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The history of the video game cartridge

For decades, the video game cartridge was the staple of home video game play, and even a vital component of many early home computer systems. Interestingly, the companies that developed the first videogame cartridge and brought it to market are largely a forgotten footnote in the annals of early game development. Writing for Fast Company, Benj Edwards has documented the early days of cartridge development at Alpex and Fairchild:

If you've ever used one, you have two men to thank: Wallace Kirschner and Lawrence Haskel, who invented the game cartridge 40 years ago while working at an obscure company and rebounding from a business failure. Once the pair's programmable system had been streamlined and turned into a commercial product—the Channel F console—by a team at pioneering electronics company Fairchild, it changed the fundamental business model of home video games forever. By injecting flexibility into a new technology, it paved the way for massive industry growth and the birth of a new creative medium.

I was a kid in the 1970s and envied my friends who had video game systems, especially the beloved Atari 2600. I wouldn't get one until much later, when Coleco introduced the ColecoVision in 1982. But there's no question that video game cartridge systems would have an enduring and significant impact on the way generations of kids and their families played video games for decades to come.

Source: Fast Company via The Loop

11 Comments
  • Between Atari, Intellivision and ColecoVision - not to mention the college nights spent on the original Nintendo and Sega Genesis - I played too many hours to count on cartridge-based systems. Fond memories indeed.
  • Yes the NES and Genesis bring back the most memories for me.
  • Yes indeed! Sent from the iMore App
  • NES, SNES, N64 forever! Posted from my TARDIS!
  • Same here! I'd only add Intellivision to that. Sent from the iMore App
  • Remember the Knuckles add on cartridge for Sonic the Hedgehog on Sega Genesis? It blew my mind that I could play a new character in the old games by simply stacking them. Very cool. Sent from the iMore App
  • I thought Steve Jobs worked for Atari at one point. Correct me if I'm wrong. Sent from the iMore App
  • Yes he did, it's where he conned Wozniak out of payments he was owed for programming Breakout.
  • I don't so much miss carts as I do games which were sold in a complete state. Modern games are sold broken, requiring gigantic day one patches to make them functional (and even then many more patches will often be required in the following weeks). They're also increasingly designed to force you into spending more money beyond the original purchase price, else you must level and grind for dozens of hours to unlock things. Worst of all is the move to "free" games, which are in every way broken by design. They exist purely to drop feed entertainment before erecting pay walls in such a way as to persuade the gullible to spend their money. Good game design means designing a good game, not a program which extracts money from people who can often ill afford it. The 8-bit and 16-bit eras were golden times in gaming then not so much because of the carts, nice though they undoubtedly were, but because games were games, designed to be fun without restrictions.
  • It's because back then, the games HAD to work. There was no "Well fix bugs and put out another disk/cartridge with the better data" If the game didn't work it failed. Now? If the game doesn't work we get half asked apologies and patches. I'm okay with delayed releases (like the Witcher 3) is the game works out of the box. DLC is fun. Patches aren't. Posted from the amazing whatever device I can afford because I'm a broke college kid.
  • Remember the PowerGlove for the NES? I do! Sent from the iMore App