Another Mattel Intellivision Keyboard Component Owner Comes Forward - Needs Help (plus amazing photos!)

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Bill Loguidice's picture

If you guys remember an earlier blow-out feature I did with Matt Barton that Gamasutra ran back in May 2008, we discussed all aspects of the Intellivision platform, including the infamous Keyboard Component, which was the precursor to the wide release Enhanced Computer System (ECS) add-on. There were only about 4000 Keyboard Components made, many of which were recalled, leaving only a handful in active circulation, making them very, very rare and highly sought after - and valuable - collectibles. Charles Ray recently got in contact with me requesting some help with the tape drive for his Keyboard Component. It turns out he has quite a bit of other stuff in his collection related to the Keyboard Component, which he both described and took photos of, the latter of which he gave me the kind permission to show, below. More importantly, I'm also soliciting suggestions for his problem, which I'll describe via his original e-mail to me.

From the e-mail:
Hello Bill

My name is Charles Ray and I came across your blog regarding the Original Intellivision Computer. I also was fortunate enough to find one at a flea market back in the 1980s for about $5. The tape drive is causing me problems and I took the computer to a intellivision expert. There is a shop in Anticoh California called the 4 Jays who is heavy into video games of all types. The guy who owned the shop stated he never saw one (the intellivision computer) before and did not even know where to begin to fix the tape drive. This coincides with your blog stating that the tape drive causes problems.

I was also able to purchase the Basic Cartridge (this is needed for the computer to even run) I hear this is even rarer than the computer itself. I also purchased a unopened Jack LaLane, some opened software (another Jack Lalane, crossword, learning french etc but these did not have a box, just the cassettes and instructions). I also managed to get a couple of blank cassettes used for programming that sit in a Intellivison Box (the same type of box used for all the other intellivision games with the side opening cover.

I would love to get the system back to working order but I don't know who could fix the tape drive? If I plug in the computer and put in the basic cartridge in the back the screen does light up the same as the pictures shown on your blog, so I know the computer still functions. Do you know of anyone who might be able to fix the tape drive?

I have attached some pics. You might have to zoom in to see the accessories. I was also wondering how many of these systems are still out there? Lastly, I don't have the original box nor the instructions. Do you know of anyone who has the instructions? The software does have instructions.

Regards,

Charles

So, anyone have any helpful suggestions for this gentleman? It would be tremendous to get this valuable piece of our history working again! (also feel free to e-mail me directly at bill@armchairarcade.com)

The photos:

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From the Charles Ray Mattel Intellivision Keyboard Component Collection. See the information above to see if you can help out with getting the tape drive working!

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From the Charles Ray Mattel Intellivision Keyboard Component Collection. See the information above to see if you can help out with getting the tape drive working!
(Check out the ultra rare Keyboard Component software in the middle of this photo!)
(you can see the unrelated and later Enhanced Computer System (ECS) add on to the lower left of this photo)

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From the Charles Ray Mattel Intellivision Keyboard Component Collection. See the information above to see if you can help out with getting the tape drive working!
(you can see the unrelated and later Enhanced Computer System (ECS) add on to the lower left of this photo, and the piano keyboard for the ECS to the lower right)

Comments

Mark Vergeer
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Wow amazing setup!

That is one gorgeous Intellivision collection!

As the computer comes up with the

screen I suspect the tape drive mechanism just doesn't respond to the 'TAPE' command?
This tape drive probably uses some sort of servo mechanism to control the tape as there are no play/pause/stop/ff/frw buttons. If you don't hear any clicking noises the servo mechanism is probably faulty. If you do hear clicking noises where the tapedeck head is clicked into position but the tape itself will not move then it could be something to do with slacking rubber drive bands/belts as most old tape drives often have rubber belts that tend to slack or even break causing the tapedrive to stop functioning.

Perhaps this information on standard tape mechanisms helps although it is not related to this specific computer tape deck.

A little OT: cool site about 'lost formats'

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Chris Kennedy
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Joined: 08/31/2008
Belts

I don't have any experience working with tape drives, but I was basically going to say something along the lines of what Mark said.

My educated guess would be that any belts in the system are long gone. The MSX computer used a pulley-based belt system for its floppy drives. Those belts just disintegrate into oblivion over time and need to be replaced. In addition to replacement of the belt, the floppy needs a good cleaning. Those belt pieces could be anywhere, and they most likely left some residue around the wheels.

If any belts or items are gone, it is possible that issuing commands to the drive will cause it to still make noise. That's a start. If that happens, maybe it is only a matter of replacing belts (assuming they are there & it isn't simply made up of gears). If no noise is made, it could be that a motor is burned out or the tape cannot be communicated with properly. I am totally guessing here. I would love to mess with it, but this would be for curiousity and experimentation moreso than applying experience to "just another tape drive repair."

While I haven't serviced a cassette drive (aside from extracting old tapes from one), I can say that they have an awful lot of mechanical components in there. Not sure if you want to "experiment" with this one too much as it is tough to come by.

If someone is to take that thing apart, they probably want to take good macro pictures as they move along in the process - both for historical documentation purposes (rare device!) as well as a reference for reassembly.

Good luck!

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crcasey
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Joined: 11/17/2006
Drive vs Pinch

In most tape based systems the pinch roller dies before the main drive belts have a chance to go.

In some cases you can use a rubber 'reconditioner' to make it work in the short term. But it will never work out in the long term.

Most people assurme that the real to real system drives the tape system, but it is the pinch roller that truly controlles the tapes passing speed on the head. If that slips or has nasty rubber reconditioners on it you will fail to read your data. This comes from PET level data cassette dealings. They used 2400 baud incoding then, the later CPU's used 4800 and that made it even more criticial. If your pinch roller fails the test your data will fail.

I had a cassette that was read more than 1000 times, but the reading drive had to be cared for on a monthly basis. Basic head cleaning, mostly useless. And a roller cleaning, had to be done.

-Cecil

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Bill Loguidice
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$25,000 to an Ultimate Intellivison Collection
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Mark Vergeer
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Bill your collection is pretty huge as well...

But this is just crazy money.... you would have to have this money laying around doing nothing in order to be able to acquire something like this.

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Armchair arcade Editor | Pixellator

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Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Agreed
Mark Vasier wrote:

But this is just crazy money.... you would have to have this money laying around doing nothing in order to be able to acquire something like this.

Xbox 360: Lactobacillus P | Wii: 8151 3435 8469 3138
Armchair arcade Editor | Pixellator

Yeah, you would have to pretty much be a millionaire to make a $25,000 collecting expenditure like that make sense. Oddly, it's probably not too far off being worth it considering what it has in it...

Books!
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Matt Barton
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Only folks I can imagine

Only folks I can imagine buying this would be a museum, archive, or an eccentric millionaire. Even a diehard fan of the system probably wouldn't be able to shell out that much all at once. The price seems too high to justify buying it with the intent of splitting it up and selling it piecemeal.

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Anonymous (not verified)
Keyboard Component

That keyboard component is worth nearly $4000.00, less if not working... There were only 4000 made and they were test marketing releases as proof to the FCC that Mattel actually had the component. One sold on Ebay last year for $4000.00 and another is selling now with an unknown reserve and bids are already very high.

Bill Loguidice
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Final price, $5000:

Final price, $5000: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=260485659916&ssPageNa...

And that's without a working tape drive, which is the most common ailment for these things.

Books!
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.
[About Me]

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Anonymous (not verified)
I wish i had all this for my

I wish i had all this for my collection. i will be getting an intellivison system this week. im a die hard classic game collector i have many systems already the latest to my collection is the atari 2600. I know i will never get to this level of collection things for this game system i just dont have the money this man is lucky to have all this even if some of it does not work right. simply having it puts you in the realm of owning a piece of history very very few people have. not many gamers can make that claim and being able to claim that title is priceless

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