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Colecovision Vs. NES in graphics.

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When the tms9918 was being designed in 1977/78, Texas Instruments partnered with Milton Bradley. TI was going to market a home computer and Milton Bradley a compatible game system. The story is MB provided high level specifications for the system. Also in 1977 General Instrument was working with Mattel. The GI graphics chip originally only used rom for graphic descriptions. Mattel had GI add ram so graphics could be programmable, adding cost to the system. One of the innovations at TI was the use of cheaper dram rather than sram so more ram could be used; dram was not commonly used in consumer products. TI also used the 16K of graphics dram for user program. The relationship between TI and Milton Bradley went south and TI did not have a customer for their graphics chip until Coleco a few year later. Coleco had looked to enter the market quickly.

 

Nintendo had other priorities besides time to market. Nintendo developed the famicom avoiding western suppliers. They had the 6502 cpu modified in order to get around patents. They likely did the same thing with the tms9918. Nintendo chose to start with the 6502 rather than the z80 because it was smaller/cheaper, their changes to avoid patents made the chip less efficient. So Nintendo made changes to avoid patents and reduce costs. Reducing graphics ram also reduced cost; by going back to inexpensive rom rather than ram. Of course Nintendo also had many improvements implemented mandated by management. So the choices at the time were older off the shelf components or invest with engineering.

Edited by mr_me

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Exactly, Nintendo had a chipset created for games, while TI had a more general purpose solution that required more RAM. That Coleco went with an off the shelves solution makes sense when you check the story behind the ColecoVision, how much market share Coleco had at that point, risk factors, etc. Which always amazed me is how Atari could come up with the 5200 in 1982. I mean, at that point they were a 2 billion company, the leader video game company in the world by far, and the 5200 was the best thing they could come up with? I know, off topic but that is the one million dollar question for me.

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In 1978 Texas Instruments offered the TMS9918 to Mattel. Mattel asked for changes, TI didn't accomodate Mattel and TI walked away. The story is the TI chip development division was eager to work with the toy companies; but the TI home computer division did not want to share chip production with others and helped kill the Milton Bradley deal. I think the TI system would work with 4KB, any type of computer memory was still expensive in 1979. It didn't seem to be an issue in 1982, coleco visions were competitively priced.

 

The Atari 5200 also was based on old tech and looked like it was rushed to market in response to coleco vision. The 5200 tech was developed in 1978/79 as an upgrade to the 2600 and as a game system, not a home computer. Management wanted a home computer so an extra chip was added, increasing the cost of the system that became the Atari 400/800. Atari was a corporate mess in the early 1980s. They wasted millions in R&D that went nowhere, while their top engineers left the company; and then contracted an outside firm to development the 7800. Another story is that the home computer division didn't want the 5200 to be cartridge compatible with the Atari 800/400. Like Texas Instruments, Atari had internal divisions working against themselves.

Edited by mr_me

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Coleco was actually looking to get into the console videogame market under Eric Bromley's watchful eye in the mid/late 70s. They actually developed a motheboard and shell, but sold it to Mattel because Eric was not happy with it and the Greenbergs were not happy with the price to manufacture. So upwards of 5 years passed before what we all know as the ColecoVision came too be. It was developed by Coleco and then completed by Nuvatec.

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Edited by NIAD

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Yeah, apologies, I only just read the earlier messages now.

 

....

No need for apologies, actually sorry for having being blunt, I just meant to say I was aware of the design of the NES cart slot bus with separate PRG and CHR access.

It seems only the NeoGeo kept the multi-bus on the cart connector concept (and took it even further splitting out Sound as well), even the SNES B bus was unused, Atari never had that architecture exposed (separate Antic access on the cart bus would have been the closest) and neither did Sega (neither SMS nor Megadrive by obvious heritage). Truth be told in later consoles DMA to/from VRAM was quite normal but still.

 

Wrt the 5200 I always thought that under pressure to refresh the 2600 vis-a-vis of the new contenders (INTV but mostly CV) Atari simply resorted to reuse/recycle their 8bit home computer tech (Antic, GTIA, Pokey, Sally) in a console format. The different mem layout was to keep the 2 market separate. I believe the dual analog joystick on the 5200 was possible due to the original Atari 400/800 having being designed with 4 ports (2 of which were later dropped on the XL/XE line) but I may be completely wrong on this one.

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Coleco was actually looking to get into the console videogame market under Eric Bromley's watchful eye in the mid/late 70s. They actually developed a motheboard and shell, but sold it to Mattel because Eric was not happy with it and the Greenbergs were not happy with the price to manufacture. So upwards of 5 years passed before what we all know as the ColecoVision came too be. It was developed by Coleco and then completed by Nuvatec.

They do look like Coleco Vision joysticks. I wonder if the puck shape was to have a combination joystick and paddle like the Channel F and Astrocade. The six face buttons are interesting. What's the source of this story?

 

In the late 1970s the home video game market was down. There was the flood of pong consoles and programmable console sales were disappointing. The story was Atari was about to cancel the Atari VCS then the Space Invaders cartridge came out in 1980 and sales took off. It's not surprising Coleco was hesitant in the 1970s.

Edited by mr_me

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The back story to this Coleco videogame console was from an interview of Eric Bromley and other word of mouth discussions over the years.

 

Yeah, that flood of Pong systems and all the variations Coleco made almost bankrupted them. It took a lot of convincing by Eric to get the Greenbergs to move forward with the ColecoVision as well as the more reasonable prive of RAM chips in 82 compared to a couple of years earlier. Once they could keep the price point at $200, the game was on.

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The back story to this Coleco videogame console was from an interview of Eric Bromley and other word of mouth discussions over the years.

 

...

Do we know what chipset Coleco was using for this console? Is that photo of a working unit or a mock-up? Edited by mr_me

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A fair comparison would be versions of games that came out around the same time in the same era. Examples: Galaga / Rampage / Double Dragon/ Xevious for the 7800 vs. the nes. Colecovision Gorf vs. 5200 Gorf.

 

Even still, you run into some of the same problems you cite above.

 

Double Dragon for the 7800 is a good example of this. It was rushed to market. It's in a cartridge that is half the size of the cartridge used for the NES and SMS versions. It has sprites taken right from another game (Title Match Wrestling). It's made by the same C+ development house that did Touchdown Football and Fight Night on the system. The NES cartridge has an additional mapper on cart. The 7800 one has no hardware. I have no doubt it could have been quite a bit better, had - say Blue Sky Software done it in a 256K cart.

 

And that's the problem with many of these old comparisons. There were specific constraints that the programmers had (business, time, budget) that we usually aren't party to. And sometimes we compare games that simply were not the best they could have been and we use it as an example of 'limitations'.

 

Pac Mac and Donkey Kong are often derided on the 2600 yet homebrewers have made amazing versions of those games on those systems that are far better than what was originally released.

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Do we know what chipset Coleco was using for this console? Is that photo of a working unit or a mock-up?

I can't recall of the top of my head. The motherboard was completed, but I don't know if Mattel actually used it for their Intellivision system.

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I can't recall of the top of my head. The motherboard was completed, but I don't know if Mattel actually used it for their Intellivision system.

The Intellivision circuit boards for the mainboard, the power supply, and the cartridge were designed by General Instruments in spring 1978. The circuit boads were manufactured and assembled by Magnavox. It's well documented at papaintellivision.com. Do we know what year the coleco prototype was created or sold to Mattel. There were several programmable chipsets available in 1977 e.g. gi, national, mos. Signetics had a chipset that was in use in europe in 1978. And then texas instruments' was ready in fall 1978.

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Looking at the Specs, the Colecovision and the NES are not too far off, and the Coleco has a few advantages like Processor speed. So how close are they?

 

There are a lot of games that the MSX has that are quite impressive, and at the same time, they should easily show what the Colecovision is able to do, although I believe the colecovision can scroll and have more polished graphics.

 

It may have been possible if not for Adma and CBK that Colecovision could have pushed the NES away from market dominance and would have had computer, MSX, and NES ports which a lot I can see running real well on Coleco especially arcade conversions.

 

What do you think?

 

Are you confusing the MSX and the MSX 2? I saw quite a few people make that mistake in YT comment sections recently when a computer museum did a review of the MSX.

 

I'm pretty sure the MSX 1 used the same exact chips as the Colecovision. They use the same weird colors. There are quite a few limitations including single colored sprites and a lack of scrolling. The Colecovision uses a faster processor, but that is really the only advantage it has over the NES.

 

I think if Coleco had held on, they would have eaten into Atari (or more likely locked Atari out) rather than chipping away at Nintendo. Not only was the NES better in almost every way, but Nintendo would have locked the games up anyway as they did with Atari 7800 and SMS.

 

Even if certain limitations could have been overcome (like adding ram on cartridges), overcoming the video chip would not have happened. They might have sped things up, but they really could not have overcome these limitations. The C64 had the same problem. Even the 512k ROM cartridges just could not compete because of the limitations of the VIC II chip.

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Compare these unauthorized MSX ports of NES Super Mario and Super Mario 3. The MSX and CV use the same graphics chip.

 

 

That's an MSX 2 with 512k of ram.

 

The NES controller actually follows the arcade. From what I remember, most games had the joystick on the left and the buttons on the right.

 

The new release (or preview) of the Colecovision DK looks excellent to me in those pictures.

 

While I have no experience with the Z80, I've read that it's faster than the 6502 variants at the same clock speed. Of course, I may have been misled.

 

I would agree the Colecovision is about on par with the Atari 8 bit line.

 

Parker Brothers never released a good version of Frogger! They screwed up every port they did! The 2600 SuperCharger version blows them all away!

 

 

The back story to this Coleco videogame console was from an interview of Eric Bromley and other word of mouth discussions over the years.

 

Yeah, that flood of Pong systems and all the variations Coleco made almost bankrupted them. It took a lot of convincing by Eric to get the Greenbergs to move forward with the ColecoVision as well as the more reasonable prive of RAM chips in 82 compared to a couple of years earlier. Once they could keep the price point at $200, the game was on.

 

Does anyone happen to know why Coleco went with such an expensive setup? Having to stick 16k in the machine simply for the graphics had to make it more expensive.

According to Google, the Colecovision originally retailed for $175, but my 13yo mind remembers it being much more expensive at the top of the price range between Coleco, Intellivision and Atari. I thought I remembered it being more like 299. I know my parents bought me an Atari in 1982 and they paid 149 for it (I used to have the box)

Edited by christo930

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http://southbelthouston.blogspot.com/2014/03/christmas-1982-toys-r-us-videogame.html?m=1

 

This Toysrus 1982 Christmas ad has coleco visions for $190. If you were in Canada it could have been significantly more.

 

After I posted that I went and looked up the prices and the Atari was $199 and the Intellivision was $299 while the Colecovision, which came later, was (MSRP, not necessarily at the store) $175. I suppose the prices of the other consoles had dropped below that point by the time Colecovision came along. Of course, the Atari had probably 200 games by this time as well.

 

I checked out that link and the intelivision was actually more money but with the bogus mail-in rebate thing (I've always hated these things).

 

I know there are inflation converters, but all of them massively understate inflation, especially the period after 1996. These games and systems were a lot of money. I noticed the games were as high as close to $40! Usually I just use gold, but this is a terrible for doing that as gold was just coming out of a bubble.

 

I remember around 1985, a lot of the games ended up being highly discounted or in close-out stores. I bought a bunch of the M-Network games for like $2 each! I bought a super charger (which I still have) that included 1 game, plus another game that I bought. IIRC, the package with the one game was $5 and the extra game was $1.99!

 

I'm pretty sure the NES doesn't use a lot of video ram (only 2k IIRC with the tile mapping). I guess they had to chose off the shelf graphics and sound chips because they just didn't have the in-house ability to do it themselves.. They probably rightly guessed that memory costs would be dropping over time and they would be able to substantially drop the price as the ram prices fell.

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After I posted that I went and looked up the prices and the Atari was $199 and the Intellivision was $299 while the Colecovision, which came later, was (MSRP, not necessarily at the store) $175. I suppose the prices of the other consoles had dropped below that point by the time Colecovision came along. Of course, the Atari had probably 200 games by this time as well.

 

I checked out that link and the intelivision was actually more money but with the bogus mail-in rebate thing (I've always hated these things).

 

I know there are inflation converters, but all of them massively understate inflation, especially the period after 1996. These games and systems were a lot of money. I noticed the games were as high as close to $40! Usually I just use gold, but this is a terrible for doing that as gold was just coming out of a bubble.

 

I remember around 1985, a lot of the games ended up being highly discounted or in close-out stores. I bought a bunch of the M-Network games for like $2 each! I bought a super charger (which I still have) that included 1 game, plus another game that I bought. IIRC, the package with the one game was $5 and the extra game was $1.99!

 

I'm pretty sure the NES doesn't use a lot of video ram (only 2k IIRC with the tile mapping). I guess they had to chose off the shelf graphics and sound chips because they just didn't have the in-house ability to do it themselves.. They probably rightly guessed that memory costs would be dropping over time and they would be able to substantially drop the price as the ram prices fell.

 

The NES doesn't use off the shelf sound chips. Rather it uses a custom 6502 that doubles as a sound chip due to integrated sound generators.

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The NES doesn't use off the shelf sound chips. Rather it uses a custom 6502 that doubles as a sound chip due to integrated sound generators.

I guess I wasn't exactly clear, I was talking about how the NES did use custom chips while Coleco was probably unable to do i

 

I'm pretty sure the NES doesn't use a lot of video ram (only 2k IIRC with the tile mapping). I guess they (meaning Coleco) had to chose off the shelf graphics and sound chips because they just didn't have the in-house ability to do it themselves.. They probably rightly guessed that memory costs would be dropping over time and they would be able to substantially drop the price as the ram prices fell.

 

Sorry about the confusion.

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Are you confusing the MSX and the MSX 2? I saw quite a few people make that mistake in YT comment sections recently when a computer museum did a review of the MSX.

 

I'm pretty sure the MSX 1 used the same exact chips as the Colecovision. They use the same weird colors. There are quite a few limitations including single colored sprites and a lack of scrolling. The Colecovision uses a faster processor, but that is really the only advantage it has over the NES.

 

I think if Coleco had held on, they would have eaten into Atari (or more likely locked Atari out) rather than chipping away at Nintendo. Not only was the NES better in almost every way, but Nintendo would have locked the games up anyway as they did with Atari 7800 and SMS.

 

Even if certain limitations could have been overcome (like adding ram on cartridges), overcoming the video chip would not have happened. They might have sped things up, but they really could not have overcome these limitations. The C64 had the same problem. Even the 512k ROM cartridges just could not compete because of the limitations of the VIC II chip.

Coleco defeated Atari in the next generation battle in 1982/83. Atari cancelled the 5200 in 1984. Could be because Atari had production problems with the 5200 or Coleco had Donkey Kong or both. In 1983, the Atari 2600 and Intellivision became budget systems selling for half the price of a coleco vision and not really competing. Notice what's missing from that 1982 toysrus ad, an Atari 5200.

 

I think the c64 technically compares well the nes. It has multicoloured sprites and hardware scrolling. Most parents weren't going to buy a computer for their seven year old kid.

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Coleco defeated Atari in the next generation battle in 1982/83. Atari cancelled the 5200 in 1984. Could be because Atari had production problems with the 5200 or Coleco had Donkey Kong or both. In 1983, the Atari 2600 and Intellivision became budget systems selling for half the price of a coleco vision and not really competing. Notice what's missing from that 1982 toysrus ad, an Atari 5200.

 

I think the c64 technically compares well the nes. It has multicoloured sprites and hardware scrolling. Most parents weren't going to buy a computer for their seven year old kid.

From what I can recall, the video games console market was more or less dead during this period. This was when I was picking up games for a couple of dollars in the close-out stores. The computer games were really catching on, but consoles were mostly on their way out.

 

The 5200 was just a disaster and it's not at all surprising that Coleco was able to hold out a little longer. I did not know anyone who had a 5200. I remember when it first came out they had one at the Sears hooked up with Pacman running and the controller was broke and you couldn't play it. Though there were many good games for it.

 

OTOH, the 2600 games were cheap and there were at least 150 of them. Me and my friends used to play it in my basement on a B&W television!

 

The C64 is really behind the Nintendo in certain ways. While it does have multi-color sprites, it cuts the resolution in 1/2. I mostly prefer the sound of the NES as well, despite that it's probably an inferior chip. The disk drive was so incredibly slow too. It took forever to load a game! There are really great games for both systems though. It's not unreasonable to say they are in the same ball park, but I think the NES eeks it out in most cases. The lack of a second button kind of sucked too. That was probably my biggest complaint at the time (I had a C64 in 1985, but I didn't get a Nintendo until like 1990 or 1991).

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