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Rev. Rob

In depth Look - RCA Studio II AKA: The "Real" Worst Console Ever

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Technical Specs:

 

Processor

RCA COSMAC 1802

 

CPU Speed

1.78 Mhz

 

RAM

2.5KB

 

It’s January 1977. RCA had watched as rival TV manufacture Magnavox successfully released the world's first video game console, Odyssey, five years earlier. RCA executives also saw numerous "pong" systems that came to the market and were met with success and acclaim in the years in between, most notably, Atari's Pong in 1975.

 

This was particularly upsetting to some folks at RCA because they had turned away the inventor of the home videogame console, Ralph Baer, who had approached RCA with his idea before doing business with Magnavox.

 

In an effort to enter into a new, popular, and lucrative market, RCA decided to counter the popular dedicate consoles that dominated the market by releasing a system that is programmable. The idea was that programs on cartridges could be sold separately and work with one console. Game programs could be sold cheap, and consumers would only have to purchase the expensive hardware once.

 

An excellent idea, but unfortunately, despite an attempt rush the Studio II to retail shelves, Fairchild, a maker of semiconductors and camera parts, beat RCA to the punch in 1976, by releasing their vastly more powerful Channel-F system only a few months from the RCA's introduction of their game system.

 

Upon its release, the Studio II was immediately rendered obsolete. The controllers were integrated into the console; no cords, no wires. The sound came from a speaker on the unit, not from the TV. The color was only in black and white. The 1976 release of the Channel-F had almost none of these shortcomings.

 

The Studio II was marketed only during 1977. With the release of the Atari VCS and Magnavox’s Odyssey 2, RCA decided to cut their losses on a poorly planned and marketed console venture, never again to return to the video game world.

 

A total of eleven (11) programs were released for the Studio II. The console also have five simple games built into the unit, such as Doodle, Addition, and Freeway.

 

Overall, it’s a joke. RCA, the American company who defeated juggernaut Sony in the first format wars and won supremacy for the VHS standard over Sony's Betamax, must have had too many people working on VCR's and not enough on video games. In a word, Studio II is awful. In a few words: "Worst. Console. Ever."

 

After purchasing the Game.com, Tiger's internet capable final attempt at the handheld game market, I thought I had played the worst. Even Game.com's predecessor, the LCD based R-Zone that screams nerd when worn on the head, is vastly superior to RCA's blunder.

 

Fairchild's 1976 Channel-F console, released several months before Studio II, was years ahead of RCA. Their console featured color, and graphics detailed enough to produce quality clones of Atari hits such as Combat and Lunar Lander.

 

On the other hand, Studio II isn't powerful enough to produce a clone of an ASCII based calculator game from the mid 1990's. Yes, the graphics are actually much worse. See: Freeway. Even the obligatory Pong clone is so poor and slow, that a novice gamer can easily play a match against himself with little difficulty.

 

The simple selecting a game to play requires unintelligible combinations of numbers, which makes reading the manual a must. This is clearly why RCA printed abbreviated instructions on the back of the cartridges themselves, and why the carts are actually inserted backwards into the system. This is the only evidence of forward thinking that exists from RCA in regards to the Studio II.

 

Controls that do not detach from the console, (this was an option for the 1972 Magnavox Odyssey and the Channel-F), make game play a chore, forcing the gamer to hold the entire console. Two player games are an even bigger nightmare.

 

The graphics are surprisingly not far ahead of where Magnavox was five years earlier, and with a console that didn't even have a CPU. Studio II is hardly worthy of being considered a part of the generation that gave birth to consoles such as Atari's 2600, Mattel's Intellivision, and Odyssey 2.

 

A conversation piece at best, the Studio II does have a few oddities.

 

1. The console was intended to be in color. This is proven by the existence of 1978 Sheen M1200, a UK clone, and also by the fact that some of the games were programmed in color. Likely to cut corners, console can only output in black and white.

 

2. Interestingly, the console's external power supply plugs into its TV game switch (RF unit), and not directly into the unit. This of course also means that any Studio II minus the game switch component is even more utterly useless than a complete system.

 

3. What’s with the name? Seriously? How can it be a “II” of anything if it’s the first of something?

 

Possibly the only US console to be supported by its manufacturer for less than one year, Studio II is quickly, and rightfully, forgotten amidst game history.

 

 

Here is a screenshot of Baseball:

 

000016657.jpg

 

Admit it, you would never have know that is supposed to be baseball if I hadn't told you.

 

Here's another one of Black Jack:

 

000016654.jpg

 

"Shit" is right! LOL!

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2. Interestingly, the console's external power supply plugs into its TV game switch (RF unit), and not directly into the unit. This of course also means that any Studio II minus the game switch component is even more utterly useless than a complete system.

Wouldn't that IMPROVE the system?

:)

 

 

Seriously, we've got a Studio 2 floating around here somewhere. But I've never felt the urge to dig it out. Morbid curiosity is defeated by dust.

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My understanding is that the Studio II can cause some nasty screen burn-in on your TV if you play it for extended periods of time.

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I love the Studio II. You just have to pretend it's from the 1950's when you're playing it and it will seem ahead of it's time. Anyone want to sell me Bingo?

 

 

y-bot

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Baseball? BASEBALL!?! I thought it was some sort of Combat derivative there for a minute.

 

I've played one, and it's just as bad as it sounds. When the Fairchild and the Odyssey 2 make your system look inferior, something is SERIOUSLY wrong.

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From what I've heard (and seen) , the Studio II's COSMAC processor seems to use the Chip-8 instruction set. The chip-8 instruction set is inherently limited and RCA should have never have even contemplated using their outdated '60s architecture in the first place. Why couldn't they just have put 6502s in the boards instead? RCA couldn't do anything right in the video games business.

 

I've played the Studio II in an emulator. Holy f*ck, is it terrible. The first time I turned on the car racing cartridge, I thought my file was corrupted or something.

Edited by Segataritensoftii

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Good luck finding that copy of Bingo, Y-Bot.Thats the "Holy Grail" of the Studio II. :D

 

Oh, I know. I don't think it was commercially released, I think it must be a salesman's sample or something. The only info I've ever seen is that someone had it for sale at a video game convention a few years ago and a few people say they saw it. No one knows who owns it or where it came from. I'd pay pretty good money for it. I'd also like to wee one of those color clones.

 

y-bot

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Good luck finding that copy of Bingo, Y-Bot.Thats the "Holy Grail" of the Studio II. :D

 

Oh, I know. I don't think it was commercially released, I think it must be a salesman's sample or something. The only info I've ever seen is that someone had it for sale at a video game convention a few years ago and a few people say they saw it. No one knows who owns it or where it came from. I'd pay pretty good money for it. I'd also like to wee one of those color clones.

 

y-bot

 

It looked full production to me. Then again the guy had a whole RCA Demo kiosk too, so who knows?

 

Tempest

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Upon its release, the Studio II was immediately rendered obsolete. The controllers were integrated into the console; no cords, no wires. The sound came from a speaker on the unit, not from the TV. The color was only in black and white. The 1976 release of the Channel-F had almost none of these shortcomings.

 

Actually, if I'm not mistaken the Channel F also had a speaker in the unit that generated the sound.

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Upon its release, the Studio II was immediately rendered obsolete. The controllers were integrated into the console; no cords, no wires. The sound came from a speaker on the unit, not from the TV. The color was only in black and white. The 1976 release of the Channel-F had almost none of these shortcomings.

 

Actually, if I'm not mistaken the Channel F also had a speaker in the unit that generated the sound.

 

 

There First Version (VES) did but the System II released later used the T.V. speaker for sound

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A little nitpick:

 

Overall, it’s a joke. RCA, the American company who defeated juggernaut Sony in the first format wars and won supremacy for the VHS standard over Sony's Betamax, must have had too many people working on VCR's and not enough on video games. In a word, Studio II is awful. In a few words: "Worst. Console. Ever."

 

I'm not sure I'd give RCA credit for winning supremacy for VHS over Beta-- it was a combination of a lot of factors, including VHS being licensed to a zillion manufacturers by JVC.

 

I like my Studio II. It goes great with my RCA Selectavision CED player. If I could find an RCA front-projection TV from the early 80s, I could create my own "failed RCA products" entertainment center!

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Good luck finding that copy of Bingo, Y-Bot.Thats the "Holy Grail" of the Studio II. :D

 

Oh, I know. I don't think it was commercially released, I think it must be a salesman's sample or something. The only info I've ever seen is that someone had it for sale at a video game convention a few years ago and a few people say they saw it. No one knows who owns it or where it came from. I'd pay pretty good money for it. I'd also like to wee one of those color clones.

 

y-bot

 

It looked full production to me. Then again the guy had a whole RCA Demo kiosk too, so who knows?

 

Tempest

 

I hadn't heard the part about the Demo Kiosk, man I wish there were pictures.

 

y-bot

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I actually just hooked mine up today. It's not fun, but there are a few things I like about it. The games plug in backwards (like the 7800 etc.) and on the back of the cartridge they have game instructions so that you don't need to go to the actual game instructions to start up the game. Also, the RF adapter looks very awesome; the whole system reminds me of the '50s with the cream color and all. The power plugs into the RF adapter like the 5200 does, but it seems to work much better (i.e. no sparks and no interference). If only the "games" were better...

Edited by PsychedelicShaman

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On the upshot, it STILL isn't as bad as the VIS.

 

I don't consider VIS a game system... and even if I did, VIS blows it out of the water.

 

 

I love the Studio II. You just have to pretend it's from the 1950's when you're playing it and it will seem ahead of it's time. Anyone want to sell me Bingo?

 

 

y-bot

 

You know, I'd really just like a scan of this thing. Anyone?

 

 

Upon its release, the Studio II was immediately rendered obsolete. The controllers were integrated into the console; no cords, no wires. The sound came from a speaker on the unit, not from the TV. The color was only in black and white. The 1976 release of the Channel-F had almost none of these shortcomings.

 

Actually, if I'm not mistaken the Channel F also had a speaker in the unit that generated the sound.

 

Hence why I said "almost none." However, as another poster already pointed out, Channel-F later used the TV speakers for sound.

 

 

A little nitpick:

 

Overall, it’s a joke. RCA, the American company who defeated juggernaut Sony in the first format wars and won supremacy for the VHS standard over Sony's Betamax, must have had too many people working on VCR's and not enough on video games. In a word, Studio II is awful. In a few words: "Worst. Console. Ever."

 

I'm not sure I'd give RCA credit for winning supremacy for VHS over Beta-- it was a combination of a lot of factors, including VHS being licensed to a zillion manufacturers by JVC.

 

It was RCA that increased the leingth of VHS to four hours against the protests of JVC, and it was RCA that made the best players. IMO, history shows that RCA won that fight.

 

I like my Studio II. It goes great with my RCA Selectavision CED player. If I could find an RCA front-projection TV from the early 80s, I could create my own "failed RCA products" entertainment center!

 

Ya, I like having my Studio II near my 32X, Saturn and Dreamcast. It masks the SEGA-stench of failure quite well.

 

Hell, it could almost nearly make the Jaguar seem like a stunning success.

Edited by Rev. Rob

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Good luck finding that copy of Bingo, Y-Bot.Thats the "Holy Grail" of the Studio II. :D

 

Oh, I know. I don't think it was commercially released, I think it must be a salesman's sample or something. The only info I've ever seen is that someone had it for sale at a video game convention a few years ago and a few people say they saw it. No one knows who owns it or where it came from. I'd pay pretty good money for it. I'd also like to wee one of those color clones.

 

y-bot

 

It looked full production to me. Then again the guy had a whole RCA Demo kiosk too, so who knows?

 

Tempest

 

I hadn't heard the part about the Demo Kiosk, man I wish there were pictures.

 

y-bot

 

It wasn't a kiosk per sae, more like a demonstration display. Like a salesman might carry to show perspective customers or a store might set up in the corner of the store. I honestly don't remember much about it other than the guy said he bought it from some little mom and pop place.

 

Tempest

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It was RCA that increased the leingth of VHS to four hours against the protests of JVC, and it was RCA that made the best players. IMO, history shows that RCA won that fight.

 

Ahh, gotcha. I was interpreting the line as saying that RCA defeated Sony in marketshare or profits (well, at least as far as the home video segment goes). (One interesting aside, only tangentially related and appropos of nothing: I've read that, profit-wise, one can argue that Sony won the home video war. Despite Beta's always-shrinking marketshare, nearly all profits from Beta went to Sony-- even if VHS had 95% of the market, that 95% got split among a zillion manufacturers. No single manufacturer had a slice of the home video market as large as Sony's.)

 

Hell, it could almost nearly make the Jaguar seem like a stunning success.

 

Jaguar's a lot more fun to play, that's for sure...

 

I think of my Studio II as an interesting curio. It looks like something out of the 60s, or something heavily influenced by the 70s fad explosion of 4-function calculators. RCA, up through the 80s, had a hell of a lot of funky R&D going on (holographic home video!), and it's fascinating to see glimpses of their creations in these oddball products. They created their own processors, and created computers (COSMAC VIP, Microtutor II, even mainframes) and video game system around them way before the marketplaces were mature. They had the prescience to create a digital, processor-driven, programmable video game system, they had the prescience to envision a market for a constant demand for new games, they even had the concept of cheap development kits in the form of the COSMAC VIP (often sold/marketed as an ideal video game development computer!)

 

Studio II sucks in retrospect. Hell, it sucked then. But... some R&D group in Ft. Wayne IN still managed to reason their way to the future of the video games industry-- where it was headed, how it would be implemented-- and got like 90% of their guessing right-- quite possibly crippled by marketing or budgeting, judging by the color/b&w thing. Not bad considering, at the time, they had just the Odyssey to look at for clues.

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I can Name 2 Consoles Worst than RCA Studio II

 

[Cough]XBOX and XBOX 360[/Cough]

That's crazy; you cough up xbox machines. You're like one of those miracle people who cries glass.

 

On another note, what are the two systems worse than the Studio 2?

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It was RCA that increased the leingth of VHS to four hours against the protests of JVC, and it was RCA that made the best players. IMO, history shows that RCA won that fight.

 

Not bad considering, at the time, they had just the Odyssey to look at for clues.

 

Untrue. Atari Pong was released in 75, a full two years before the Studio II. In addition, a slew of dedicated consoles were released in this era that far outpreformed Studio II.

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Not bad considering, at the time, they had just the Odyssey to look at for clues.

 

Untrue. Atari Pong was released in 75, a full two years before the Studio II. In addition, a slew of dedicated consoles were released in this era that far outpreformed Studio II.

 

Quotes got screwed up somewhere. Oh well.

 

I was referring to RCA engineers looking at programmable consoles that could do more than paddle games. Programmbles simply didn't exist-- the marketplace (such as the Atari consoles at the time) suggested a non-programmable future. The Channel F was developed simultaneously with the Studio II, so wasn't available for reference; only the Odyssey existed as a "programmable," and (obviously) was lacking in the microprocessor department at the time. Nothing else like this existed at the time RCA engineers were being paddled by marketers for looking at color. (I'm still weirded out by the fact RCA was the champion of NTSC color in the 1940s, killing the CBS system, but would kill color in their own products later on.)

 

The concept of where the industry would go (regardless of manufacturer) was a weird and unpredictable combination of marketing ideas-- video games as demonstrated by dedicated-systems manufacturers, computers that were barely beyond calculator/SBC design and manufacturing standards, programmability like 8-tracks or "Playtape." RCA (and Fairchild) did pretty good guessing about where the overall industry was headed, but tied their carts to some pretty crappy horses. I'm impressed that they managed to do what they did, despite being really inept with their implementations.

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I have to concur with Student Driver there. Both RCA and Fairchild had a lot of foresight and great ideas it's just too bad they got got sidetracked budget wise, especially RCA obviously.

On a more personal note I still need a functional Studio II unit. The one I have arrived D.O.A. :( The only game for it I don't have is Speedway/Tag. The lot I bought came with all the rest so it wasn't a complete loss.

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Not bad considering, at the time, they had just the Odyssey to look at for clues.

 

Untrue. Atari Pong was released in 75, a full two years before the Studio II. In addition, a slew of dedicated consoles were released in this era that far outpreformed Studio II.

 

Quotes got screwed up somewhere. Oh well.

 

I was referring to RCA engineers looking at programmable consoles that could do more than paddle games. Programmbles simply didn't exist-- the marketplace (such as the Atari consoles at the time) suggested a non-programmable future. The Channel F was developed simultaneously with the Studio II, so wasn't available for reference; only the Odyssey existed as a "programmable," and (obviously) was lacking in the microprocessor department at the time. Nothing else like this existed at the time RCA engineers were being paddled by marketers for looking at color. (I'm still weirded out by the fact RCA was the champion of NTSC color in the 1940s, killing the CBS system, but would kill color in their own products later on.)

 

The concept of where the industry would go (regardless of manufacturer) was a weird and unpredictable combination of marketing ideas-- video games as demonstrated by dedicated-systems manufacturers, computers that were barely beyond calculator/SBC design and manufacturing standards, programmability like 8-tracks or "Playtape." RCA (and Fairchild) did pretty good guessing about where the overall industry was headed, but tied their carts to some pretty crappy horses. I'm impressed that they managed to do what they did, despite being really inept with their implementations.

 

 

Oh, I get your point now.

 

Well, I think that the Channel F is a fantastic game machine. I fully credit it as being the first modern game console, It really wasn't all that underpowered either. If Fairchild hadn't gone under they might have stuck around. Some of the games are very good.

 

When Fairchild and RCA jumped into the market, it's not like the concept of a programmable console wasn't already an idea, it just wasn't affordable until then. I can't give RCA credit for any forward thinking. My point is that their software was less advanced than any other software at the time. I don't know what they could've been thinking. Their hardware was also woefully outdated. Detached controllers were also an old idea at the time. I don't see how they could have any excuse. They certianlly do not get any credit from me.

 

Seriously, who knows why it's called Studio II?

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I can Name 2 Consoles Worst than RCA Studio II

 

[Cough]XBOX and XBOX 360[/Cough]

That's crazy; you cough up xbox machines. You're like one of those miracle people who cries glass.

 

On another note, what are the two systems worse than the Studio 2?

 

Sorry If I do that then people will call me a Hater, But I can give you some Clues.

 

1.the 2 consoles Are from the Same Company

2.Their the Only 2 Consoles they ever Made

3.one of them in a Curent Gen Console.

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