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C > COLECO  > Telstar   


The Telstar was the first "pong-in-a-chip" system. Here is what says Leonard Herman abouth the Telstar in its excellent book "Phoenix, the fall and rise of videogames":

"Coleco released Telstar in 1976. Like Pong, Telstar could only play video tennis but it retailed at an inexpensive $50 that made it attractive to most families that were on a budget. Coleco managed to sell over a million units that year. Ironically, one reason for the super sales can be traced to a severe chip shortage. Because of the onslaught of manufacturers who wanted to produce videogames, General Instruments under estimated the number of chips that they needed to fulfill the demand by sixty percent. Coleco didn't suffer at all from the shortage. Because they had been the first company to place an order with General Instruments, Coleco received a full supply of chips just in time for Father's Day 1976. No other company received an entire shipment of chips and many received only twenty percent of what they ordered ! With numbers like this it isn't hard to imagine how Coleco took the lead in the home videogame race."

The system in itself is quite simple and offers only 3 games. The paddles are built-in the system, a common fact on the first pong systems. There's a 3 positions switch that controls difficulty (beginner : slow ball, big paddles / advanced : fast ball, big paddles / expert : fast ball, small paddles). If this is common to the first Telstars, this is quite different from most of the other pong systems which offer individual settings.

All these features are quite weird when you know that AY-3-8500 chipset offers 6 different games and more setting options... But here lies the "marketing genius" of Coleco. The Telstar was only the low range model of a whole forth-coming product line with enhanced features. Thus the first Telstar was intentionaly limited!

The "World of Video Sports" system seems to be a variant of the Telstar, but not different in any way...apart from the plastic overlay of course...

NAME  Telstar
YEAR  1976
2 - Hockey
3 - Handball
KEYBOARD  2 knobs built-in the console
CPU  GI AY-3-8500
SPEED  Reset
CO-PROCESSOR  ON/OFF, Difficulty Beginner/Intermediate/Pro
RAM  On screen
COLORS  Black and white
SOUND  Built-in beeper
I/O PORTS  TV RF video output
OS  Yes
PRICE  $50 (USA, 1976)

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