Useful Notes: Intellivision

Intellivision. Intelligent Television.

The Atari 2600 inspired other companies to enter the market for video games. One of these companies was Mattel Toys, which established the Mattel Electronics division to develop a video game console. The Intellivision was released to the public in late 1980 (although some sources, including a vintage informational video on YouTube say 1979); while it never defeated Atari for the hearts and minds of the public, it was the 2600's strongest initial rival, and hung around for some time.

In a famous advertising campaign of the time, actor George Plimpton proclaimed (and showed) that the Intellivision's graphics were superior to those of the Atari 2600. While the Intellivision could produce superior graphics to the 2600 (though the Colecovision's graphics were still better), sports games were the only genre where Mattel really challenged Atari (who produced the Realsports series in response), though many of the earlier "Sports Network" titles had the defect of being multiplayer-only.

Mattel had trouble securing the rights to produce home ports of Arcade Games: many popular titles had been acquired by competitors Atari and Coleco (who ended up porting many of them to the Intellivision anyway), and Mattel had to make a deal with then-obscure company Data East, with surprisingly good results. To compensate for its deficiency in arcade ports, Mattel invested heavily in rights to make Licensed Games, such as three for the film TRON, but many of which were never developed or never released.

The Intellivision didn't use a joystick. It had a round, touch-sensitive pad and a 12-button keypad above it (games frequently included inserts that went above the pad to show how the buttons were used). On the down side, the controllers were permanently attached to the console, and games couldn't use the keypad and the control disc at the same time.

The Intellivoice add-on is of historical note in that it made the Intellivision the first console capable of voice synthesis, though only five Intellivision games supported it. Other proposed add-ons for the console entered Development Hell; Jay Leno drew laughs at a Mattel function making fun of how long the keyboard add-on project was taking. The Keyboard Component, as it was formally named, was heavily marketed at the system's launch, as it was intended to turn the Intellivision into a full-fledged home computer, as a low-cost alternative to the fledgling Atari 400/800 and Commodore VIC-20. Unfortunately, the development team could not find a cost-effective means to create a mass-production model, and after the Federal Trade Commission came down on Mattel for failing to live up to their advertised promise, a scaled-down Entertainment Computer System module (developed by a separate in-house team) was released.

The Intellivision II, released in 1983, was not a new system, but a minor technical upgrade whose most remarkable "feature" was incompatibility with Mattel's previously released cartridges. Mattel Electronics also released the Aquarius home computer that year, promoting it with video games and other software; the Aquarius, being based on a technologically primitive design, handled both poorly and was quickly discontinued.

Mattel Electronics was one of the first casualties of The Great Video Game Crash of 1983, shutting down operations in early 1984. Interestingly, a former Mattel exec ended up buying the rights to it, and the new company (INTV Corp.) was able to sell the console and a few new games via mail order, until it too succumbed and went out of business entirely in 1991. Ultimately, the rights were sold to a former game developer who formed Intellivision Productions, which continues to license Intellivision properties to this day.

In 2014, At Games released the Intellivision Flashback, a pretty faithful recreation of the original model system with 60 built-in games that run on an emulator chip.



  • CPU: General Instrument CP1610, ~0.9 Mhz
  • GPU General Instrument AY-3-8900
  • General Instrument AY-3-8914 sound chip

  • 1456 bytes

  • 159*96 resolution, doubled vertically to 159*192
  • 16 colors
  • 8 sprites

  • Three channels
  • Square or noise waveforms


  • ABPA Backgammon
  • Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Cloudy Mountain
    • Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin
  • Armor Battle
  • Astrosmash
  • Atlantis
  • Auto Racing
  • B-17 Bomber (used the Voice Synthesis Module)
  • Beamrider
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Blockade Runner 1
  • Body Slam Super Pro Wrestling
  • Bomb Squad (used the Voice Synthesis Module)
  • Bowling
  • Boxing
  • Bump 'n' Jump
  • BurgerTime
    • Diner
  • Buzz Bombers
  • Carnival
  • Championship Tennis
  • Checkers (also released as Draughts)
  • Chess
  • Chip Shot: Super Pro Golf
  • Circus
  • Commando
  • Congo Bongo
  • Defender
  • Demon Attack
  • Dig Dug
  • Donkey Kong
    • Donkey Kong Jr.
  • Dracula
  • Dragonfire
  • The Dreadnaught Factor
  • The Electric Company Math Fun
  • The Electric Company Word Fun
  • Fathom
  • Football
  • Frog Bog
  • Frogger
  • Golf
  • Happy Trails
  • Hockey
  • Horse Racing
  • Hover Force
  • Ice Trek
  • Kool-Aid Man
  • Lady Bug
  • Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack
  • Las Vegas Roulette
  • Learning Fun I
  • Learning Fun II
  • Lock 'N Chase
  • Loco-Motion
  • Major League Baseball (AKA Big League Baseball)
  • Masters Of The Universe: The Power of He-Man
  • Microsurgeon
  • Mind Strike
  • Mission X
  • Motocross
  • Mountain Madness: Super Pro Skiing
  • Mouse Trap
  • NASL Soccer
  • NBA Basketball
  • NFL Football
  • NHL Hockey
  • Night Stalker
  • Nova Blast
  • Number Jumble
  • Pac-Man
  • PBA Bowling
  • PGA Golf
  • Pinball
  • Pitfall
  • Pole Position
  • Popeye
  • Q*bert
  • Reversi
  • River Raid
  • Royal Dealer
  • Safecracker
  • Sea Battle
  • Sewer Sam
  • Shark! Shark!
  • Sharp Shot
  • Slam Dunk Super Pro Basketball
  • Slap Shot Super Pro Hockey
  • Snafu
  • Soccer
  • Space Armada
  • Space Battle
  • Space Hawk
  • Space Spartans (used the Voice Synthesis Module)
  • Spiker! Super Pro Volleyball
  • Stadium Mud Buggies
  • Stampede
  • Star Strike
  • Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Sub Hunt
  • Super Cobra
  • Super Pro Decathlon
  • Super Pro Football
  • Swords & Serpents
  • Tennis
  • Thin Ice
  • Thunder Castle
  • Tower of Doom
  • Triple Action
  • Triple Challenge
  • TRON Deadly Discs
  • TRON Maze-a-Tron
  • TRON: Solar Sailor (used the Voice Synthesis Module)
  • Tropical Trouble
  • Truckin'
  • Turbo
  • Tutankham
  • U.S. Ski Team Skiing
  • USCF Chess
  • Utopia
  • Vectron
  • Venture
  • White Water!
  • World Championship Baseball
  • Worm Whomper
  • World Cup Soccer
  • Zaxxon