Retro Game Consoles – Second Generation Game Console


Second Generation Game Console
1976-1984

Game Cartridges Channel F

Above: Game Cartridges for the Fairchild Channel F game console

First generation game consoles ike the Magnavox Odyssey used removable cartridges, which were nothing but jumpers to activate the games already wired in to the console.

This method was soon replaced during the move to PONG consoles, where the logic for one or more games was hardcoded into microchips using discrete logic, and no additional games could ever be added.

By the mid-1970’s cartridges had returned with the move to CPU based consoles.

Atari 5200 Game Console

Above: Atari 5200, second generation game console

With games now consisting of microprocessor-based code, games were burned onto ROM chips that were mounted inside plastic cartridge casings that could be plugged into slots on the console.

Fairchild Channel F Game Console

Above: Fairchild Channel F Game Console

When the cartridges were plugged in, the general-purpose microprocessors in the consoles read the cartridge memory and ran whatever program was stored there. Rather than being confined to a small selection of games included in the box, consumers could now amass libraries of game cartridges. And much as we have today, the longer a console was in the market, the better the games graphics and sound.

The Fairchild VES was the world’s first processor-based video game console. Previous generation consoles had their games inside the console. The cartridges simply contained switches to enable the games. The Fairchild was console to use the cartridge as the storage medium. Fairchild released their console in August 1976. When Atari released their VCS the following year, Fairchild renamed their console to Fairchild Channel F.