The Fairchild Channel F is a game console released by Fairchild Semiconductor in August 1976 at the retail price of $169.95. It has the distinction being one of the first programmable ROM cartridge-based video game consoles. Initially titled Video Entertainment System, or VES, when Atari released their VCS the next year, Fairchild renamed it.
The controllers are a joystick without a base; the main body is a large hand grip with a triangular "cap" on top, the top being the portion that actually moved. It can be used as both a joystick and paddle (twist), and not only pushed down to operate as a fire button but also pulled up. The unit contains a small compartment for storing the controllers when moving it: this is useful because the wiring is notoriously flimsy and even normal movement could break it.
A sales brochure from 1978 list 'Keyboard Videocarts' for sale. The three shown were K-1 Casino Poker, K-2 Space Odyssey, and K-3 Pro-Football. These are to use the Keyboard accessory which is a 16 button keypad. All further brochures, released after Ziron took over Fairchild, never listed this accessory nor anything called a Keyboard Videocart.
There is one additional cartridge released numbered Videocart-51 and simply titled 'Demo 1'. This Videocart is shown in a single sales brochure released shortly after Zircon acquired the company. It was never listed for sale after this single brochure which was used for winter of 1979.
"Dodge It" consists of a randomly-sized playing field (a rectangle or square) with an increasing number of bricks of a size set for each level, which came out of the wall and bounced around the field. The speed of the bricks is set randomly for each level, and the size of the player's brick (which needed to be moved to avoid impact with the other bricks) is also randomly set per level. Rarely, two computer-controlled bricks would collide, forming a noisy and unstable-seeming "monster brick" that would go to the wall and work its way around it.
"Sonar Search" is similar to the game "Battleship". In the game, hidden ships have to be exposed and sunk with sonar pulses. The game supports more than one player and has a gamer-controlled pace and fairly simple action, yet contains the challenge of finding the invisible ships.
"Maze" / "Cat and Mouse" is another rather title. In "Maze", a player simply has to navigate a complicated maze, but in "Cat and Mouse", the player's brick is a mouse which has to not only successfully navigate the maze, but also has to avoid the cat brick.
"Alien Invasion", one of the last games ever released is a clone of the game "Space Invaders".
List of games:
Fairchild decided to compete with the VCS, and began a console re-design as the Channel F System II. The major changes were in design, with the controllers removable from the base unit instead of being wired directly into it, the storage compartment was moved to the rear of the unit, and the sound was now mixed into the TV signal so the unit no longer needed a speaker. This version also features a simpler and more modern-looking case design. However, by this time the market was in the midst of the first video game crash, and Fairchild eventually threw in the towel, and left the market.
Some time in 1979, Zircon International bought the rights to the Channel F and released the Channel F System II. Only six new games were released after the debut of 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, Adman Grandstand in the UK, and the Saba Videoplay, Nordmende Teleplay and ITT Tele-Match Processor, from Germany.