My side-quest to obtain all the games consoles that the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge have on display continues with trying to get hold of a working Mattel Intellivision Console.
Not an expert
Now one thing I am not, is an electronics expert. Not by a long shot. I can solder things, I can replace broken things, but most of the fixes I do are simple – or just plain lucky. However, there are 2 things I just cannot fix for the life of me; the notoriously difficult Intellivision Console; and the ZX81 – but that’s another story.
So as usual, I decided to buy a non-working console. Mainly ‘cos I’m a cheapskate, but have you seen the prices these things go for when they’re working?
Anyway, I thought I’d give it a try. This one even arrived in it’s original box, with a game – bonus!
So the first thing I thought I would do, was to see if it turned on and try to tune it in to an old CRT TV. I cleaned up the cartridge port, and the game cartridge, put game cartridge in and switched it on. Luckily, it tunes in to the same channel as the Atari 2600, so as soon as I switched it on I got a nice, perfect, silent, black screen.
Encouraging, but that was it. I then tried to tune it into a more modern TV and instead got a green screen, with a horizontal line travelling down the screen. But no amount of cleaning and hitting reset could get it to run a game.
It’s always the capacitors…
Or so I thought. After more cleaning and checking all over the internals for anything obvious, I decided to start replacing all the capacitors. I had to order a couple of special ones, I mean check out these original bad boys on the power board:
Eventually I had replaced everything. But I also noticed these ones were crumbling. I replaced them with the nearest thing I could find, but they were tiny and I’m still not sure about them…
Crumble, and now fudge? Anybody hungry?
So anyway, nothing worked, I still had the same green screen, zero progress. Another game had arrived by this point and that didn’t work either – surely 2 games couldn’t be borked?
So I replaced the voltage regulators and… still nothing!
So I attempted to get properly technical and started measuring the output voltages on the power board.
As soon as I did this, I could smell burning and suddenly smoke was coming off the power board. What the heck? I eventually tracked it to this component:
It looks like a transistor. I couldn’t identify this at all, even from the codes. I assumed it said PNP, so I replaced it with a PNP transistor. Still started smoking.
Well that was that. Things catching fire and power supplies in general scare the heck out of me, and I haven’t touched this console since. So if anyone knows what that component is, or has an unwanted power board, let me know in the comments!
But wait, there’s more!
So the other day, another non-working Intellivision Console appeared on ebay. I managed to get it dirt cheap and my thinking was I could use the components from both machines and make one good one!
Anyway, I plugged it in, and guess what? The same stupid green screen! Okay, so I thought maybe I could take the power board from this one and put it in the other one?
But first, I took it apart and had a look for anything obvious that might be wrong with it.
Couldn’t really spot anything, and I didn’t have much time, so I decided to give the cartridge port a really good clean. I also cleaned up the power switch. Then I plugged it in one more time…
Yahoooooooooooo! It only flippin’ worked! It wasn’t Bingo though, it was actually Skiing. In fact, both cartridges worked fine. And still work after turning it off and back on again.
And on that bombshell
That reminds me, go and find a video of the Intellivoice Module saying “B17 Bomber” – it’s hilarious.
Anyway, I digress. I’m am chuffed to bits to get this one working, and I can now start building up my games collection. However, I’m annoyed now that I killed the other one somehow. What if it just needed a proper rigorous cleaning of the cartridge port? We may never know. Spare parts for the win…