Released at the start of 1977, the RCA Studio II looked like a PONG system but actually played games through cartridges. Infact, it was the 2nd console (after the Fairchild Channel F) to use programmable cartridges (The first ever games console, the Magnavox Odyssey, used cartridges too however they had no ROM, just simple circuits to connect to the console).
The RCA Studio II was a horrible looking games console. Presented in a strange faded beige colour, the console had no detachable controllers. It didn’t even have paddle controllers or joysticks attached to the system. Instead, it had two 10 digit keypads labelled A for the first player and B for the second player, which helped the system look like some sort of hybrid double telephone.
The console had 5 built in games: Addition, Bowling, Doodle, Freeway and Patterns. Additionally, 10 cartridges were released:
- Fun with Numbers
- Gunfighter / Moonship Battle
- Speedway / Tag
- Tennis / Squash
- TV Schoolhouse I
- TV Schoolhouse II
A Bingo game was also made but this is extremely rare.
It’s no surprise that the console wasn’t very successful. The games were in black and white, even though many colour systems had already been released. It had an internal speaker within the unit itself however the volume couldn’t be changed. And it had no on and off switch!
I don’t image the system would have been much fun to play either. Why would a joystick or paddle controller be thrown out to be replaced by a number pad?
The RCA Studio II was powered by the RCA 1802 8 bit micro processor (also known as the RCA COSMAC or COSMAC 1802). It had 8 ROM chips, each of which had 2kb of ROM, bringing the system ROM total to 16kb. It also had 8 RAM chips, each of which had 512 bytes, bringing the system RAM total to 8kb.
Another chip which RCA designed themselves was the RCA 1861 video chip, which helped produce the consoles 64×32 pixel resolution.
Even though the system wasn’t successful, it still saw many clones being released in Europe including the Conic M-1200, Hanimex MPT-02, Mustang 9016 Telespiel Computer, Sheen 1200 Micro Computer and the Soundic MPT-02 Victory.
Some of the other versions of the console had detachable controllers and colour games.