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VideoBrain Family Computer Model 101 - Semi-Forensic Photo Blowout!

As followers of Armchair Arcade well know, I've been discussing the groundbreaking, but unsuccessful and rare, VideoBrain computer system, which was developed in 1977, for quite some time now, including most recently here, and of course initially here. As you may also know, I've recently combined my two VideoBrain computers into one working franken-unit, and, as a result, had an opportunity to photograph some of the system's more intimate details. What follows below are those photos. In the next Armchair Arcade TV episode, I'm covering Midnight Mutants for the Atari 7800, which will be followed by episodes on Teenage Driver for the Ohio Scientific computer, and coverage of the games and software for the VideoBrain (Midnight Mutants will hit first--I'm not sure which of the other two will follow right after). You'll see in one of the VideoBrain photos below a game variation in the Gladiator game, which, for 1977, might have one of the most impressive in-game special effects I know of for the time. In any case, enjoy these photos, and don't forget to click through any you want to super-size:

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Home Computer Designations of the Late 1970s: A Feature Article

So, do you think today's computing landscape of desktops, laptops, notebooks, smart phones, tablet computers, and netbooks - among other designations - is confusing? Imagine a computing landscape with no particular point of reference outside of mainframes and terminals. That's exactly what it was like in the world of personal computing from the mid-1970's to the start of the 1980's. The terms "laptop" and "notebook" were still several years away, with "portable" computers describing those systems you carried about like an overstuffed suitcase and ran off of AC power (like the Osborne 1 [1981], Compaq Portable [1983], or the Commodore SX-64 [1984]), a form factor many of us more accurately refer to today as "transportable" computers.

In any case, continuing along the same line of thinking started with my blog post, "Do you know what and when the first recognizable modern day personal computer with BASIC was?", or my related segment on Armchair Arcade Radio - Episode 1 (and with which I will pursue a somewhat similar theme in Episode 2), I thought I would describe how the 1979 book by noted writer Steve Ditlea, Simple Guide to Home Computers, classified the personal computing landscape of that time.

First off, in Part I, Home Computer Fundamentals, under Chapter 1, The Home Computer Revolution, it calls the Altair 8800, the "world's first home computer". In Part II, Choosing a Home Computer, and specifically Chapter 7, it starts off with "Programmable Video Games" (which is the name of the chapter). The systems he designates as programmable video games (and in the last part of the chapter refers to them as "starter units") are the "Odyssey2 Computer Video Game System", the "Bally Professional Arcade", "Cybervision 2001", and the "VideoBrain". Ditlea calls the Odyssey2 a "price breakthrough", though it's arguable to me if the North American version of the Odyssey2 ever really qualified as a computer in the traditional sense. It does in fact offer a very nice Computer Programming cartridge - which is mentioned in the book - but never any ability to save your output. If it qualifies under that scenario, then the BASIC Programming cartridge for the Atari 2600 would also make that console a computer, albeit even more primitive than what was offered on the Odyssey2. At least in the case of the Atari 2600, though, Spectravideo did eventually come through in 1983 with the CompuMate add-on, which not only added a keyboard and a reasonable BASIC, but the ability to save your data to tape.

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Photo of the Week - Know your History! (03 - VideoBrain Family Computer Model 101 (1977))

EDIT: Check out all of the VideoBrain-related topics on Armchair Arcade here -

Welcome to the third of the ongoing series of exclusive photos here at Armchair Arcade from my private collection, the VideoBrain Family Computer Model 101 from 1977. The system pictured has its cartridge door raised up with the Wordwise 1 ED03 cartridge inserted. The next step would be to push the cartridge door down, making it flush with the system. The button just below would raise the lid again, i.e., eject the cartridge. One of the two single button joysticks that doesn't self center is plugged in. The underbelly of the Music Teacher 1 ED01 cartridge is displayed to the left of the system. Everything else pictured should be self explanatory with this delightfully well-maintained example of this particular computer model.

The photo's main page.
The full-size image.

Without further ado, here are some neat facts about this week's photo (feedback welcome!):

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