Whilst rummaging around a table-top sale recently, I found some old Pong machines. The seller didn't know whether they worked or not, but I still bought them, because retro gaming.
The first one is a Teleng Colourstars, which I believe dates from the late seventies, and appears to show colour on the TV screen, from videos posted online, it's just a green background with some coloured lines making up the play field. This unit appears to be missing the controllers and games, which were supplied on cartridges, which actually had stuff inside, unlike some earlier machines which just had wire links to configure the consoles internal circuitry. So in it's present state, it's unusable.However, some sites claim it's a rare machine, I don't know how true that is, but this is the first one I've seen.It's common for Pong machines to run from batteries with a mains power adaptor an optional extra, and all the leads permanently fixed to the console. Grandstand 4600
The second console is a Grandstand 4600, like the Teleng above, this runs from batteries with an optional mains adaptor, and the TV lead is fixed to the unit. Unlike the Teleng the controllers are permanently attached to the console, and are stored in the unit itself, the controllers, which are nothing more than a potentiometer in a plastic box, can be removed from the unit when required. It also came with the original box which was in a very poor condition, and a "rifle" attachment which plugs into the side via a DIN plug, the rifle does appear to be missing some parts, but may still work.Also unlike the Teleng, the games are built-in, probably using the usual Pong-on-a-chip IC that most of the Pong clones used. Note the manual score counters at the top of the unit, there may not be any on-screen scoring ability.There doesn't seem to be much information online about this console, not even on YouTube.However this one is the more likely of the two to work, so I will be trying it soon... I have
made found a suitable PSU and tried it and it does work, the switches and controls will need a clean, but it does work
Binatone TV Master Mk8
I had one of these when I was a child, it was my first taste of gaming, albeit in vibrant black and white
It was the Mk8, because it had eight games, there was also a Mk4, Mk6, and a Mk10. No Mk1-3,5,7,and 9's though
I picked this one up as "not working", but it was in its original box
It's almost in mint condition, there is a cable mark near the left controller
Licensed by Magnavox, why is that? It's just another Pong-on-a-chip clone, there were loads of those that weren't licensed, perhaps it was a marketing ploy..?
Also "You will become a superstar with Binatone TV game", I never became a superstar, should I ask for my money back?
It even came with the instructions, and back in the day electronics had a schematic diagram printed in them, so you could repair them yourself. Could you imagine that today? You can see the General Instruments AY-3-8610 Pong-on-a-chip IC proudly displayed in the middle
Powering up the machine and pressing serve, it makes a noise like you would expect, so that part is working at least. But the TV didn't find anything on its first sweep, so I fiddled with the buttons and switches and tried again. And this time it found something.
But like the ZX80 and ZX81, the video signal is not compliant with the TV standard, It's missing the part of the signal called the back porch, which sets the black level for the picture. So the first part of the transmitted line it sees sets the black level, meaning you get a dark and muddled picture. Older CRT's could cope with this, but modern LCD's can't
Also it's clear some of the switches and the dial need cleaning, but it works
So I will have to dig out my 14" portable and try again...
For more retro hardware check out my online museum here