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My SABA Videoplay adventure

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My Channel F / SABA Videoplay adventure - part 1


I've recently bought a SABA Videoplay console from ebay. My first time checking out that console. I don't even remember it from back in the day. I remember INTERTON, but not this one.

Well, I'm always interested in exotic consoles using "forgotten" microprocessors, like the Fairchild F8-family. I found a cheap system on ebay, marked as "used". Ok, this is what a used system looks like:


I'd interpret this as, yes, "used" certainly, but more as "not working at all". Strange, what some ebay-sellers do consider as "used".:ahoy:He claimed, that it has been working, but probably he would be too dumb to find the channel on the tv-set. I kept it anyway, since I wanted to explore it, maybe repair it or use it for spare parts. I ripped it apart, washed the dirty thing and examined it closer. This is what the Videoplay is made of:


A lot of plastic and metal shielding. Quite corroded.

P1060004.thumb.jpg.0f4684c04acc842bbd7163195c0ad8d8.jpg P1050998.thumb.jpg.6dc4f4faa9ea002d863df639d2c718f9.jpg


Cartridge assembly from below and a cartridge pcb, showing two PSUs (Program Storage Units), one cap fallen of. The chips being directly attached to the pcb, the bonding wires visible and accessible. No IC-housing. I've never seen this before.


P1060045.thumb.jpg.5e3c782ac90936979ecac20697efbe8c.jpg  P1060046.thumb.jpg.d72d8ff1b48947d2e4dec8acac190484.jpg


The famous and very fragile controllers.


P1060016.thumb.jpg.218a80a76ccd61fdfd1a44cc30647f0c.jpg  P1060049.thumb.jpg.060751503e22ac5b389d1d7f71cccc43.jpg

We can see, the pcb is made by FAIRCHILD. This is already the model with custom chips (video and audio/buffer) and considerably reduced component-count.


I injected the video signal of another console, to check, if the rf-part is working. Yes, working. :thumbsup:



I removed socketed components, cleaned pins, tried again. No change. Later I discovered aged solder joints around the crystal and the clock generation. I resoldered and suddenly had some kind of reaction from the board. Due to bad solder joints the clock generation failed (look at pcb-picture above).




Every 2nd line (grey background) is displayed. Game logic is working. Ball is bouncing. Players can be moved, but not all movements. Some controls are alway on paddles moving into one direction. At least, the processor is working.

What else did I have?

The plastic cap of the antenna plug has fallen to pieces. All of them are doing that after some decades.

The power switch was not moving it all. Interesting!



I disassembled the power switch. It was filled with some unknown white material, which blocked the movement completely. I cleaned it. The tiny white pistons are operating the contacts of the switch and are pushed into opposite directions by a small spring. Unfortunately, this micro-spring was broken into two pieces. I replaced it with some kind of spring from another switch, but it is not moving really well.  

P1060033.thumb.jpg.df1d5c61ce5fbf4639055b486979b790.jpg  P1060034.thumb.jpg.0fb37f2e202006d29f4c391648fc4b3d.jpg


to be continued soon ...


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Impressive work on this unit.

I have one, as well as the (seemingly) better-made Nordmende Teleplay.

Mine has been dead, I should investigate the pwoer switch,as mine was stiff and each press felt like I was breaking something inside... maybe the pieces of spring being crunched?

I was told Saba videoplay have power supply failures as well, but it may be du to the switch....

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You don't see it on the picture anymore, since I cleaned the switch. Practically all the empty space inside the switch was filled with that strange white, kind of crystalline stuff. I don't know, where it came from. Like from an exploded electrolyte cap or a leaking battery, but there are none of those anywhere around... Big mystery

Under the hood, pushing the button is operating two switches, the power switch and simultaneously an inbuilt antenna switch, which cuts off the tv-yagi-antenna on your roof, that can be plugged right into the console, and connects the tv-set with the console output. Quite handy! No external switch needed. I can't remember another system which is offering this feature. 🤔

Due to this construction not only a certain amount of power is needed to push the button, but also some grease is attached on the sliding parts and a moving template of that assembly. Maybe that grease is morphing into this white stuff after a while. 

I read it quite often in ebay offerings, that the power button is no more working. It seems to be common.

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My Channel F / SABA Videoplay adventure - part 2


I explained above, that the controllers did not respond, as supposed to do. Some movements did not react and some movements were permanent.

I had a closer look at the controllers.





I discovered several broken wires, cracks and brocken parts inside. So, the console was "used"? Surely it was... :ahoy:

Loctite super glue was my friend. It was working astonishingly well. Soldering the wires is a delicate job. Not only the wires are very thin, but what is more, the small tin tongues are only attached by fragile plastic noses, which immediately start melting, during the soldering efforts. Neither the tongues, nor the wires are willing to take on the solder tin. 🙄 In the end, I secured the tongues with Loctite - again. Tests showed, the controllers are back again. 👍 Those are kind of rare and we'll probably never get anything like that again, unless we built it ourselves.

But still three specific player movements could not be stopped.


Measurements of the audio/buffer chip revealed problems with the three corresponding line buffers, which output constant high-signal.



See below what I figured out to be inside the chip. The schematics of the issue 1 Channel F proved to be helpful, since those were built of standard ttl-chips. I decided to substitute three defective buffers by an external chip (74LS366). Different from the custom chip, the 74366 is inverting the buffer gates, which means I need to invert the ENABLE-signal. Fortunately there is a 7405 (six inverters) chip on the pcb, which offers two unused gates. 🙂 I used one of them for my purpose, I built a small piggy-pack board and drilled holes for the wires.  

FCM9102.thumb.jpg.a9bcc650203798e709b6d8d81a4ea2af.jpg IMG_9043.thumb.jpg.d11d6d7e8d29f07def90eb19d76d8ce4.jpg


Currently I'm only using three of the six line buffers of the 74366 and have another three as spare. I bent away the pins of the malfunctioning buffers of the FCM9102. This is what it is looking like. The crippled controls are working nominally again. The 74366 is helping out successfully.


IMG_9133.thumb.jpg.9ee24e30c913fefc619fdcb62c9a3d25.jpg  IMG_9050.thumb.jpg.cd82f5b1412f38d53f0dc12ad0234865.jpg


But still I have that problem of only every 2nd line being displayed correctly ⁉️

Writing to videoram (EVEN, ODD, DATA0, DATA1) is controlled by port pins of the CPU and of one of the PSUs (which offer more than only ROM-functionality). Measurements showed, whereas the CPU's port pins are behaving normally, two of the port pins of the PSU (port 5-29 and 32) present constant high. They are part of the 6-pin "vertical bus" controlling video chip/ram access. This can't be right, since the remaining 4 pins can only address 16 rows, instead of 64, of the four RAM-chips. Each RAM chip has 64 rows x 64 columns x 1 bit (4096 bits).

Quite amazing that the system, different from ATARI VCS, already used a regular videoram, when RAM was very expensive. Obviously the processor is working hard to get this huge amount of databytes stored in time! Still the drawing of lines is noticeable. 


This is, where my efforts come to an end. Where would I get a new programmed PSU-chip from, without ripping apart another system? Healing this one, probably means killing another one. The PSU is soldered in, so chances of destroying it during desoldering is imminent!


What do I do with the console? Probably offering spare parts on ebay to get some money back. Controllers probably are sought for. Some people are looking for retro cases. Or maybe somebody needs a power supply or RAM chips. Especially the socketed, working videochip can be of "high value" as a spare part.


=> I put a lot of time in it, learnt a lot about the system, but could not successfully end the job.


In the meantime, I bought another one from ebay. That one is working and in a good state.













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16 hours ago, Rolo said:

inbuilt antenna switch, which cuts off the tv-yagi-antenna on your roof, that can be plugged right into the console, and connects the tv-set with the console output. Quite handy! No external switch needed. I can't remember another system which is offering this feature. 🤔


I should check out, but the Nordmende Teleplay does have antenna input. Maybe the switch also have the same function?



I never tested it, for I don't use RF for anything but a few Pongs and this system.


Great exploration of the system, and quite a sad thing that you oculdn't revive it. There's most likely a small but existing market for spare parts. I've seen the prices of those machines rise over time.

When I got my Teleplay, it was for a bit over 70€ and it was a "high" price at the time.

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Thanks for sharing, very interesting! Too bad you couldn't fix it.



I bought a Saba Videoplay years ago and while it is currently packet away, I have a few pics on my PC.


The power switch was stuck on mine too, I remember I fixed it by spraying a lot of WD40, and let it act overnight.


My controller were in worse shape than yours as, in addition to broken wires and plastic pins (I used epoxy for those), the plastic that holds the base of the shaft was broken, so I had to get creative and I modified a metal bracket, and fixed it with a couple of small rivets to replace it.



I don't have a pic of the reassembled controllers, but they came out not too bad, and more importantly, they work.


I confirm that mine has the same factory modifications (resistors soldered underneath the pcb, and the small daughterboard near the RF modulator).
The pcb is the same as the original Channel F, and also the rf shielding, the buttons and the entire cartridge port assembly, and in previous versions there was a speaker mounted where that big circular hole is, on the front right side of the console. The modification is for getting the audio out of the RF modulator instead.




You can also see the pads where the original power switch of the Channel F would go on the rear of the console.

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This thread made me want to dig out my videoplay to see if it still works after a few years in storage... It does!

I took a few pictures. you can see the rivets on the joysticks, and the a/v cables (the unit is modded for composite)

Note that the lid on the joysticks compartment was missing, so I built one myself using a sheet of black plastic. Not perfect, but it does the job.

















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On 3/13/2021 at 4:41 PM, CatPix said:

I should check out, but the Nordmende Teleplay does have antenna input. Maybe the switch also have the same function?

Yes, I really think so. This antenna switch confused me in the beginning, when I saw the input socket. It's a nice idea, as long as you don't have to move around the console, like it was back then: everything nicely arranged in a wooden tv cabinet in the living room! 😄

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Hi guys,

I really appreciate the Channel F reaction caused by this post. 👍


9 hours ago, alex_79 said:

and I modified a metal bracket, and fixed it with a couple of small rivets to replace it.

Great job, also the missing lid (which was missing from my first console too) looks very good!

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Channel F: A Simple Joystick Repair


During a game session I lost two Channel F controllers. Really fragile units!


I noticed the missing contact signal on the yellow wire, despite of a working controller-switch. There are squeeze marks on the cable caused by the cable relieve, which I found suspicious. brokenCable.thumb.jpg.b3189c7e36c70aa3c6f5b1313f848b27.jpg



I cut off 10 cm of the cable to get rid of the "bad" part of the long controller cable. And desoldered the remains of the cables. The plastic is melting really quickly and the contact lids can fall off easily!!! This work must be done very carefully, without heating up the switch to much. It seems like during the production process, the metal parts were soldered unassembled and then simple clicked onto the plastic pins. 




It is a good idea to keep the contacts in position with the help of tweezers during re-soldering. A drop of superglue can help a lot to re-attach the metal-lids.




The bottom piece of the other controller construction was broken, too. It fell off. I fixed it with superglue and cut a little piece off a cork, to make a small supporting part for the bottom disc. I hope, this will be enough, to hold the disc in place...



A simple repair, two controllers brought back to "life".




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No, it's not. You get them for something like 50 to 60 Euros, if some scratches and marks are ok. It is a historically interesting console, but it is not a very big fun to play console ... At least most of the games. 

A collector's piece, in my opinion.

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I mean, I really enjoy the games and the experience of using the controllers. The Videoplay controllers look more ergonomic than the Channel F controllers, which as much as I love them could really have used more of a pistol grip.

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The controllers are the most interesting components of the console, I think. The inbuilt PONG variant, which offers the possibility of turning the field player, is a brilliant idea! Unfortunately the controllers are difficult to handle with precision. You never know, where the point of contact really is. Furthermore it is really difficult to handle the four axis independently. 
Most of the other games I tried so far, however are not extremely thrilling, in my opinion. 
Another remarkable fact is, that the Channel F already is a videoram based system, different from other consoles like the Atari VCS, which is producing the playfield on the fly.


Edited by Rolo
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