Retro Game Consoles – Fairchild Channel F

Fairchild Channel F

Fairchild Channelf Retail Box

Above: Fairchild Channelf Retail Box

Jerry Lawson designed the Fairchild Channel F and worked with Nick Talesfore, which was responsible for the hand controllers. This was the first programmable ROM cartridge based video game system ever released. It cost US$169.95 when it was first released in 1976.

Fairchild Channelf Retail Box

Above: Fairchild Channelf Retail Box

Over the course of the console, there were 26 cartridges released. A small number by the standards of the time or even for today. The Fairchild Channel F had a screen resolution of 128 x 64. It had half the amount of RAM as was found in the Atari 2600.


Fairchild Channel F was not a market leader even though it was the first second generation console to the market. However, it did encourage Atari to get their Atari 2600 to market quicker than originally planned. The Atari 2600 had better graphics, it was faster and had better sound.

Fairchild Channel F 2

Above: Fairchild Channel F 2

The Fairchild Channel F did not sell extrememly well. Fairchild Semi Condutor sold the rights to the unit in 1979 to Zircon International. Zircon redesigned the Fairchild Channel F and released the Farichild CHannel F II specifically designed to compete against the Atari 2600. However, after releasing six games, the Fairchild Channel F was cancelled. There would be no version 3.

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.

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