New Fairchild Channel F Prototypes Discovered

September 26th, 2007 by Jonathan Signor

Fairchild Channel F[ In Jonathan Signor’s first contribution to VC&G, he describes an incredible find that any collector of vintage games can appreciate. ]

For those of us who strive to remember or rediscover vintage computers and video games, it is rewarding to see how far we have come in such a short amount of time. However, this hobby has one disadvantage: you generally can’t walk into a used game store and find an obscure, twenty year-old title. You must go out of your way (and usually pay a hefty price) to find something interesting.

Fairchild Channel F Games in CaseI keep track of the Computer, Electronics, and Toys “For Sale” listings of my local Craigslist through RSS feeds of each section. A few weeks ago I saw someone was selling a Fairchild Channel F, with 25 games and game carry case. I emailed the seller and we set up a place and time to meet. He advised me that the Channel F wasn’t working at the time, but I still wanted to buy the system and add it to my collection. Since I didn’t know much about the Channel F at the time, I didn’t really pay too much attention to what games were included.

When I got the goods home, I took a look at the cartridges – usually the first thing I do with used games is clean those contacts with denatured alcohol and a cotton swab. Since the cartridges are from the mid 70s, the adhesive on the labels had deteriorated
Fairchild Channel F Game Prototypeon most of the cartridges, resulting in the labels falling off. Some of them didn’t have labels to begin with – they were labeled with “NOT FCC APPROVED, FOR DEMO PURPOSES ONLY, NOT FOR SALE.” Needless to say, I was curious, and proceeded to pop open the cart. Confirming my suspicion, I found removable components on the cartridge board: prototypes! The holy grail of any game collector! Now I really wanted to get the system working, to see if the prototypes still worked after 30 years. I contacted the seller and asked if he was the original owner of the system and games. It turns out that his father was one of the original engineers who worked at Fairchild and developed games for that system.

Fairchild Channel F Game Prototype    Fairchild Channel F Game Prototype    Fairchild Channel F Game Prototype

I cleaned up the console a bit, and tried to plug in the power brick, but was greeted by the sound of electricity arcing in the little plastic box. Not good. Not wanting to damage the games, or risk electrical trouble elsewhere, I decided to not try this system out for the moment. My next step is to try and find a local electronics repair shop that can diagnose the problem and fix it.

An obscure 30 year old console, 25 games (some of which are prototypes), and a game carrying case — all in all, not a bad deal for $25 (US).

19 Responses to “New Fairchild Channel F Prototypes Discovered”

  1. Arlandi Says:

    whoaaa…. you got the prototype for $25??? congratulations! you are very lucky! i wish you the best in repairing the console. this is quite a great addition to your collection. btw Jonathan, do you have any other prototype in your collection?

  2. Zoyous Says:

    I’m glad those are now in the hands of someone who really cares about them! Can’t wait to find out what they are.

  3. Sharktar Says:

    That must have been an incredible high when you actually got your hands on it and realized you had prototypes. I felt cool when my wife found a 5200 in the original box for 3 bucks. I had to go pay 15 for the controllers, darn upsellers!!

  4. Jonathan Signor Says:

    I’m looking forward to getting that power supply replaced and giving this system a whirl. I don’t have any other prototypes, but I do have a few other interesting things, such as a Sega Genesis DEMO-16 store demo unit. It plugs into the side of the Genesis, like the SEGA CD Model 2, and holds seven or eight cartridges. You can set it to switch to to the next game after a certain amount of time, or press a button to switch to the next game.

  5. Andrew Says:

    Wow, interesting stuff. Thanks for the wikipedia link to the info too 😀 the second cartridge console after the Odyssey, neat!

    Wow, that’s like, £12.50, awesome. 🙂

    I hope a followup is posted, since for $25, it’d be amazing seeing the console work again, nevermind what is on the demo/beta/prototype cartridges (since if the console fails, it might be that another can be found to test them 😀 ).

  6. Benj Edwards Says:

    I hope we get a follow-up from Jonathan too. I’m looking forward to seeing screenshots of the system in action, if he can repair the unit.

  7. Sean Riddle Says:

    I’ve got a Channel F cart dumper that I’ve sent out to 3 people so far. It records the ROM images into a serial RAM chip, then I can read them back out and into a file that works with the MESS emulator.

    Here’s more info:

    If you are interested, send me email.

  8. Benj Edwards Says:

    Hey Jon, check this out. Not sure if it will work with yours:

    Channel F Power Converter on eBay

    By the way, I recommend letting Sean help you dump the prototype carts. You likely have the only known copies of the code contained on them, and it’s worth it to preserve them. Let’s hope the PROMs aren’t dead.

  9. Geoff V. Says:

    Beyond the coolness factor, Ben is right about the need to preserve what’s left. If you are unable to located the help you need, I recommend contacting the Computer Science Department of your nearest credible University. There should be one or two guys that know what they are doing and will be willing to help you out.

  10. JohnJohnson2000 Says:

    That sega reader is not that strange. They were actually on sale one christmas at Zellers I remember.

  11. e5frog Says:

    Really nice find!

    Who was the engineer? What’s the father’s name?

  12. Richard Brown Says:

    Wow, any update from the OP? I’d love to know if he got this working. “Barn finds” make me jealous. I’m always the guy showing up too late…

  13. Jonathan Signor Says:

    Still working on getting them dumped and seeing what they are. Once that’s done, a follow-up post will be made with the results! 🙂

  14. Ummagumma Says:

    Let us know how it goes with the power supply, I have a Channel F myself with a busted up power adapter.

  15. superstition Says:

    I was born in ’76 and grew up playing this console. My favorite game was Dodge It.

    I have a first generation Fairchild Video Entertainment System and I got it from Ebay (my original had broken controllers) not knowing I needed to let it warm up for two days before using it.

    It worked briefly and then died. I assume I “popped” a chip. If anyone knows of a solution for this problem, please contact me. And, if you sell Fairchild machines on Ebay be sure to warn buyers.

    s u p e r s t i t i o n 2 (AT) h o t m a i l . c o m

  16. stephen Says:

    i have a fairchild channel f 1 still in the box with everything i dont think it was ever played how much is it worth
    email me

  17. Philip Says:

    Coolest thing I’ve seen in a long time. My first game. my dad bought it for me the year we moved to Virginia beach, 1976. We had odyssey II as well. Found while looking for one on eBay when looking to buy one to show my son who keeps asking about games when I was his age.

  18. 4cade Says:

    Anything ever happen with this?

  19. Phil Riches Says:

    My godfather moved to the US and worked for Fairchild. Through him we managed to get our hands on a proto type chess game. Not sure if my parents still have it 🙁 Was a great console, back in the day

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