Ultravision Portable Video Arcade Game System

Ultravision tried to be a universal game/computer system. At its heart was a Z80-based computer capable of running both CP/M and Apple software. The built-in display was actually a color TV, and it came with two of what the company called “semi-commercial” controllers.

Ultravision game system
Source: Ultravision, 1983

Among the big claims Ultravision made were that it could achieve video resolution far greater than on a standard TV and that it was compatible with any personal computer. The company also suggested using the system with VCRs, cameras, and home surveillance systems.

The promises proved too much to deliver. The company disappeared shortly after announcing the game system at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in 1983. Cost might have been a factor. The CES press release gave the retail price as $595.95, but later sources showed the price at nearly $1,000–a princely sum for a game system.

Catapult Entertainment Networked Interactive Game Service

Multiplayer game networks were just starting to pick up momentum in the 1990s. The World Wide Web had yet to emerge as a platform for interactive gameplay, so the only option was to subscribe to a proprietary game network service.

Catapult Entertainment seemed poised to be a leader in that category. Its management was like a supergroup of executives from Sony, General Magic, and game publisher T-HQ. It had several big-name financial backers including Blockbuster Entertainment.

Source: Catapult Entertainment, 1994

Owners of the Sega Genesis or Nintendo SNES game consoles could subscribe to Catapult for $5 to $10 a month. They received an XBand modem, shown in the photo, that provided network access through the console. The modem was produced by General Instruments.

The Catapult service had some features common on today’s web-based multiplayer games: game play advice, player rankings, the ability to message other players, and a list of players waiting to play. Every player had to own a copy of the game before they could play.

A limited number of games that supported the service, glitchy game play, and relatively few subscribers (believed to be no more than 15,000) were among the factors that doomed the service several years after its launch on June 7, 1994.

HomeComputer Software SuperMicro Handheld Game System

“Is there a future in hand-held electronic entertainment?” So opened the press release announcing HomeComputer Software’s Supermicro on November 1, 1984. The company claimed it was the “world’s first pocket-sized computer that features interchangeable game cartridges.” Earlier game systems were cartridge based. Whether the SuperMicro was the first of its type depends on your definition of “pocket sized.”

Source: HomeComputer Software 1984

As the photo shows, you would need a really big pocket to fit the SuperMicro, especially with the LightPak accessory in the top photo that illuminates the screen. Tellingly, the press release does not provide dimensions. In fact, it’s light on details other than to say it has an LCD and dual microprocessors. Three games were available at launch.

Introduced: November 1984
Original Retail Price: $59.95