The Channel F was based on the Fairchild F8 CPU, invented by Robert Noyce before he left Fairchild to start his own company, Intel. The F8 was so early that the process technology of the era couldn't fit all the needed circuitry onto a single chip, and the F8 was in fact a "family" of chips that had to be wired together to form a complete CPU. The video was quite basic, although it was in color which was a large step forward from the contemporary PONG machines. Sound was played through an internal speaker, rather than in the TV.
The controllers were a kind of joystick without a base; the main body was a large hand grip with a triangular "cap" on top, the top being the portion that actually moved. It could be used as both a joystick and paddle (twist), and pushed down to operate as a fire button. The unit contained a small compartment for storing the controllers when moving it, which was good because the wiring was notoriously flimsy and even normal movement could break it.
Only 21 cartridges were released for the system (typically at $19.95), despite its initial popularity. However, the games are generally universally detested. One reviewer described the racing game (every system seemed to have one at the time) as something like losing a toe in an industrial accident.
The biggest effect of the Channel F in the market was to spur Atari into relesing their next-generation console that was then in design. Currently named "Stella" the machine was also going to use cartridges, and after seeing the Channel F they realized they needed to get it out as soon as possible before the market was flooded with cartridge based machines. With cash flow dwindling as sales their existing Pong-based systems dried up, they were forced to sell to Warner Communications in order to gain the capitol they needed. Naming their system as a takeoff of the VES, when the Atari VCS was released a year later it had considerably better graphics.
|Channel F System II|
Some time in 1979 Zircon International bought the rights to the Channel F and released the Channel F System II. Only five games were released for the second system before its death, several of which were developed at Fairchild before they sold it off.
A number of licensed versions were released in Europe, including the Luxor Video Entertainment System in Sweden, Grandstand in the UK, and the Saba Videoplay and ITT Tele-Match Processor, both from Germany.
The Channel F is emulated as part of the MESS project.
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