You are looking at the game system that started it all for Trog. I was but a wee-trog and had only got to play the Atari VCS (2600) at a friends house for the better part of a year. Christmas was rolling around and I was hounding every Santa that would listen to get me an Atari. Now my mom would often take me to the arcades and we would both play games. Her favorite game was Lady Bug, which unbeknownst to me, had a near perfect port on the Coleco. I think that was a driving factor in the surprise I got that Christmas morning, knowing that large present was an Atari and then finding out it was a ColecoVision! By that time, everyone knew the Coleco had the superior graphics, and you were the bees-knees if you had one! So the first ever console I “owned” was the ColecoVision, which I still have to this day.
The ColecoVision, made by Coleco, was released in late 1983 to compete with the ATARI 2600. It was superior in every way. The ColecoVision pack-in game was the mega-hit Donkey Kong. The Coleco version of Donkey Kong was stunning at the time compared to the ATARI version, and appeared much closer in quality to the arcade version. This remained true for every game that was made for each system. Unfortunately for Coleco and a host of other game companies, the whole video game industry would come to a screeching halt in two years.
Usher in The Video Game Crash of 1983. Though a very real thing that I remember well, at the age of 12-13 I didn’t know why all the games had begun being removed from the stores. This killed Coleco and several other systems, which is unfortunate. Still, in the two years that ColecoVision lived, around 145 games were released. And the Coleco has a very strong Home-Brew community currently with a massive library of new games! The ColecoVision rocks! Let’s take a look.
Released Aug. 1982
Coleco released only one version of the ColecoVision, but it is a classic beauty! It’s made of thick, sturdy black plastic. It is very angular in design, with clean 90° corners everywhere, very tight and clean. To me it looks like it’s ready for business.
On the top of the ColecoVision you have a Power switch, Reset button and the Cartridge slot. In-between all of these is a silver metal label. The Power switch has no LED on the machine, up in on and down is off. The Reset button will reset the game. The cartridge slot has a spring hinged door that an inserted cartridge will automatically open and close. There are vents toward the back and on the front left, which are actual vents and not just design.
Also located on the top of the machine is a large bay that houses the two controllers. The controllers actually plug into ports located on the inside right of the bay. The bay is partitioned for each controller and positions 1 & 2 are actually imprinted in the case showing which controller is which. When you’re not playing, both controllers will sit nice and flush inside the machine–very cool!
- Unit Lifetime: 1982-1985 (US)
- Units Sold Wordlwide: 2 million
- Resolution: 256 x 192
- Colors Available: 15+transparent
- Power Requirements: AC-55416
- Sound: 3 Tones – 1 Noise
- Games Released US: 145
On the front of the ColecoVision there is a nice silver metal label that runs the length of the unit. It has the colorful ColecoVision logo on the left with the words Video Game System after it. On the right is the Coleco Company logo and next to that the Expansion Module Interface. Both this label and the one on top are pretty sturdy themselves. While they can get damaged and peel off, more often than not they are intact and in great shape to this day.
Unlike many expansion bays on other consoles, the Coleco Expansion Bay had several add-ons created. We’ll cover those below. The Bay itself has a rugged plastic door that slides up to reveal the interface board.
On the back of the ColecoVision are the connection ports. Starting on the left you have the RF TV Channel Selection Switch. Next to that is the RCA port for the RF Box that connects to the T.V. And on the far right is the port for the ColecoVision Power Supply.
Unfortunaly the ColecoVision will only connect using a RF box or adapter. Check out our How To section for instructions on connecting this bad-boy.
The ColecoVision has held up well over the last few decades. The system and controller cases have proven to be very durable. But, some of the electrical components in the system and controller can show their age. However the ColecoVision is also very repairable, the controllers can be a bit more finicky.
If you’re a collector and stopped at the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in your collection, then the ColecoVision should be your next-in-line for collections.
The ColecoVision controller is a sight to behold. It is roughly the size of a large remote control and made of the same black plastic as the system case. The wire which comes from the top of the controller has a tight coil that stretches out when you’re playing games and then compresses back when the controller is stored. Due to this, like most of the early game systems, the ColecoVision was normally pulled out or off the shelf and set on the ground or coffee table in front of you when being used. The cords would only extend a couple feet from the system itself. But hey, that’s what we did. We sat on the floor, right in front of the T.V. with the system at our crossed legs!
The ColecoVision controller has a large round, mushroom like joystick at the top and a whopping 14 action buttons! The 8-directional joystick has a large round disk top that sits on a smaller post. It is a tight digital input stick with not a whole lot of play or throw. It quickly snaps back to center when released. On either side of the controller, right below the joystick, are grey left and right action buttons. The bottom half of the controller is dominated by the full numeric keypad. Much like a phone layout, you have number 0-9 and an asterisk and pound sign button, 12 in all.
The connecter used on the ColecoVision controller is the same 9-pin port that is used with the Atari 2600, SEGA Master System and the SEGA Genesis. These other systems controllers will work on the Coleco to some extent.
The vast majority of Coleco games have a blue difficulty selection screen when you start. This normally contains 4 settings for single player and 4 settings for two player. You make your selection using the numeric pad 1-8. Due to this alone you often need a numeric pad to start the game. But, after selecting your difficulty, you can actually unplug the Coleco controller and swap it out with a Genesis (or other systems) controller to play with. But if the game requires the number pad for game play, this will not work. On the plus side, any extension cable for these other systems will work with the Coleco controller.
The Coleco controller is not as unwieldy as it may look, but it’s close. It’s not very ergonomic, but when working it gets the job done. The years have been a little tough on the controller. The case itself is very sturdy and is normally in very good shape. The internals are where time can take its toll. Contacts and soldering points become worn out and often need repair. But fortunately the controller opens up easily and repairs are possible.
This is where the ColecoVision really shined. So in the early 80’s, game rooms or arcades were everywhere. Everyone could go to a local strip-mall and normally find an arcade. The windows would be blacked out and when you opened the door you were greeted with the soothing sounds of dozens of arcade cabinets beeping and blasting music. You would stick the five bucks mom gave you into a machine and either get quarters or tokens and then spend a couple hours having fun. Due to these, home ports of arcade machines became a big deal. The Atari 2600 library mainly consisted of original titles early on, and then started porting arcade games, which often looked nothing like the arcade counterpart. Then the ColecoVision came along, and with it we started to get home versions of games that were very similar to their arcade parents. Fronting the launch, Coleco took advantage of this and packed in Donkey Kong with the system, which was king of the arcades at the time. It looked worlds better than the Atari version and that trend continued for every arcade port made. And while arcade ports are awesome for the ColecoVision, it also has its share of non-arcade games.
Most games for the ColecoVision or any of this era of systems were “High-Score” games. There wasn’t a whole lot of console games that were long winding adventures that would require days to finish. Instead you would have a certain number of lives and a few different game levels that would most likely loop, and you would play as long as you can to get as high a score as you could. There were exceptions but this was the norm. And this is a good thing sometimes if you ask me! I like fun, quick challenge.
The games themselves came in nice cardboard boxes. Most of the ColecoVision games boxes used the same theme. A grey/silver trimmed box, with a nice color cover that would normally show the arcade cabinet and a nice big logo. If it wasn’t an arcade game you would have a nice color illustration. And most of them have this big yellow starbust that announces that it is a High Resolution Video Cartridge for the ColecoVision. The box would contain the game cart and a two color manual.
The cartridges themselves are about the same size as an Atari 2600 cart and can easily be confused as one. If the game included a key-pad insert for the controller, the insert could be stored on the back of the cartridge. The cartridge normally has a large black and white label with the game logo in color. The top of the cart also has a label with the large color logo, which is great for storage and stacking.
Coleco also made a computer called the ADAM which played ColecoVision cartridges. Due to this you will find some Coleco games that state on the label and box that they are for the ColecoVision and the ADAM. They work like any game for the Coleco and don’t require the ADAM or anything else.
Like most carts these guys hold up well and work more times than not, only requiring the standard cleaning of the contact blade once in a while. The labels can often be torn or wrinkled. Surprisingly, finding a game complete in box, in good condition, is not that hard. We took care of our stuff back in the day!