2nd Generation

1976-1983: The Early 8-bit Era
The early 8-bit era (The Golden Age of Video Games) was ushered in 1976 with the Fairchild Channel F. The Fairchild Chanel F would introduce features that would be common to this era of gaming. The Fairchild Channel F  introduced a microprocessor, a component needed for the AI used to generate computer opponents. This would allow for the creation of one-players games. The Fairchild Channel F would begin the second generation of video game consoles, but it was the Atari 2600 who would be king, with 30 million sales.

This marks the shift to ROM based cartridges, where games are coded to the ROM cartridges rather than to the system itself. Before ROM based cartridges, a limited amount of games were programmed to a console. With the advent of ROM based cartridges, consoles were no longer limited in the amount of games they could offer.

Second generation consoles added basic audio features basic color graphics, between two colors (1 bit) and sixteen (4 bit). Graphics were consisted of blocks with resolutions up to 160 x 192 pixels. Games would span multiple flip-screen areas, scrolling play-fields would be introduced in in the third generation of console gaming.

Home Consoles:

  • November, 1976: Fairchild Channel F
    1979: Fairchild Channel F II
    Company: Fairchild Semiconductor
    Original price: $169.95
    2019 price: $737.56
    Sales: 250,000
    Number of Games: 28
    Best-selling game: Video-17: Pinball Challenge
    Media: Cartridge
    Main controller(s): Joystick/paddle
    Other peripherals: N/A

Enter Fairchild: Fairchild was founded by Sherman Fairchild in Delaware in 1927. Sherman Fairchild founded over 70 companies, but this particular company would go through a name change several times. Originally Fairchild focused on aviation technology, then cameras for military and commercial aerial mapping. The company became known as Farichild Semiconductor in 1957, releasing the Fairchild F in 1976. Fairchild Semiconductor became a subsidiary of National Conductor in 1987, and in turn National Conductor became a subsidiary of Texas Instruments in 2011. The remains of Fairchild, including Fairchild Imaging is owned by BAE Systems, and operates out of Milpitas, California today. Fairchild would not produce another video game console after the Fairchild F II in 1979, but their innovation and contribution to video game history lives on.

The Fairchild Channel F was the first video game system to use cartridges, and the first to use a microprocessor.

Cartridge-based technology allowed the Fairchild F to produce 28 different games. Games included sports, trivia, action, shooters, educational, racing, maze, platforms, puzzles, pinball, gambling themes; a much more rich assortment of games than ever before.

The technology of the Fairchild F was revolutionary. The first video game system to accept cartridges and to utilize a microprocessor, it’s hard to imagine the history of video games without either of these.

  • 1977, September 11: Atari 2600
    Company: Atari
    Original price: $199
    2019 price: $815.81
    Sales: 30 million
    Number of Games: 470 (421 in NA)
    Best-selling game: Pac-Man (7 million)
    Media: Cartridge
    Main controller(s): Joystick
    Other peripherals: Driving controller, keypad, Game Brain, Starpath Supercharger, GameLine

The Atari 2600 was the king of the second generation of gaming with 30 million sales, no other console would come close.

Here is a later Atari 2600 Commercial I remember from my childhood. I’ll never forget this tune. However, by this time Atari would never regain its grasp as the king of consoles. Games were being pumped out left and right for the Atari 2600, and many of the crapier games sunk Atari’s reputation with consumers. This commercial was a failed attempt to lure customers back to a cheaper console, but the future lay with newer consoles, like the Nintendo Entertainment System.

  • 1977, October: Bally Astrocade
    Company: Midway
    Original price: $299
    2019 price: $1,221.78 
    Sales: N/A
    Number of Games: around 40
    Best-selling game: N/A
    Media: Cartridge, cassette, floppy
    Main controller(s): N/A
    Other peripherals: N/A

Enter Midway: Midway…

The Bally Astrocade…

  • 1978, December (EU): Magnavox Odyssey²
  • 1979, February (NA): Magnavox Odyssey²
    Company: Magnavox
    Original price: $179
    2019 price: $652.05
    Sales: 2 million
    Number of Games: 46
    Best-selling game: N/A
    Media: Cartridge
    Main controller(s): Joystick
    Other peripherals: The Choice, Chess Module

The Magnavox Odyssey²…

  • 1980: Intellivision
    Company: Mattel
    Original price: $299
    2019 price: $967.38
    Sales: 3 million
    Number of Games: 133 (118 cartridges, 6 ECS cartridges, 8 cassettes for keyboard component, 1 cartridge for Keyboard Component)
    Best-selling game: Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack (1.9 million)
    Media: Cartridge, cassette
    Main controller(s): Game pad – 16 directions, 12 numeric buttons
    Other peripherals: Keyboard Component

Enter Mattel: Mattel…

The Intellevision had superior graphics to the Atari 2600, but lacked the arcade licenses the Atari had. However, it was compatible with Atari 2600 games through the use of the System Changer module.


  • 1982, August: ColecoVision
    Company: Coleco
    Original price: $199
    2019 price: $512.70
    Sales: over 2 million
    Number of Games: 142 (130 US, 7 foreign, 5 TeleGames)
    Best-selling game: Donkey Kong (pack-in)
    Media: Cartridge
    Main controller(s): Game pad with knob and numerical keys
    Other peripherals: N/A

The ColecoVision…

  • 1982, May: Arcadia 2001/Leisure Vision
    Company: Emerson
    Original price: $200
    2019 price: $525.49
    Sales: N/A
    Number of Games: 46
    Best-selling game: N/A
    Media: ROM cartridge
    Main controller(s): Game pad with knob and numerical keys
    Other peripherals: N/A

Enter Emerson: Emerson…

The Arcadia 2001…

  • 1982, November (NA): Vectrex
    Company: General Consumer Electric and Milton Bradley
    Original price: $199
    2019 price: $511.13
    Sales: N/A
    Number of Games: 29
    Best-selling game: N/A
    Media: Cartridge
    Main controller(s): Joystick
    Other peripherals: 3-D Imager, Light Pen

Enter General Consumer Electric and Milton Bradley: General Consumer Electric and Milton Bradley

The Vectrex….

  • 1982, November: Atari 5200
    Company: Atari
    Original price: $270
    2019 price: $693.49
    Sales: 1 million
    Number of Games: 69
    Best-selling game: N/A
    Media: Cartridge
    Main controller(s): Joystick with number pad
    Other peripherals: Track-Ball Controller, Atari 2600 adapter (backwards compatibility)

The Atari 5200…

Second tier home consoles:

  • 1977, January: RCA Studio II (RCA)
  • 1978: 1292 Advanced Programmable Video System (Audiosonic)
  • 1978: APF Microcomputer System or MP1000 (APF Electronics)
  • 1978: Interton VC 4000 (Interton)
  • 1979: Bandai Super Vision 8000 (Bandai)
  • 1981: PlayCable (Mattel and General Instrument)
  • 1981: VTech CreatiVision (VTech)
  • 1981, July 30 (JP): Epoch Cassette Vision (Epoch)

Portable consoles:

  • 1979, November: Microvision
    Company: Milton Bradley
    Original price: $49.99
    2019 price: $165.79
    Sales: N/A
    Number of Games: 12
    Best-selling game: N/A
    Media: Cartridge

Enter Milton Bradley: Milton Bradley…

The Microvision…

  • 1980, April 28: The Nintendo Game & Watch
    Company: Nintendo
    Original price: $20 (each)
    2019 price: $62.15
    Sales: 43.4 million
    Number of Games: 59
    Best-selling game: N/A
    Media: N/A

Nintendo’s first video game success, the Nintendo Game & Watch gave Nintendo the confidence to enter the gaming industry and forever change the gaming market with the Nintendo Entertainment System. Each unit sported a different mobile game. The joystick was not practical for mobile gaming, so Nintendo introduced the innovation of the d-pad.

  • 1981: Select-A-Game
    Company: Entex
    Original price: $54.99
    2019 price: $159.10
    Sales: N/A
    Number of Games: 6
    Best-selling game: Space Invaders 2 (Pack-in game)
    Media: Cartridge

Enter Entex: Entex…

Select-A-Game…

  • 1982, August: Adventure Vision
    Company: Entex
    Original price: $79.95
    2019 price: $205.98
    Sales: 50,757
    Number of Games: 4
    Best-selling game: Defender (pack-in)
    Media: ROM cartridge

Adventure Vision…

  • 1984: Palmtex Portable Videogame System (PVS)
    Company: Palmtex
    Original price: $59.95
    2019 price: $148.09
    Sales: Under 37,200
    Number of Games: 3
    Best-selling game: N/A
    Media: ROM cartridge

Enter Palmex: Palmex…

The Palmtex Portable Videogame System (PVS)…

  • 1984, November (JP): Game Pocket Computer
    Company: Epoch
    Original price: ¥12,000
    2019 price: ¥14,802.44
    Sales: N/A
    Number of Games: 7
    Best-selling game: Slide Puzzle and Drawing Tool (built-in)
    Media: Cartridge

The Game Pocket Computer…

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