Fairchild Channel F: Wikis


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Fairchild Channel F
Fairchild logo.png
Manufacturer Fairchild Semiconductor
Type Video game console
Generation Second generation
Retail availability United States August, 1976
Media Cartridge
CPU Fairchild F8
Controller input Joystick/Paddle
Keypad (Canceled)

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 of being the first programmable ROM cartridge-based video game console. It was launched as the Video Entertainment System, or VES, but when Atari released their VCS the next year, Fairchild renamed its machine.


The console

The Channel F was designed by Jerry Lawson using the Fairchild F8 CPU, the first public outing of this processor. Notably, Robert Noyce worked on the F8 design team before he left Fairchild to start his own company, Intel. The F8 is very complex compared to the typical integrated circuits of the day, and had more inputs and outputs than other contemporary chips. Because chip packaging was not available with enough pins, the F8 is instead fabricated as a pair of chips that had to be used together to form a complete CPU.

The graphics are quite basic by modern standards. The F8 chip was only able to produce single-colored sprites, and only had eight colors to choose from at a resolution of 128 × 64 with 102 × 58 pixels visible and help from only 64 bytes of system RAM, half the amount of the Atari 2600. The F8 processor at the heart of the console was able to produce enough AI to allow for player vs. computer matches, a first in console history. All previous machines required a human opponent.

In the original unit, Sound is played through an internal speaker, rather than the TV set. However, the System II passes sound to the television through the RF switch.

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 for eight-way directional control. 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. Effectually, it had four action buttons, two more than the Nintendo Entertainment System nearly a decade later. The model 1 unit contains a small compartment for storing the controllers when moving it. The System II featured detachable controllers. Zircon later offered a special control which featured an action button on the front of the joystick.


There are twenty-six cartridges, termed 'Videocarts', that were officially released during the ownership of Fairchild and Zircon. The first 21 of which were released by Fairchild. Several of these cartridges are capable of playing more than one game and were typically priced at $19.95. The Videocarts are large and yellow, and usually feature colorful label artwork reminiscent of the artist Peter Max. The console contains two built-in games,Tennis and Hockey, which were both advanced Pong clones. The reflecting bar could be changed to diagonals by twisting the controller, and could move forward and backward.

A sales brochure from 1978 lists '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.

Ken Uston reviewed 32 games in his book Ken Uston's Guide to Buying and Beating the Home Video Games in 1982, and rated some of the Channel F's titles highly; of these, Alien Invasion and Video Whizball were considered by Uston to be "the finest adult cartridges currently available for the Fairchild Channel F System."[1] The games on the whole, however, rated last on his survey of over 200 games for the Atari, Intellivision, Astrocade and Odyssey consoles, and contemporary games were rated "Average" with future Channel F games rated "below average".[2] Uston rated almost one half of the Channel F games as "high in interest" and called that "an impressive proportion" and further noted that "Some of the Channel F cartridges are timeless; no matter what technological developments occur, they will continue to be of interest." His overall conclusion was that the games "serve a limited, but useful, purpose" and that the "strength of the Channel F offering is in its excellent educational line for children."[3]


List of games

  • Integrated with console: Hockey, Tennis
  • Videocart-1: Tic Tac Toe, Shooting Gallery, Doodle, Quadradoodle
  • Videocart-2: Desert Fox, Shooting Gallery
  • Videocart-3: Video Blackjack
  • Videocart-4: Spitfire
  • Videocart-5: Space War
  • Videocart-6: Math Quiz (Addition & Subtraction)
  • Videocart-7: Math Quiz (Multiplication & Division)
  • Videocart-8: Mind Reader, Nim (also referred to as Magic Numbers)
  • Videocart-9: Drag Strip
  • Videocart-10: Maze, Cat and Mouse
  • Videocart-11: Backgammon, Acey-Duecy
  • Videocart-12: Baseball
  • Videocart-13: Torpedo Alley, Robot War]
  • Videocart-14: Sonar Search
  • Videocart-15: Memory Match
  • Videocart-16: Dodge'It
  • Videocart-17: Pinball Challenge
  • Videocart-18: Hangman
  • Videocart-19: Checkers
  • Videocart-20: Video Whizball
  • Videocart-21: Bowling
  • Videocart-22: Slot Machine
  • Videocart-23: Galactic Space Wars
  • Videocart-24: Pro-Football
  • Videocart-25: Casino Poker
  • Videocart-26: Alien Invasion

Carts listed (as mentioned above) but never released:

  • Keyboard Videocart-1: Casino Poker
  • Keyboard Videocart-2: Space Odyssey
  • Keyboard Videocart-3: Pro-Football

Market impact

The biggest effect of the Channel F in the market was to spur Atari into releasing and improving their next-generation console which was then in development. Then codenamed "Stella," the machine was also going to use cartridges, and after seeing the Channel F they realized they needed to release it before the market was flooded with cartridge based-machines. With cash flow dwindling as sales of their existing Pong-based systems dried up, they were forced to sell to Warner Communications in order to gain the capital they needed. When the Atari VCS gaming system (whose name was coined as a takeoff of the VES) was released a year later, it had considerably better graphics and sound.

The Channel F System II

The Channel F System II

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 featured 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 and also Dumont/Barco Videoplay - Italy and Belgium.

Technical specifications [Original Channel F]

PCB Scan of the Grandstand Video Entertainment Computer (UK Channel F variant).
  • CPU chip: Fairchild F8 operating at 1.79 MHz (PAL 2.00 MHz)
  • RAM: 64 bytes, 2 kB VRAM (2×128×64 bits)
  • Resolution: 128 × 64 pixels, 102 × 58 pixels visible
  • Colors: eight colors (either black/white or four color max. per line)
  • Audio: 500 Hz, 1 kHz, and 1.5 kHz tones (can be modulated quickly to produce different tones)
  • Input: two custom game controllers, hardwired to the console (original release) or removable (Channel F System II)
  • Output: RF modulated composite video signal, cord hardwired to console

See also

  • TV POWWW (interactive TV game show that used Channel F)


  1. ^ Uston, Ken. Ken Uston's Guide to Buying and Beating the Home Video Games (Signet, 1982) p.605
  2. ^ Ibid, p.20.
  3. ^ Ibid, p.603 and p.23.

External links

Strategy wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Category:Channel F article)

From StrategyWiki, the free strategy guide and walkthrough wiki

Fairchild Channel F
The console image for Fairchild Channel F.
Manufacturer Fairchild Semiconductor
Active 1976—??
Total Games 29 (0 present)
← (none) (none) →
Popular guides

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 of being the first programmable ROM cartridge-based video game console. Initially titled Video Entertainment System, or VES, when Atari released their VCS (Atari 2600) the next year, Fairchild renamed their product.

This category currently contains no pages or media.


Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From Wikia Gaming, your source for walkthroughs, games, guides, and more!

Fairchild Channel F
Manufacturer Fairchild Semiconductor
Type Console
Release Date August 1976 (NA)
Media Cartridge
Save Format None
Input Options 2 Fairchild Channel F Controllers
Special Features Cartridge Input
Power Switch
RF Output
Power Output
Units Sold
Top Selling Game None
Variants Fairchild Channel F System II
Competitor(s) Atari 2600
Magnavox Odyssey 2
Predecessor None
Successor None


See Also

Second-Generation Consoles
Fairchild Channel F | RCA Studio II | Atari 2600 | Bally Astrocade | Magnavox Odyssey 2 | Intellivision | Emerson Arcadia 2001 | ColecoVision | Atari 5200 | Vectrex | Sega SG-1000
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