Fairchild Channel F

The Fairchild Channel F is a game console manufactured by Fairchild Semiconductor that was released in August 1976. It was the first programmable ROM cartridge-based video game console as well as the first to use a microprocessor. The original name for the system was the Video Entertainment System, but when Atari released their VCS the name was changed to Channel F. By 1977 sales had reached 250,000 and was second to the Atari VCS.

The Channel F, using an F8 CPU, produced enough AI to use a computer opponent. It was the first game console to do so; all previous game consoles needed a human opponent.

The unit had a hold button that allowed the player to pause the game and select different options while in pause mode. The original unit had a built-in speaker while the System II used the TV speakers for sound.

The system’s controllers are a joystick with a cap that twisted on the top for directional movements. The cap also acted as a fire button when pushed down.

A controller produced by Zircon had an action button on the front of the joystick called the “Channel F Jet Stick”.

The Channel F has a 1.79 Mhz CPU, 64 bytes RAM, 2 kb VRAM, and a 128 x 64 resolution using eight colors. Sound can be changed to produce different tones. It had two wired controllers and a RF module wired to the console.

Fairchild released 21 game cartridges (Videocarts) and Zircon released six; several of them were capable of playing more than one game. The Videocarts were roughly the same size as an 8-track cartridge.

There were two built-in games: Tennis and Hockey. Also, a keyboard accessory was available to play K-1 Casino Poker, K-2 Space Odyssey and K-3 Pro-Football. After Zircon acquired Fairchild, this accessory was no longer mentioned in brochures. In 2009 a version of Pac Man was released for the Channel F system.

In 1979 Zircon acquired the rights to the Channel F and redesigned the system and released it as the Channel F System II. Six new games were also released shortly after. After Fairchild discontinued production of the Channel F, several versions of the unit were released: Luxor Video Entertainment System in Europe and Sweden; Adman Grandstand in the UK; Saba Videoplay in Germany; Dumont Videoplay in Italy; and Barco Challenger in Belgium.

Image Caption: Fairchild Channel F video game console. Credit: Evan-Amos/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)