I was an Atari-kid, but a friend of mine got an Intellivision for Christmas and I was impressed with the sports games (even though I hate sports), but thought many of the other games were bad renditions of my beloved Atari 2600 games. My primary experience with Mattel was Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars. It wasn't until finding Intellivision Lives on PS2 that I decided I needed to get the original consoles.
Intellivision II - Technical Specifications
In addition to the Entertainment Computer System (ECS) module, 1983 also saw the introduction of a redesigned model, called the Intellivision II, featuring detachable controllers and streamlined case, the System Changer (which played Atari 2600 games on the Intellivision II), and a music keyboard add-on for the ECS.
Like the ECS, Intellivision II was designed first and foremost to be inexpensive to manufacture. Among other things, the raised bubble keypad of the original hand controller was replaced by a flat membrane keyboard surface. However, because many Intellivision games had been designed for users to play by feeling the buttons without looking down, some of these games were far less playable on Intellivision II.
Instead of an internal power supply like the original system had, the Intellivision II would use an external AC adapter. Its main drawback, however, was that it was a non-standard power supply - running on 16.2V - meant that if the AC adapter was lost or damaged, the system could be rendered useless, as replacement power supplies for that particular voltage requirement were not readily available. It is unknown whether Intellivision II AC adapters were sold separately.
Mattel also changed the Intellivision II's internal ROM program (called the EXEC) in an attempt to lock out unlicensed 3rd party titles. To make room for the lock-out code while retaining compatibility with existing titles, some portions of the EXEC code were moved in a way that changed their timing. While most games were unaffected, a couple of the more popular titles, Shark! Shark!, and Space Spartans, had certain sound effects that the Intellivision II reproduced differently than intended, although the games remained playable.
Electric Company Word Fun did not run at all and INTV's later release Super Pro Football has minor display glitches at the start, both due to the modified EXEC. Mattel's attempt to lock out competitors' software titles was only temporarily successful, as the 3rd-party game manufacturers quickly figured out how to get around it.
Intellivision's Blue Sky Rangers
The Blue Sky Rangers are the group of Intellivision game programmers who once worked for Mattel back in the early 1980s.
When the Intellivision first came out, its games were all developed by an outside firm, APh Technological Consulting. Realizing that potential profits are much greater with first party software, Mattel formed its own in-house software development group. The original five members of that Intellivision team were manager Gabriel Baum, Don Daglow, Rick Levine, Mike Minkoff and John Sohl. Levine and Minkoff (a long-time Mattel Toys veteran) both came over from the hand-held Mattel games engineering team. To keep these and later programmers (the Mattel team peaked at 110 people in 1983) from being hired away by rival Atari, their identity and work location was kept a closely guarded secret.
In 1982, TV Guide published an article about Intellivision's secret programming team. The writer of the article wanted to come up with some group name other than "The Application Software Programmers," so he came up with the name "The Blue Sky Rangers." This was based on the programming group's "Blue Sky Meetings," which were a series of brainstorming sessions for new game ideas.
This name stuck, so in public, the programmers were (and still are) referred to collectively as the Blue Sky Rangers. One of the early programmers, Keith Robinson, re-acquired the rights to Intellivision in recent years and the Blue Sky Rangers' games are now available on a variety of computers and video game platforms, as well as cell phones.