Intellivision AV
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Intellivision Console

"Old-school" game consoles are fun.

Hooking one up to a TV set is not fun.

"Back in the day", connecting up a game console (or anything else, for that matter) was a pain in the neck.  Very few TV sets had direct A/V inputs, so everything had to be hooked up through the antenna connector.  Oh, they tried to make it easier on you by supplying an RF switchbox so that you would, supposedly, only have to fool with the wiring behind the TV set once... in practice, it never worked out that way.  Those cheap switchboxes were always going bad, signal interference between the game and the antenna was common (especially if you were unfortunate enough to actually have a TV station broadcasting on channel 3 or 4 in your area), and heaven help you if you had more than one device that needed to be hooked up and discovered that they all used different connectors!  But we put up with it because... well, we really didn't have much choice; even if you were one of the fortunate few who had a TV set equipped with direct A/V inputs, you were still out of luck, because none of the game consoles of the day were equipped with direct A/V outputs; they all had built-in RF modulators, and that TV-channel output was all you got.

Nowadays, of course, the problem is further complicated by the fact that most of those old consoles and switchboxes used the 300-ohm "twinlead" antenna connection.  300-ohm twinlead was pretty common back then, but sometime during the latter half of the 1980's it began to disappear and be replaced by the 75-ohm coax-style connector which everything uses now.  Oh, sure, you can get an adapter to go from one to the other, but that just adds one more gizmo to fiddle with behind the TV set.

All of this finally became an issue when I offered to bring my Intellivision console over to a friend's house party, so we could have fun demonstrating our Mad Old-Skool Gaming Skillz.   Or something like that, anyway.  Since I hadn't used it in a while, I figured I'd better hook it up and check everything out before the party... and to my dismay, none of the RF switches I had handy seemed to be working right; no matter which channel I tried, the picture was snowy and the sound was just a bunch of static.  Since I knew the TV set was fine, the most likely explanation was that either the switchboxes had died, or the RF modulator inside the unit had drifted out of tune.  (The third possibility, that the Intellivision itself was going bad, was something I preferred not to think about until all other options were exhausted.)

Fortunately, for a Hardware Hacker, this does not present an insurmountable problem.

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