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Blazing Lazers

RCA Studio II GOLD MINE! An interview with the Studio 2 Production Manager!

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The fact that everyone of these has ties to rca folks makes me more and more certain it never was released.

Likely either a test batch was made and sold or given out to interested employees after the game was axed.....or.....a first batch was made planning to be sold but got cancelled before distribution going to stores.....in which case again they were made available internally.....but there could possibly also be a pallet of them somewhere out there if they were not recycled/trashed ;)

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49 minutes ago, stupus said:

The fact that everyone of these has ties to rca folks makes me more and more certain it never was released.

Likely either a test batch was made and sold or given out to interested employees after the game was axed.....or.....a first batch was made planning to be sold but got cancelled before distribution going to stores.....in which case again they were made available internally.....but there could possibly also be a pallet of them somewhere out there if they were not recycled/trashed ;)

Pretty much. The odds are still highly against any formal release, unless one considers the Family Stores. And even that isn't certain, just an evidence-based theory. But if this game can be found to have at least been made in Swannanoa it would at least provide evidence of at least one copy having been "sold" back in the day. We do know that employees were allowed to buy the systems and games at a discount, so even if it is the narrowest possible window of availability it still is a sale.

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Yes, but to count something as a true release it needs to have been made available for some amount of time by some means to the public.

Sales limited to only employees would not count as a release ;)

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2 hours ago, stupus said:

Yes, but to count something as a true release it needs to have been made available for some amount of time by some means to the public.

Sales limited to only employees would not count as a release ;)

True, and to really sort this mystery out once and for all we need more data, particularly regarding the Family Stores. I've been trying to find info on them for a while now, and most especially if they were ever open to the general public. Back in the day, my area had similar employee/government workers/commissaries/etc stores that people who were with family of the workers could visit and shop at. Tony Robbi told me that the Family Stores did carry the "full range" of RCA products, and probably had things that were exclusive or were only made in small amounts for these stores. Low print run CED discs come to mind. For now though, the search continues, particularly for newsletters and store flyers.

 

I'm also considering the possibility that if some copies really were made at Swannanoa, then it can't be ruled out that some would have been shipped out to RCA dealers from the factory.

 

There's also the possibility that both of the known copies originated from the factory, even though we know at least one copy was present at RCA back in the day. The facilities that RCA had "up North" were apparently not sufficient for making more than a few copies- anything greater than that had to have been made at the main factory in Swannanoa. All of the various manuals, boxes, labels, etc for the games were printed by outside contractors and shipped in to the plant were the game copies were assembled and packed up for shipping, and Bingo is easily the most complex game for the system in terms of included materials. I've had the thought for some time now that perhaps it was this complexity that may have led to a production delay or even outright cancellation, but still don't have anything solid. And even though now it does seem as though some copies were produced at the factory, little to none might have actually shipped out, but for now I'm keeping my mind open to all possibilities.

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A boxed system and game lot recently appeared on Ebay that at first glance seemed unremarkable but upon closer inspection it became evident that I was looking at something truly special and which I had never previously seen: the Canadian RCA Studio II packaging box! I had heard from some of the other collectors that Radio Shack did market the system in Canada, but not a single photo or even any references were to be found online. So it was just another bit of collector lore until now. I didn't hesitate to buy it. It just arrived, from a seller based out of Arizona, who obtained it and copies of most of the games at an auction. I can only wonder at how a Canadian Studio II ended up in Arizona, but I'm sure glad it did, and for the sake of preservation I've uploaded photos of the (for now, unique) box. It is regrettable that there wasn't a system manual (the seller said they'll look), but that is balanced out by something else that's special about this particular system: the Serial Number is 182,254- the highest one yet found! So as of now this is the "youngest" Studio II, and it makes sense that it might have been unsold factory stock that Radio Shack bought and attempted to sell in Canada. The box and system Serials also match (!!!) AND there's a brief mention of some sort of RCA Distributor and Special Products Division presence in Canada. So I hope that this might open up a new front in the ongoing Studio II research and documentation effort, and that this new discovery and proof of the system being sold in Canada (note the store sticker on the side) can be added to all the various other online information sites.

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I'm sorry if this is the wrong place to ask for help. I have an RCA Studio II system that half works. By that I mean only half the lines show up on the TV screen. I've attached a picture of the built-in Bowling game. There are evenly-spaced gaps in the solid white border as well as the bowling ball and pins.

 

I've tried the system on several different TV sets, including one from the late 1970s. I've switched the channel from 2 to 3. I've tried both the original switch box that came with the system and a second switch box I picked up years ago. The original power adapter failed so I replaced it with a 9v 300mA AC adapter. This was also years ago. Is this the wrong power adapter? Is it possible I fried the circuit board(s)?

 

Thanks for any help.

rcastudio2.jpg

Edited by Questor
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33 minutes ago, Questor said:

I'm sorry if this is the wrong place to ask for help. I have an RCA Studio II system that half works. By that I mean only have the lines show up on the TV screen. I've attached a picture of the built-in Bowling game. There are evenly-spaced gaps in the solid white border as well as the bowling ball and pins.

 

I've tried the system on several different TV sets, including one from the late 1970s. I've switched the channel from 2 to 3. I've tried both the original switch box that came with the system and a second switch box I picked up years ago. The original power adapter failed so I replaced it with a 9v 300mA AC adapter. This was also years ago. Is this the wrong power adapter? Is it possible I fried the circuit board(s)?

 

Thanks for any help.

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This is definitely the right place on the Internet for Studio II related inquiries! I've never seen one quite like what you describe above. I own several and they either work flawlessly or are totally dead. Most of the issues I've encountered are with bad power supply switches and adapters, very rarely the systems themselves.

 

Out of curiosity, what's the Serial Number on the bottom of your system, and do you have any games for it?

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The serial number is 88237. I have three games with the original boxes and manuals: Tennis/Squash, Blackjack, and Baseball.

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13 hours ago, Blazing Lazers said:

A boxed system and game lot recently appeared on Ebay that at first glance seemed unremarkable but upon closer inspection it became evident that I was looking at something truly special and which I had never previously seen: the Canadian RCA Studio II packaging box! I had heard from some of the other collectors that Radio Shack did market the system in Canada, but not a single photo or even any references were to be found online. So it was just another bit of collector lore until now. I didn't hesitate to buy it. It just arrived, from a seller based out of Arizona, who obtained it and copies of most of the games at an auction. I can only wonder at how a Canadian Studio II ended up in Arizona, but I'm sure glad it did, and for the sake of preservation I've uploaded photos of the (for now, unique) box. It is regrettable that there wasn't a system manual (the seller said they'll look), but that is balanced out by something else that's special about this particular system: the Serial Number is 182,254- the highest one yet found! So as of now this is the "youngest" Studio II, and it makes sense that it might have been unsold factory stock that Radio Shack bought and attempted to sell in Canada. The box and system Serials also match (!!!) AND there's a brief mention of some sort of RCA Distributor and Special Products Division presence in Canada. So I hope that this might open up a new front in the ongoing Studio II research and documentation effort, and that this new discovery and proof of the system being sold in Canada (note the store sticker on the side) can be added to all the various other online information sites.imageproxy.php?img=&key=ca33d2fe2d526533

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Nice. The French translation is handled bizarrely. You can really feel that the translator had little to no idea of what the machine did and how to market it to families.

 

The white side read " A family entertainment programmer that work on every color or B/W television turning it into a home computer. Additionnal programs on pre-recorded pluggable cartriges"

 

The other translations are more or less direct english translations. I think the real fun would be to compare the instructions manuals and/or the leaflets that "promote" the system, but since they are missing...

Edited by CatPix
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On 7/13/2019 at 6:52 PM, Blazing Lazers said:

 It just arrived, from a seller based out of Arizona, who obtained it and copies of most of the games at an auction. I can only wonder at how a Canadian Studio II ended up in Arizona, but I'm sure glad it did

 

Speaking as a long-time Canadian video game collector, it is very common for us to purchase games (and systems) in the US. Even allowing for the exchange rate difference, prices are generally better and the selection is FAR better. I assume that there some drift in the other direction as American consumers take advantage of a favorable exchange rate (and, especially in this case, a deeply discounted clearance price).

 

Thank-you for documenting this rather rare item. I have never seen a Studio II at retail here in Canada. 

 

Other RCA products were readily available here in Canada. Circa 1980, my Mother won a ~26" RCA colour TV in some contest. We were still using it when they sold the house in 2001. 

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At least two more possibilities:

 

1. A Canadian family who moved to the US somewhere in the mid-late 80's and brought most or all of their stuff, including already obsoleted video games. Mustn't have been the same family who now had it for sale, it could have shifted hands since then.

 

2. A Canadian who got relatives in the US and bought it as a birthday or Christmas gift back then.

 

After all it is not more than 2600 miles between e.g. Québec and Phoenix...

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Very interesting story about the canadian release. Thanks to share these informations!

Don't remember if we have already talk about in this topic but do you know what these two documents are? Is the document with spirals can be a manual? The other seem to be a little catalog.

Do exist scans of photos of all the pages of these documents? Could be interesting to know what are the contents.

 

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Edited by RayXambeR
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4 hours ago, RayXambeR said:

Very interesting story about the canadian release. Thanks to share these informations!

Don't remember if we have already talk about in this topic but do you know what these two documents are? Is the document with spirals can be a manual? The other seem to be a little catalog.

Do exist scans of photos of all the pages of these documents? Could be interesting to know what are the contents.

 

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Scans of both are indeed available. They're back a few pages in this thread.

 

The first is a brochure that was included with the systems about midway through their retail life. It's moderately uncommon but still turns up once or twice per year on Ebay is random listings.

 

That spiral-bound booklet is a very high quality store and dealer display (Demonstration Instruction Book, per internal dealer docs) that was one of the very first promotional items created by RCA. It was sold to dealers by RCA for $1.50. At least two were sold, one to a dealer in Galveston, TX and which can be seen in a 1977 newspaper article some pages back; and the other was originally from a Missouri RCA dealer, later became well known from being shown at Philly Classic 2K1, and of which I happen to be the present owner. It's one of my most prized items.

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Thanks Blazing Lazers!

 

Do you want to see some photos of the Victory model? I have one and I can take pictures. Just let me know. I have published some photos concerning the Hanimex system some months ago but not the Victory.

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42 minutes ago, RayXambeR said:

Thanks Blazing Lazers!

 

Do you want to see some photos of the Victory model? I have one and I can take pictures. Just let me know. I have published some photos concerning the Hanimex system some months ago but not the Victory.

Victory images would indeed be of great interest! Please do share with us, especially any of the Serials and the insides.

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Today, I have take a look at my Victory model and, too bad, the serial number lacks (totally erased, I think it was on a sort of little sticker). So, don't know it is interesting to take pictures? (I have no box, no manual)

But, good news, I also have a Conic M-1200 that I can photograph. The box is not in a good shape (seems to have received liquid. Too bad, the pages of the manual are glued, because probably of the liquid!) but the system is clean and works :)

So I will post photos of M-1200 asap, probably tomorrow

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I had a good chat over the weekend with Thomas Chen, who worked with Bob Winder and Joe Weisbecker on these game projects. Chen's role was primarily designing the video output ICs for the Studio II-IV and the VIP - he noted he had Joe's designs to work off of but the work of actually implementing them in a functional way was on him. He said from his recollection the Studio III and IV had the same video IC. He actually joined RCA straight out of university, as he was local to the company! Ended up working there until GE bought it in 1986 and started divvying up the company. Outside of the video game and computer realm, he also helped co-design the video systems for RCA's VideoDisc format, to ensure that the machine would sync properly. 

 

As far as software goes, he said he only wrote one game for the VIP for himself - a maze generating game that he dubbed Amazing. He also worked with Jack Wright to design the Studio II tester cart - if I'm remembering my notes correctly, he did the hardware design and Jack did the software. He's still in touch with Jack, actually, and said he'd help me get in contact. He had some other comments about the other RCA folks that he worked with and some insight into the arcade machines - as he worked the next office over from BJ Call and Weisbecker. He said the arcade machines internally included instructions for operators to change games, which was made as simple as possible given that at the time the people running arcade machines had very little experience with that sort of thing. As such the operators had several game carts included to swap in and out over the course of the location test; but of course as BJ Call noted in his old oral history with Alex Magoun, after a week or two when RCA engineers revisited the machines they were all unplugged and the operators were refusing to do anything with them. Like Call, Chen suspected there was more to it than just them not wanting to mess with the internals of the machines.

 

Chen also recalled showcasing the Studio II at a demonstration in San Francisco in 1977 alongside Steve Jobs, who was showing off the Apple II. Noted that a local TV station talked to them about their machines, but that the whole segment didn't quite come together as they expected - less interview, more B-roll of the hardware. He also was asked to meet with the Conic folks in Hong Kong about the Studio III while taking a vacation there in 1978, and he distinctly remembered touring their factory in Shenzhen (on the mainland) - mostly because nearly everyone who worked there was between 12 and 20.

 

Thanks to Chen, that leaves Jack Wright and Gooitzen van der Waal who I know are still around to try and contact... and any additional hardware folks that might still be alive. There were a few engineers named in that 1976 RCA demonstration that I'd like to track down (if they're still around), and Jesse Williams would be a great person to talk to if he's still around... but I think we're really narrowing down the number of folks that can speak to the "behind the scenes" origins of the Studio II line.

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