Mattel releases the Aquarius
1st June 1983
The Aquarius is a home computer designed and built by a company called Radofin in Hong Kong, and released by Mattel Electronics in 1983. It features a Zilog Z80 microprocessor, a rubber (blue) chicklet keyboard, 4K of RAM, and a subset of Microsoft BASIC in ROM. It connects to a TV for audio and visual output, and uses a dedicated cassette tape recorder for secondary data storage.
Because the base unit only came with 4K of ram, most of this was used by Basic itself, leaving only 1.7K of available memory for your own programs. Fortunately there were 4K and 16K ram packs available for the Aquarius.
The Aquarius also often came bundled with the Mini-Expander peripheral, which added game pads, an additional cartridge port for memory expansion, and the GI AY-3-8914 sound chip, which was the same one used on the Intellivision console. Other common peripherals were the Data recorder and 40 column thermal printer. Less common first party peripherals include a 300 baud cartridge modem, 32k RAM cart, 4 colour plotter, and Quick Disk drive.
The Aquarius had no redefinable graphics characters, and only 256 predefined characters were available. This made it difficult to create games for the platform. In fact, the Aquarius struggled to keep up with Mattel's previous offering, the Intellivision console.
The Aquarius was not a commercial success, and suffered from poor reviews in the media of the time. The Aquarius suffered one of the shortest lifespans of any computer. It was discontinued by Mattel almost as soon as it hit store shelves, lasting a mere 4 months. It was released in June 1983 and discontinued in October 1983.