Coleco Adam High Speed Digital Data Pack (1983 – 1985)

The Coleco Adam was a home computer introduced by Coleco in 1983. It was available as a standalone computer, or could be bought as an expansion pack for the ColecoVision game console.

Like other home computers of the time, the Coleco Adam used a tape drive as one means to store programs and data, but this was not a standard Compact Cassette drive. The dual ‘Adam High Speed Digital Data Pack’ tape drives used a slightly modified type of Compact Cassette that ran at much higher speed than usual, had a different configuration of holes in the shell, and used thicker tape. These could store 256 KB, and ran at 20 inches per second (ips) when reading/writing and and 80 ips when rewinding. Blank Digital Data Packs  were supplied pre-formatted and could not be formatted by the user.

As well as the Digital Data Pack drives, the Adam had a ROM cartridge slot that accepted all ColecoVision cartridges as well as its own (it could play ColecoVision games even as a standalone computer). Later in production, a 5.25-inch disk drive was made available as an accessory.

The Coleco Adam had other unusual features such as a dedicated daisywheel printer (that also contained the power supply), built-in word-processing software, and the CP/M operating system as an option.

Unfortunately, delays in its introduction, and build quality issues led to it being discontinued in 1985. One particular problem was that tapes left in the drives or near the machine when it was turned on could suffer data loss.

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Sega My Card (1985 – 1987)

The Sega My Card was a ROM card for several models of Sega video game console, initially released in Japan in 1985 as a cheaper means of game distribution than cartridges.

The original My Card was for use on the Sega SG-1000 game console (and SC-3000 computer), where it needed an optional accessory called the Card Catcher as they were released before the My Card was released.

A second version was labled as the My Card Mark III and was for use on the Japan-only Sega Mark III console released in 1985. By 1986, Sega began to move to cartridges as the primary format and by 1987 had stopped releasing games on the My Card Mark III format. The Sega Mark III can read the original My Card version.

Outside of Japan, there was a third version released in 1986 and marketed as the Sega Card for use on the Sega Master System, the international version of the Mark III.

The My Card and My Card Mark III had a limited capacity of up to 32 KB.

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Sega SG-1000 / SC-3000 (1983 – 1985)

The SG-1000 was Sega’s first home video game console introduced in 1983 in response to a downturn in arcades. It provided the basis for its more successful successor, the Sega Master System.

A version of the SG-1000 with a keyboard was released as the Sega Computer 3000 (SC-3000). Later, a revised version of the SG-1000, the SG-1000 II was released with improvements such as detachable controllers and the ability to use Sega Card games (an optional accessory was available for the original SG-1000 to accept cards).

68 cartridges were released for the SG-1000, and 29 Sega My Cards. 26 of the cartridges require the use of either the accessory keyboard or the SC-3000. All of the games will also work on the Master System.

The SG-1000 was not a great commercial success, partly due to competition from the Nintendo Famicom, released in Japan on the same day as the SG-1000, but it did sell 2 million units worldwide before being discontinued in 1985.

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Nintendo Famicom (1983 – 2003)

The Nintendo Famicom was a third-generation, 8-bit video game console made by Nintendo and launched for the Japanese market in 1983.

The Famicom was slow to gather momentum initially, but became the best-selling game console in Japan by the end of 1984, encouraging Nintendo to enter the North American market with a redesigned console named the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985 (launched in Europe in 1986)

It was the first game console made by Nintendo to use cartridges, and these were originally intended to be the size of a cassette tape, ultimately ending up being twice as big.

Famicom cartridges are shaped differently and are much smaller than NES cartridges – while the NES used a 72-pin interface, the Famicom system used a 60-pin design. Unlike NES games which were almost always gray, official Famicom cartridges were produced in many colours. With an adaptor, Famicom cartridges will work on the NES.

The Famicom Disk System peripheral also allowed the Famicom to use proprietory floppy disks for games.

The Nintendo Entertainment System was withdrawn from sale in North America in 1995, but the Famicom remained available in Japan until 2003.

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Nintendo Entertainment System (1986 – 1995)

The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was a third-generation, 8-bit video game console made by Nintendo. It was initially released in Japan as the Family Computer or Famicom in 1983, and redesigned for the North American market where it was released in 1985 (reaching Europe in 1986).

NES cartridges are much larger than Famicom cartridges – while the NES used a 72-pin interface, the Famicom system used a 60-pin design. Unlike NES games which were almost always gray, official Famicom cartridges were produced in many colours. With an adaptor, Famicom cartridges will work on the NES.

NES cartridges were known as ‘Game Paks’, and had a lockout chip to deter the copying or production of NES games which had not first achieved Nintendo’s licensed approval. Packaging bore pictures with a very close representation of the actual onscreen graphics of the game and symbols indicated the genre of the game, in order to reduce consumer confusion. A ‘seal of quality’ was printed on all appropriately licensed game and accessory packaging.

By the 1990s, competition from technologically superior systems such as the 16-bit Sega Mega Drive/Genesis and Nintendo’s own Super Nintendo Entertainment System meant the NES’s user base gradually waned and it was withdrawn from sale in North America in 1995.

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Sega Card (1987 – 1989)

The Sega Card was a ROM card for the Sega Master System, a third-generation video game console released in 1987 in Europe. The Master System was a redesigned version of the Japan-only Sega Mark III, which also used ROM cards, marketed as My Card Mark III.

The Master System was designed to play both cartridges and and the credit card-sized Sega Card, which was intended as as a cheaper means of game distribution for smaller games (Sega Cards had a storage capacity limited to 32 KB).

Sega phased out the Sega Card format in 1989 due due to limited popularity with consumers, and with the release of the redesigned Master System II, the Sega Card slot was removed. However, the Sega Mega Drive (known in North America as the Sega Genesis) could use an accessory called the Master System Converter (Power Base Converter in the US) to play Master System games, and this retained a card slot until redesigned in 1993.

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Sega Master System (1985 – 1996)

The Master System was a third-generation video game console made by Sega, and was a redesign of the Sega Mark III, first available in Japan in 1985.

The Master System could play both cartridges and the credit card-sized ‘Sega Cards‘, which retailed for less than cartridges but had lower storage capacity. Master System game cartridges released outside Japan had a different shape and pin configuration from the Japanese Master System/Mark III cartridges.

It competed with the Nintendo Entertainment System, but failed to overturn its significant market share advantage in Japan and North America. However in other markets such as Europe, it outsold the NES.

In 1990, Sega released the Master System II, a low-cost Master System that lacked several of the original’s features, including the Sega Card slot.

It was supported in Europe until 1996, and the last title released was The Smurfs: Travel the World.

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Atari 7800 ProSystem (1987 – 1992)

The Atari 7800 ProSystem was a third-generation video game console planned for release in 1984, but introduced in 1986 and available in Europe in 1987. It replaced the Atari 5200 SuperSystem.

It was backward-compatible with Atari 2600 game cartridges (unlike the Atari 5200 initially), and was designed to provide a more arcade-like experience with better graphics.

Atari struggled to get developers to create versions of popular arcade games for the system due to restrictions placed on developers creating software for the more popular Nintendo Entertainment System. Fewer than 100 titles were developed specifically for the 7800.

The Atari 7800, along with several other Atari game consoles, was discontinued at the beginning of 1992.

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Nintendo Famicom Disk System (1986 – early 1990s)

The Famicom Disk System was introduced in 1986 in Japan as a peripheral for the Nintendo Famicom (Family Computer), and used proprietary 3-inch floppy disks (known as ‘disk cards’).

Disks were double-sided, with a total capacity of 112 KB, and were a modified version of the Mitsumi ‘Quick Disk’. Most disks did not have a shutter to keep dirt out (a few games were released on blue disks that did have shutters).

Unlike ROM cartridges of the time, the disks allowed games to have a save feature, but games were slower to load than using ROM cartridges.

Over 200 titles were released for the Famicom Disk System, but by 1990 very few games were being released on the format.

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