco fought the game war on two fronts. Staring in 1976, it introduced its Telstar (named for the 1960s-era communications satellite) System. Like Fairchild, Coleco beat rival Atari to the market but suffered the same fate. The original Telstar was much like Atari’s Pong system, offering a not-too-dissimilar version of, essentially, the same game (hockey, tennis, handball). Coleco, however, continually upgraded their entire system, releasing 14 different versions through 1977.
The final version, pictured at the top of this article, was a triangular console with paddles, an optical gun, and a steering wheel on each of its faces and came out in 1977. Though it offered a ROM cartridge system, it was no match for the wildly popular Atari 2600.
Coleco almost went bankrupt but managed to stay afloat thanks to its popular line of handheld sports games, notably Electronic Quarterback and Head-to-Head Baseball, which were created to compete with Mattel’s very popular line of such games.
Handheld games like Electronic Quarterback kept Coleco alive
On the home video side, Coleco battled back with ColecoVision in 1982, a console that was popular based largely on the inclusion of the game Donkey Kong, licensed from Nintendo. ColecoVision’s star burned brightly for two years but fizzled out much faster. Sales plummeted in 1984, and by 1985 the company was out of the video game business. By 1988, it was out of business entirely with Hasbro buying many of the company’s remaining assets.
3. Philips CD-i
Introduced in 1991, Philips CD-I, short for Compact Disc Interactive, was positioned as an alternative to pricey personal computers, yet much more advanced than a standard CD player. As such, it’s gaming capabilities took a back seat to its educational and multimedia offerings.
Unfortunately, the games proved to be the systems most popular software. Philips tried to catch up but couldn’t. PCs also became more and more affordable, making the Philips system less attractive. The last CD-i system was produced in 1998.
With video game systems making a comeback in the 1990s, many companies entered the market in an attempt to catch the leading console makers Sega and Nintendo. Launched in 1993, the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer was created by the 3DO Company of Redwood, CA. The system was licensed to Panasonic, Gold Star, and Sanyo and marketed under a variety of names, which may have caused some confusion in the marketplace.
3DO game system
Though slightly more advanced than competing systems, the units high price was off-putting to many consumers. Further hurting 3DO was the launch of Sony’s Playstation system just two years later, along with the debut of Sega’s Genesis console. Shortly after that, 3DO disappeared.
5. Atari Jaguar
Supplanted by the likes of Nintendo and Sega, Atari attempted a comeback in 1993 with its Jaguar system. Clunky hardware and a lack of titles (only about 60 were available) hindered Atari’s efforts to catch its rivals. After only three years, Atari was completely out of the game console business.
Interestingly, the system eventually got a new lease on life after Hasbro Interactive bought out Atari in the late 1990s. Hasbro made the unusual move of placing the Jaguar patents in the public domain. It has since achieved quite a cult following among home-based developers who create games on the now open platform.
6. Apple Pippin
Before they figured out how to sell you a new phone every six months, Apple competed rather fiercely in the game and home computer markets. In conjunction with the Bandai Corporation, Apple introduced Pippin (stylized as PiPP!N) in 1996. Bandai had wanted to introduce a CD-ROM only version of the home computer and chose Apple's operating platform. Apple saw this as an opportunity to profitably license its technology in much the same way JVC had done with VHS video, and Sony and Philips had done with compact discs.
Pippin, however, never found its tribe and was pulled after only a year. Today, Bandai continues to produce toys including scale model kits and video games. Apple went on to own you.