Quick and Casual Look at the APF M/MP1000 and Imagination Machine

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The APF M1000 (MP1000) is a game console first released in 1978. Less than a year later, the Imagination Machine computer add-on was released for the console. By 1980, just as the positive reviews were starting to roll in, APF, who made a name for itself with calculators and home Pong clones, went into a rapid decline and the systems onto the clearance circuit. (Some photos below the video... Note that the video had to go to Vimeo because of a YouTube incompatibility. If you want the HD version of the video, head to Vimeo.)

Armchair Arcade: Quick and Casual Look at the APF M/MP1000 and Imagination Machine from Bill Loguidice on Vimeo.

The Boxing cartridge:
IMG_3778

The BASIC Interpreter cartridge:
IMG_3777

An interesting bit of trivia a handful of us uncovered is that apparently the system and cartridge molds were re-used in the Emerson Arcadia 2001 series (and related systems) from the early 1980s, so in some small way the APF M/MP1000 didn't quite die off when we thought...

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Matt Barton
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Fascinating stuff! That old

Fascinating stuff! That old unit is truly eye-catching. The boxing game is hilarious! It's hard to believe that people paid top dollar for that kind of thing and thought it was realistic. Be nice to sneak in a clip of it somewhere in the movie. It's also interesting to think of the possibilities of the stereo tape with the separate audio and data channels. Seems like, though, this unit was just too eccentric. There's definitely an article or perhaps a video mini-series about these console/computer Frankensteins. :P

Hearing all of the "noise" reminded me of growing up in a home with 3 little brothers. Constant bedlam. I'm amazed that you were able to shoot any kind of video, much less a great one like this!

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Bill Loguidice
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Stuff

[Matt Barton]Fascinating stuff! That old unit is truly eye-catching. The boxing game is hilarious! It's hard to believe that people paid top dollar for that kind of thing and thought it was realistic. Be nice to sneak in a clip of it somewhere in the movie. It's also interesting to think of the possibilities of the stereo tape with the separate audio and data channels. Seems like, though, this unit was just too eccentric. There's definitely an article or perhaps a video mini-series about these console/computer Frankensteins. :P[/Matt Barton]

Yeah, the boxing game is pretty hilarious. There's pretty much block, punch, and move left and right. The "art" makes the boxers look like they have pretzel limbs. I'll try to capture some stuff for the documentary, but the RF output is truly a mess, so even if it capture perfectly it will still look like ass. Like I say in the video, all of the APF games were pretty awful to mediocre. The highlight was "Space Destroyers", and even that's not that impressive all things considered:

The tape intro:

The game itself (tape and cartridge) [and you can see this person has trouble with the RF output too]:

I believe the thing has a microphone and you can record your own stuff onto tape when you save stuff, like an annotation of what's on there. I'll have to double-check to verify. Of course it wasn't the only system with this "multi-track" tape capability. Other systems like the Atari 8-bit and Exidy Sorcerer also had forms of it. The Atari 8-bit probably used it to best effect with its language learning series, with tons of voice synced to the onscreen "action".

As for an examination of all these console/computer hybrids, I'd love to at some point. I pretty much have them all from all territories prior to the PS1's Net Yaroze, save for the Mattel Keyboard Component (and at $4,000, I doubt I ever will).

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.
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atrionfo
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Joined: 12/08/2009
Bad Video and Bad Games
Bill Loguidice wrote:

the RF output is truly a mess

As you mentioned on the APF message board, the video looks better in the video than in person. Still, I can't imagine that it looks worse than mine. I should take a video of mine. Oh, it is BAD. I can scarcely see the screen. Which, actually, makes Rocket Patrol more fun!

Bill Loguidice wrote:

Like I say in the video, all of the APF games were pretty awful to mediocre. The highlight was "Space Destroyers", and even that's not that impressive all things considered

I can't think of one APF game that I'd seek out to play. As is often said, "Space Destroyers" is the best game for the system, but it's just a clone done quite well (for the time period). The game has plenty of Invaders of the screen, which was rare for the time. Still, the sound bugs me and it seems to start out too easy. The overly exciting introduction is neat, but it doesn't add anything to gameplay (then again, it doesn't really take anything away either).

atrionfo
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Joined: 12/08/2009
Boxing... realistic?
Matt Barton wrote:

The boxing game is hilarious! It's hard to believe that people paid top dollar for that kind of thing and thought it was realistic.

In the same way that people never confused Pong with a real game of Ping-Pong, I doubt that people ever thought that Boxing was realistic. At some point people did think that it was fun... though I'm not sure how. This past summer I played Boxing on the APF, and it is surely the worst game on the system. Still, it was the game that we played the most because, well, it's FUNNY. You can't help but smile at this game. I actually have a hard time making fun of it. It's just SO pathetic that my fatherly instincts kick in and I want to protect it. Poor, poor APF Boxing...

atrionfo
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What the Fuss is About

After taking a look at what I just wrote about the APF system, you'd think that I don't even like it. I basically said that it is really boring and why bother playing it. And... well, that's true, to SOME extent.

The cartridges for the APF console itself ARE lackluster. I've only used the Imagination Machine via emulation (Bill is now one of the few to have a working machine), but there are some neat game tapes that have been archived (mostly user written, I think). I also like the idea that the IM gives a user control over the Motorola's first CPU, the 6800. Without the IM add-on, of course, you were stuck playing just the handful of cartridges that were released for the system. With the computer you could create games in BASIC (which would have been slow but serviceable at the time) or machine language (which would have been a challenge-- but the archived tapes prove that it was done).

Some people collect this system because it was the first of its kind. APF announced a computer add-on, and, amazingly, they followed through! Besides just being a first though, the system allowed the used to really get their hands dirty. APF kept it coming though with RAM upgrades, storage options (disk drives) and printer interfaces. For a very short moment in history this machine was alive and kicking-- if not very well known.

In my mind the APF Imagination Machine is sort of like adding The Homebrew Channel to a Nintendo Wii. Suddenly the possibilities become endless!

Bill Loguidice
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Here's a 1981 Montgomery Ward

Here's a 1981 Montgomery Ward Christmas catalog page featuring the APF MP 1000: http://www.wishbookweb.com/1981_Wards_Christmas/images/1981.xx.xx%20Mont...

Honestly, this seems remarkably late to feature the system, especially at those prices. If this is a holiday 1981 catalog, then you assume people would be buying it in the October - December timeframe, which would mean some kids would be stuck with the system in 1982 when the last new game was made in what, 1980, with Space Destroyers? I would think APF would have already clearly been out of the business by late 1981 as well, so the Montgomery Ward buyers who put it in the catalog must have known by then that this was a pure liquidation system, so again, those prices seem way out of whack, especially considering you could purchase an Atari 2600 - the hot system of the time - for just $20 - $30 more! The cartridge prices were generally competitive with Atari 2600 game prices at that time, but again, you're talking an active system versus a dead system. Funny too about the jacked up price of Space Destroyers, which confirms the game's relative ambitions compared to the rest of the APF library...

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Catatonic
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Joined: 05/20/2006
The primitive audiovisuals &

The primitive audiovisuals & RF interference are totally charming!

Here's some vintage video of the Atari that shows audio being used to teach French.

Bill Loguidice
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"Charming"

That's a great word, Catatonic, "charming". There is no end to frustration when this stuff doesn't work, but when it works, I know I get a special feeling messing around with it. Today's computers are so clinical, so powerful, so lacking in personality (even as filled with personality as Mac's are, there are a large number of systems in the line, not to mention iPhone, iPods, Apple TV's, etc., that all have the same exact vibe), that it's genuinely refreshing to go back to basics and the simplistic beauty of a flashing BASIC prompt. This stuff is not so old that it's unusable (try using a blinking lights system) and not so new that manufacturers knew what the correct formula was.

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

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