First Dimension entered the US
video game market in 1975. Located in Lewis Street in Nashville TN, this
small business released a few systems. Their catalog listed six models, of
which only two are known to exist. Their first system was called Video Sports,
model FD-3000W, and came out in late 1975. It played quite advanced PONG
variations for the era. However, problems appeared while this system was
being produced and killed the business little by little. This explains why
later modes are not well known. The only other model known to exist is
model 76 made in 1976.
In addition to the press article below, Bart Bailey who used to troubleshoot faulty FD-3000W systems remembers how bad the business was:
"How not to get into video games"
Click picture to read more...
Although FD-3000W suffered that bad business, it played very uncommon games
and used "analog logic" (CMOS gates in analog mode). Technically talking,
it had the big advantage of using a composite output, allowing to plug the
game to a computer monitor for a crystal clear picture. An RF switch-box
was provided for use with a normal TV set. It modulated the composite
video signal, so did not provide the best quality pictures. As a matter
of fact, the signal was first modulated by the RF switchbox in order to
be used by the TV set, and then demodulated by the TV set, hence a loss
in quality. The composite output was a unique feature as of 1975 and
allowed playing this game with crystal clear pictures on any computer
monitor or TV set equiped with a composite input.
The system was designed in 1975, so could only use CMOS or TTL logic gates. About 50 CMOS chips were used by the system in addition to the other discrete components (capacitors, etc). The games were also different from most others of the same period: the system played Tennis (2 or 4 players), Hockey (2 or 4 players) and Robot (1 or 2 players against machine).
Tennis was the usual PONG variant. The 4-player mode split the screen horizontally in two parts so that two groups of two players could play at the same time. This was a unique feature.
Hockey did not split the screen when used in 4-player mode, so the game consisted in two teams of one or two players.
Robot is the most uncommon PONG variant. The game is played against the machine by one or two players. The goal is to make the ball go in the hole located on the machine's side. To avoid this, the machine moves up and down a larger paddle to bounce the ball back to the players side.
Yet early, this system had on-screen scoring. Because digital on-screen scoring required more expensive components, the cheaper "follow-me" scoring method was used and consisted of two segments shifting from left to right as far as players marked points.
As with the other systems of that era, the game speed was variable. Here again, FD-3000W used a unique feature: each team had its own ball speed. When the ball bounced on a team, the ball speed was set to the team's speed. This required the use of two knobs (one per team). Two other knobs were used to adjust the picture height and width. This feature allowed displaying a 60Hz signal on some 50Hz monitors, since US systems used a 60Hz frame rate.
The system is quite big due to the large circuit board: around 16.7 inches large (40cm). It did not use batteries: only an AC adaptor powered it. As of early 1976, nearly 50,000 units were produced. The total amount of units manufactured is unknown, though the highest serial reported is 33235 (our specimen). Several revisions were made to the circuit board, ranging from A to G or even higher.
Two boxes were made for this game. The initial one was black with color logos. Later in 1976, a cheaper box was made with a black and white xerox-like paper sticked on the carton box. One of our specimens was found in unused condition: the original container box is still sealed. We do not know what type of box is inside, although it is believed to be the second one. It is also possible that the black and white covers of the container boxes were used for the later, cheaper boxes. Ah, rumors without facts...
Box, showing the system and its three games.
The top cover maintains to the base using two flaps in the middle.
System in box with original packaging and user manual.
The switch-box is right to the system, under the carton.
Later box. Same illustration, but in black and white.
Container box. This specimen is still sealed, so never used (or sold).
The system: a strange design.
The two knobs on the top set the size of the picture.
The three switches below are used to turn the system on,
and select the games and number of players.
The larger knobs on each side move the players.
Those between them set the ball speeds.
Circuit board, Rev. B: Green epoxy.
Circuit board, Rev. D: Beige epoxy.
Very late Rev. G circuit board, serial 33,235.
Circuit board, Rev. D (solder side).
Note the composite output plug on system case.
A rare example of quick fix in the production line of the above board:
a replacement chip was piggy backed over the dead one (left), and
another chip was solded in reverse position, hence the brownish solders.
The Rev. G board pictured above did not pass the final tests and
was sent back to the production line. The reason was either a 4011 chip
soldered in reverse, or a bad or wrong chip. The chip was replaced,
hence the brownish solders as pictured. This specimen was sent back
on March 12, 1976, and accepted the day after.
Also, some solders between the highlighted capacitor
and resistor shorted together and were cleaned.
Other interesting things:
|Wall Steet Journal (4/7/76) advertising model FD-3000W.
Click the picture for larger view.
|Order card describing FD-3000W (upper part of left picture has been rotated 180 degrees for reading)
Note the earlier logo and smaller knobs on the unit, which could be a prototype version.
Other First Dimension models: