Mattel Aquarius

From Academic Kids

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Aquarius was a very simple early home computer from Mattel in 1983. It featured a Zilog Z80 microprocessor, a rubber chiclet keyboard, 4K of RAM memory, and a subset of Microsoft BASIC in ROM. It connected to a television set and used a cassette tape recorder for secondary data storage. A limited number of peripherals, such as a 40-column thermal printer, a 4-color printer/plotter, and a 300 baud modem, were released for the unit.

The computer was not actually made by Mattel, but instead by Radofin, an electronics manufacturer based in Hong Kong. It was announced in 1982 and finally released in June 1983, at a price of $160, but production ceased four months later because of poor sales. Mattel paid Radofin to take back the marketing rights, and two other short-lived companies, CEZAR Industries and CRIMAC Inc., also marketed the unit and accessories for it.

Although less expensive than the Texas Instruments TI-99/4A and Commodore VIC-20, the Aquarius had comparatively weak graphics and sound capability and limited memory. Internally, Mattel programmers dubbed it "the system for the seventies." Of the 32 software titles Mattel announced for the unit, 21 were released. Most of the released titles were ports from Mattel's Intellivision game console, but because the Intellivision had better graphics and sound capabilities, gameplay was better on the less-expensive console. Computer offerings from other companies who sold both computers and consoles, such as Atari and Coleco, at least matched and sometimes exceeded the capabilities of their consoles.

Shortly after the release of the Aquarius, Mattel announced plans for another home computer, the Aquarius II, which was never commercialized.

Technical Specifications

  • CPU: Zilog Z-80, 3.5 MHz
  • Memory: 4K RAM, expandable to 20K RAM; 8K ROM
  • Keyboard: 48-key rubber chiclet
  • Display: 40x25 text, 80x72 graphics, 16 colors
  • Sound: One voice, expandable to four voices
  • Ports: Television, cartridge/expansion, tape recorder, printer

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