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Connectivity

Storing information as electrical or electronic connections is similar to using holes: an electrical connection (in this context) is either present or not. An array of connections can store binary numbers—machine code, for example, as in the discrete component ROM below—or each connection can have a pre-established meaning that depends on the circuit it closes, like a plugboard. Electrical pathways can also be connected in less direct ways by transformers or capacitors (as in the IBM BCROS ROM below) and electronically using diodes or transistors.

Plugboard

Starting with Hollerith's use of punch cards in the 1890 census, punch card machines did more than simply read cards. Hollerith's first machine was a tabulator—it counted the number of times a hole appeared in a certain location on the card, which might correspond, for example, to gender or race. Later machines were able to add and subtract numbers stored on cards, then send the results to a printer or a more sophisticated machine for further processing.

Tabulators were originally hardwired. Hollerith introduced plugboards to simplify reprogramming in 1906. Connecting two holes in the panel with a wire completed a circuit that passed data from one component of the machine to another. Setting up a task could be complex and time consuming. Removable plugboards were introduced in the 1920s, again by Hollerith, to allow storing programs offline. A collection of stored programs would consist of racks of preprogrammed plugboards, which could be loaded into the machine for different tasks.

A succession of IBM machines used plugboards, including the highly successful IBM 407 Accounting Machine introduced in 1949 and in use into the 1970s. Plugboards were also used as control panels for certain computers in the 1950s and 1960s, including machines from IBM and UNIVAC (see the right-hand photo above).

  • UNIVAC 1004

    1962–late-1960s
    One panel from a 4 panel board

    UNIVAC 1004

    1962–late-1960s
    One panel from a 4 panel board

    UNIVAC 1004

    1962–late-1960s
    One panel from a 4 panel board

    UNIVAC 1004

    1962–late-1960s
    One panel from a 4 panel board

    UNIVAC 1004

    1962–late-1960s
    One panel from a 4 panel board
  • IBM 402

    1906–late 1960s

    IBM 402

    1906–late 1960s

    IBM 402

    1906–late 1960s

    IBM 402

    1906–late 1960s

    IBM 402

    1906–late 1960s
  • Justape Width Plug

    1970s
    Stores character widths used to control letter spacing of text on punched tape

    Justape Width Plug

    1970s
    Stores character widths used to control letter spacing of text on punched tape

    Justape Width Plug

    1970s
    Stores character widths used to control letter spacing of text on punched tape

    Justape Width Plug

    1970s
    Stores character widths used to control letter spacing of text on punched tape

    Justape Width Plug

    1970s
    Stores character widths used to control letter spacing of text on punched tape

Cipher Machine

Cipher machines, typically used by the military or intelligence services, scrambled messages to ciphertext and back. Some were mechanical; others, like the German Enigma machine or the Swiss NEMA, were electrical. These used a series of 3 to 10 rotors, each of which had electrical contacts on both sides connected internally by customizable wiring. The rotors were stacked side-by-side on an axel, with the contacts of one touching those of its neighbor, thus forming circuits through the entire set of rotors. The rotors were individually rotated by hand to set the "code". The rotor below from a Russian Fialka machine is of this type.

  • Fialka M-125

    1956–early 1990s
    Soviet electromechanical cipher machine

    Fialka M-125

    1956–early 1990s
    Soviet electromechanical cipher machine

    Fialka M-125

    1956–early 1990s
    Soviet electromechanical cipher machine

    Fialka M-125

    1956–early 1990s
    Soviet electromechanical cipher machine

    Fialka M-125

    1956–early 1990s
    Soviet electromechanical cipher machine

Morse Code Practice

A number of devices were developed in the first half of the 20th century to teach Morse code. Each required a way of storing patterns of dots and dashes. Solutions included punched tape, notched disks and inked tape, with the contents read mechanically, electrically or optically. The example below uses a pattern of insulating material printed on an aluminum cylinder. The "message" is read by electrical contacts held against the cylinder as it rotates

  • Natrometer

    1920s

    Natrometer

    1920s

    Natrometer

    1920s

    Natrometer

    1920s

    Natrometer

    1920s

Discrete Component ROM

IBM used several types of non-semiconductor-based ROM to store microcode for different models of the System/360. BCROS, or Balanced Capacitor Read-Only Storage (shown below), used a grid of capacitors etched in copper to store bits. An array of parallel copper strips overlaid a second, orthogonal array of strips, with a very thin gap between the two arrays. Where the vertical and horizontal strips crossed each other, larger tabs projecting from the strips created a capacitance that would transfer electrical energy when a voltage was applied to the vertical set of strips. That electrical coupling was a form of connection between the strips. A bit was represented by the crossings of two neighboring strips in both arrays, with the configuration of tabs determining whether it was a binary 1 or 0.

  • IBM BCROS

    1965–1977

    IBM BCROS

    1965–1977

    IBM BCROS

    1965–1977

    IBM BCROS

    1965–1977

    IBM BCROS

    1965–1977

Mask ROM

Mask ROM is an integrated circuit containing two orthogonal, overlapping arrays of conductors. In this, it is similar to BCROS (described above). The difference is that to represent a binary 1, conductors are connected where they cross by a diode or transistor. Unconnected crossings represent a 0. Mask ROM is manufactured using photolithography, in which a photomask is used in etching circuits. Once created, the program or data represented by the chip cannot be changed. Like any integrated circuit, mask ROMs can be soldered permanently into a device's circuit boards. However, to turn ROM into removable media, it is packaged in a pluggable cartridge. Unlike software on a tape, floppy or CD, the software on the ROM chip is run directly, without loading it into RAM, since it is mapped into the computer's address space.

It is difficult to know, in some cases, whether mask ROM or EPROM was used in a particular cartridge. I'm assuming mask ROM unless I've found specific information otherwise, but corrections would be greatly appreciated. Most game cartridges used mask ROM, since it was cheaper in the quantities typical for a consumer product, but manufacturers would occasionally use more expensive EPROM for cartridges manufactured in low quantities or to apply a patch to a previously released game. Cartridges that allowed users to save games contained EEPROM or flash memory in addition to the ROM used to store the game.

Console Game

Cartridges were something we idolized as kids—they were tangible, bulky, beautiful things that were worshiped… There is magic in inserting a game into the console…
—Jon Gibson, "The Coming Game Cartridge Renaissance?" Ars Technica, Sept. 2017 (Retrieved July 23, 2019).

Software for the first video game consoles was built into the console itself. In 1976, the Fairchild Channel F introduced interchangeable cartridges, in which the game data and program were stored in a ROM chip packaged in a plastic cartridge that could be plugged into the console.

  • Fairchild Channel F

    1976–1983
    Baseball

    Fairchild Channel F

    1976–1983
    Baseball

    Fairchild Channel F

    1976–1983
    Baseball

    Fairchild Channel F

    1976–1983
    Baseball

    Fairchild Channel F

    1976–1983
    Baseball
  • RCA Studio II

    1977–1978
    Baseball

    RCA Studio II

    1977–1978
    Baseball

    RCA Studio II

    1977–1978
    Baseball

    RCA Studio II

    1977–1978
    Baseball

    RCA Studio II

    1977–1978
    Baseball
  • Atari VCS/2600

    1977–1992
    E. T. the Extra-Terrestrial

    Atari VCS/2600

    1977–1992
    E. T. the Extra-Terrestrial

    Atari VCS/2600

    1977–1992
    E. T. the Extra-Terrestrial

    Atari VCS/2600

    1977–1992
    E. T. the Extra-Terrestrial

    Atari VCS/2600

    1977–1992
    E. T. the Extra-Terrestrial
  • Coleco Telstar Arcade

    1977–c. 1978
    Cartridge #3

    Coleco Telstar Arcade

    1977–c. 1978
    Cartridge #3

    Coleco Telstar Arcade

    1977–c. 1978
    Cartridge #3

    Coleco Telstar Arcade

    1977–c. 1978
    Cartridge #3

    Coleco Telstar Arcade

    1977–c. 1978
    Cartridge #3
  • APF MP1000

    1978–1981
    Boxing

    APF MP1000

    1978–1981
    Boxing

    APF MP1000

    1978–1981
    Boxing

    APF MP1000

    1978–1981
    Boxing

    APF MP1000

    1978–1981
    Boxing
  • Interton VC 4000

    1978–1983
    Pinball

    Interton VC 4000

    1978–1983
    Pinball

    Interton VC 4000

    1978–1983
    Pinball

    Interton VC 4000

    1978–1983
    Pinball

    Interton VC 4000

    1978–1983
    Pinball
  • Bally Videocade

    1978–1983
    2012 Space Fortress

    Bally Videocade

    1978–1983
    2012 Space Fortress

    Bally Videocade

    1978–1983
    2012 Space Fortress

    Bally Videocade

    1978–1983
    2012 Space Fortress

    Bally Videocade

    1978–1983
    2012 Space Fortress
  • Atari 400/800/XL/XE

    1979–1992
    Star Raiders

    Atari 400/800/XL/XE

    1979–1992
    Star Raiders

    Atari 400/800/XL/XE

    1979–1992
    Star Raiders

    Atari 400/800/XL/XE

    1979–1992
    Star Raiders

    Atari 400/800/XL/XE

    1979–1992
    Star Raiders
  • Mattel Intellivision

    1979–1990
    Demon Attack

    Mattel Intellivision

    1979–1990
    Demon Attack

    Mattel Intellivision

    1979–1990
    Demon Attack

    Mattel Intellivision

    1979–1990
    Demon Attack

    Mattel Intellivision

    1979–1990
    Demon Attack
  • Magnavox Odyssey 2

    1979–1984
    Abelhas Assassinas!

    Magnavox Odyssey 2

    1979–1984
    Abelhas Assassinas!

    Magnavox Odyssey 2

    1979–1984
    Abelhas Assassinas!

    Magnavox Odyssey 2

    1979–1984
    Abelhas Assassinas!

    Magnavox Odyssey 2

    1979–1984
    Abelhas Assassinas!
  • Rowtron

    c. 1979–early 1980s
    Alien Invasion

    Rowtron

    c. 1979–early 1980s
    Alien Invasion

    Rowtron

    c. 1979–early 1980s
    Alien Invasion

    Rowtron

    c. 1979–early 1980s
    Alien Invasion

    Rowtron

    c. 1979–early 1980s
    Alien Invasion
  • Teleng Colourstars

    1979–c. 1981
    Motor Racing

    Teleng Colourstars

    1979–c. 1981
    Motor Racing

    Teleng Colourstars

    1979–c. 1981
    Motor Racing

    Teleng Colourstars

    1979–c. 1981
    Motor Racing

    Teleng Colourstars

    1979–c. 1981
    Motor Racing
  • Acetronic

    1979–1983
    Invaders

    Acetronic

    1979–1983
    Invaders

    Acetronic

    1979–1983
    Invaders

    Acetronic

    1979–1983
    Invaders

    Acetronic

    1979–1983
    Invaders
  • Voltmace/Videomaster Database

    1979–1983
    No. 17 - Golf

    Voltmace/Videomaster Database

    1979–1983
    No. 17 - Golf

    Voltmace/Videomaster Database

    1979–1983
    No. 17 - Golf

    Voltmace/Videomaster Database

    1979–1983
    No. 17 - Golf

    Voltmace/Videomaster Database

    1979–1983
    No. 17 - Golf
  • Commodore VIC-20

    1980–1985
    MS. Pac-Man

    Commodore VIC-20

    1980–1985
    MS. Pac-Man

    Commodore VIC-20

    1980–1985
    MS. Pac-Man

    Commodore VIC-20

    1980–1985
    MS. Pac-Man

    Commodore VIC-20

    1980–1985
    MS. Pac-Man
  • Epoch Cassette Vision

    1981–1984
    PakPakMonster

    Epoch Cassette Vision

    1981–1984
    PakPakMonster

    Epoch Cassette Vision

    1981–1984
    PakPakMonster

    Epoch Cassette Vision

    1981–1984
    PakPakMonster

    Epoch Cassette Vision

    1981–1984
    PakPakMonster
  • Vtech CreatiVision

    1981–1986
    Sonic invader

    Vtech CreatiVision

    1981–1986
    Sonic invader

    Vtech CreatiVision

    1981–1986
    Sonic invader

    Vtech CreatiVision

    1981–1986
    Sonic invader

    Vtech CreatiVision

    1981–1986
    Sonic invader
  • Atari 2600 "Double Ender"

    c. 1983
    Spike's Peak/Ghost Manor

    Atari 2600 "Double Ender"

    c. 1983
    Spike's Peak/Ghost Manor

    Atari 2600 "Double Ender"

    c. 1983
    Spike's Peak/Ghost Manor

    Atari 2600 "Double Ender"

    c. 1983
    Spike's Peak/Ghost Manor

    Atari 2600 "Double Ender"

    c. 1983
    Spike's Peak/Ghost Manor
  • Gakken Compact Vision TV Boy

    1983

    Gakken Compact Vision TV Boy

    1983

    Gakken Compact Vision TV Boy

    1983

    Gakken Compact Vision TV Boy

    1983

    Gakken Compact Vision TV Boy

    1983
  • Commodore 64

    1982–1994
    Zenji

    Commodore 64

    1982–1994
    Zenji

    Commodore 64

    1982–1994
    Zenji

    Commodore 64

    1982–1994
    Zenji

    Commodore 64

    1982–1994
    Zenji
  • ColecoVision

    1982–1985
    BurgerTime

    ColecoVision

    1982–1985
    BurgerTime

    ColecoVision

    1982–1985
    BurgerTime

    ColecoVision

    1982–1985
    BurgerTime

    ColecoVision

    1982–1985
    BurgerTime
  • Atari 5200

    1982–1984
    Ms. Pac-Man

    Atari 5200

    1982–1984
    Ms. Pac-Man

    Atari 5200

    1982–1984
    Ms. Pac-Man

    Atari 5200

    1982–1984
    Ms. Pac-Man

    Atari 5200

    1982–1984
    Ms. Pac-Man
  • Vectrex

    1982–1984
    Star Trek

    Vectrex

    1982–1984
    Star Trek

    Vectrex

    1982–1984
    Star Trek

    Vectrex

    1982–1984
    Star Trek

    Vectrex

    1982–1984
    Star Trek
  • Arcadia 2001

    1982–1983
    Tanks A Lot

    Arcadia 2001

    1982–1983
    Tanks A Lot

    Arcadia 2001

    1982–1983
    Tanks A Lot

    Arcadia 2001

    1982–1983
    Tanks A Lot

    Arcadia 2001

    1982–1983
    Tanks A Lot
  • Leisure Vision

    1982–1984
    Space Vultures

    Leisure Vision

    1982–1984
    Space Vultures

    Leisure Vision

    1982–1984
    Space Vultures

    Leisure Vision

    1982–1984
    Space Vultures

    Leisure Vision

    1982–1984
    Space Vultures
  • IBM PCjr

    1984–1985
    Mine Shaft

    IBM PCjr

    1984–1985
    Mine Shaft

    IBM PCjr

    1984–1985
    Mine Shaft

    IBM PCjr

    1984–1985
    Mine Shaft

    IBM PCjr

    1984–1985
    Mine Shaft
  • Nintendo NES

    1985–1995
    Maniac Mansion

    Nintendo NES

    1985–1995
    Maniac Mansion

    Nintendo NES

    1985–1995
    Maniac Mansion

    Nintendo NES

    1985–1995
    Maniac Mansion

    Nintendo NES

    1985–1995
    Maniac Mansion
  • Sega Master System

    1985–c. 2015
    R-Type

    Sega Master System

    1985–c. 2015
    R-Type

    Sega Master System

    1985–c. 2015
    R-Type

    Sega Master System

    1985–c. 2015
    R-Type

    Sega Master System

    1985–c. 2015
    R-Type
  • Atari 7800

    1986–1993
    Food Fight

    Atari 7800

    1986–1993
    Food Fight

    Atari 7800

    1986–1993
    Food Fight

    Atari 7800

    1986–1993
    Food Fight

    Atari 7800

    1986–1993
    Food Fight
  • BBC Bridge Companion

    1985–late 1980s
    Advanced Defense

    BBC Bridge Companion

    1985–late 1980s
    Advanced Defense

    BBC Bridge Companion

    1985–late 1980s
    Advanced Defense

    BBC Bridge Companion

    1985–late 1980s
    Advanced Defense

    BBC Bridge Companion

    1985–late 1980s
    Advanced Defense
  • Sega Genesis

    1988–1998
    Earthworm Jim

    Sega Genesis

    1988–1998
    Earthworm Jim

    Sega Genesis

    1988–1998
    Earthworm Jim

    Sega Genesis

    1988–1998
    Earthworm Jim

    Sega Genesis

    1988–1998
    Earthworm Jim
  • Starting Lineup Talking Baseball

    1988

    Starting Lineup Talking Baseball

    1988

    Starting Lineup Talking Baseball

    1988

    Starting Lineup Talking Baseball

    1988

    Starting Lineup Talking Baseball

    1988
  • Amstrad GX4000

    1990–1991
    Fire & Forget II

    Amstrad GX4000

    1990–1991
    Fire & Forget II

    Amstrad GX4000

    1990–1991
    Fire & Forget II

    Amstrad GX4000

    1990–1991
    Fire & Forget II

    Amstrad GX4000

    1990–1991
    Fire & Forget II
  • Super Nintendo

    1990–2003
    Super Mario Kart

    Super Nintendo

    1990–2003
    Super Mario Kart

    Super Nintendo

    1990–2003
    Super Mario Kart

    Super Nintendo

    1990–2003
    Super Mario Kart

    Super Nintendo

    1990–2003
    Super Mario Kart
  • Atari Jaguar

    1993–1996
    Iron Soldier

    Atari Jaguar

    1993–1996
    Iron Soldier

    Atari Jaguar

    1993–1996
    Iron Soldier

    Atari Jaguar

    1993–1996
    Iron Soldier

    Atari Jaguar

    1993–1996
    Iron Soldier
  • Super A'Can

    1995–1996
    Son of Evil

    Super A'Can

    1995–1996
    Son of Evil

    Super A'Can

    1995–1996
    Son of Evil

    Super A'Can

    1995–1996
    Son of Evil

    Super A'Can

    1995–1996
    Son of Evil
  • Casio Loopy

    1995–1998
    Dream Change: Kokin-chan's Fashion Party

    Casio Loopy

    1995–1998
    Dream Change: Kokin-chan's Fashion Party

    Casio Loopy

    1995–1998
    Dream Change: Kokin-chan's Fashion Party

    Casio Loopy

    1995–1998
    Dream Change: Kokin-chan's Fashion Party

    Casio Loopy

    1995–1998
    Dream Change: Kokin-chan's Fashion Party
  • Nintendo Virtual Boy

    1995–1996
    Red Alarm

    Nintendo Virtual Boy

    1995–1996
    Red Alarm

    Nintendo Virtual Boy

    1995–1996
    Red Alarm

    Nintendo Virtual Boy

    1995–1996
    Red Alarm

    Nintendo Virtual Boy

    1995–1996
    Red Alarm

Handheld

The first handheld game to use removable cartridges, the Mattel Microvision, appeared in 1979, but it wasn't until Nintendo released the Game Boy in 1989 that handhelds took off. Battery life was a challenge. Nintendo used a small, black and white, non-backlit display and a low powered processor. Other handhelds like the Sega Game Gear and Atari Lynx were more advanced, but were more expensive and suffered from shorter battery life and were not as successful.

  • Microvision

    1979–1981
    Connect Four

    Microvision

    1979–1981
    Connect Four

    Microvision

    1979–1981
    Connect Four

    Microvision

    1979–1981
    Connect Four

    Microvision

    1979–1981
    Connect Four
  • Entex Select-A-Game

    1981
    Pac-Man 2

    Entex Select-A-Game

    1981
    Pac-Man 2

    Entex Select-A-Game

    1981
    Pac-Man 2

    Entex Select-A-Game

    1981
    Pac-Man 2

    Entex Select-A-Game

    1981
    Pac-Man 2
  • Nintendo Game Boy

    1989–1996
    Donkey Kong

    Nintendo Game Boy

    1989–1996
    Donkey Kong

    Nintendo Game Boy

    1989–1996
    Donkey Kong

    Nintendo Game Boy

    1989–1996
    Donkey Kong

    Nintendo Game Boy

    1989–1996
    Donkey Kong
  • Atari Lynx

    1989–1996
    Slime World

    Atari Lynx

    1989–1996
    Slime World

    Atari Lynx

    1989–1996
    Slime World

    Atari Lynx

    1989–1996
    Slime World

    Atari Lynx

    1989–1996
    Slime World
  • Sega Game Gear

    1990–1997
    Road Rash

    Sega Game Gear

    1990–1997
    Road Rash

    Sega Game Gear

    1990–1997
    Road Rash

    Sega Game Gear

    1990–1997
    Road Rash

    Sega Game Gear

    1990–1997
    Road Rash
  • Watara Supervision

    1992–mid-1990s
    Witty Cat

    Watara Supervision

    1992–mid-1990s
    Witty Cat

    Watara Supervision

    1992–mid-1990s
    Witty Cat

    Watara Supervision

    1992–mid-1990s
    Witty Cat

    Watara Supervision

    1992–mid-1990s
    Witty Cat
  • Tiger Electronics Game.com

    1997–2000
    Centipede

    Tiger Electronics Game.com

    1997–2000
    Centipede

    Tiger Electronics Game.com

    1997–2000
    Centipede

    Tiger Electronics Game.com

    1997–2000
    Centipede

    Tiger Electronics Game.com

    1997–2000
    Centipede
  • SNK Neo Geo Pocket

    1988–1999
    Sonic The Hedgehog Pocket Adventure

    SNK Neo Geo Pocket

    1988–1999
    Sonic The Hedgehog Pocket Adventure

    SNK Neo Geo Pocket

    1988–1999
    Sonic The Hedgehog Pocket Adventure

    SNK Neo Geo Pocket

    1988–1999
    Sonic The Hedgehog Pocket Adventure

    SNK Neo Geo Pocket

    1988–1999
    Sonic The Hedgehog Pocket Adventure
  • WonderSwan Color

    1999–2003
    Final Fantasy IV

    WonderSwan Color

    1999–2003
    Final Fantasy IV

    WonderSwan Color

    1999–2003
    Final Fantasy IV

    WonderSwan Color

    1999–2003
    Final Fantasy IV

    WonderSwan Color

    1999–2003
    Final Fantasy IV
  • Nintendo Game Boy Advance

    2001–2008
    Golden Sun

    Nintendo Game Boy Advance

    2001–2008
    Golden Sun

    Nintendo Game Boy Advance

    2001–2008
    Golden Sun

    Nintendo Game Boy Advance

    2001–2008
    Golden Sun

    Nintendo Game Boy Advance

    2001–2008
    Golden Sun
  • Mega Man Battle Chip

    2004–2006
    Mega Man Battle Chip Challenge

    Mega Man Battle Chip

    2004–2006
    Mega Man Battle Chip Challenge

    Mega Man Battle Chip

    2004–2006
    Mega Man Battle Chip Challenge

    Mega Man Battle Chip

    2004–2006
    Mega Man Battle Chip Challenge

    Mega Man Battle Chip

    2004–2006
    Mega Man Battle Chip Challenge
  • Game King

    2004–2006
    Ares

    Game King

    2004–2006
    Ares

    Game King

    2004–2006
    Ares

    Game King

    2004–2006
    Ares

    Game King

    2004–2006
    Ares
  • Digiblast

    2005–2007
    Gormiti: Agguato nella Valle

    Digiblast

    2005–2007
    Gormiti: Agguato nella Valle

    Digiblast

    2005–2007
    Gormiti: Agguato nella Valle

    Digiblast

    2005–2007
    Gormiti: Agguato nella Valle

    Digiblast

    2005–2007
    Gormiti: Agguato nella Valle

Arcade

Coin-operated amusements in arcades and other public spaces have a long history going back to the late 19th and early 20th century, including machines like mutoscopes, music boxes, player pianos and automata, and games like Skeeball and pinball. Video games made their first appearance in arcades in 1971. The first game, Computer Space, was a failure, but its creators then started a little company called Atari and released another game: Pong. It became a phenomenon and launched the video game industry. Dedicated Pong consoles for the home soon followed.

In 1980, Data East introduced the DECO Cassette System, which allowed owners to load new games from a standard tape cassette. It was not widely adopted, partly because cassette tapes were unreliable. In the mid-1980s, Nintendo introduced the VS. system and the Playchoice 10, which allowed games to be swapped by plugging in a different ROM chip or circuit board. The Neo Geo MVS from SNK Corp. was the first arcade platform to use an actual cartridge.

  • SNK Neo Geo MVS

    1990–2004
    Fatal Fury 2

    SNK Neo Geo MVS

    1990–2004
    Fatal Fury 2

    SNK Neo Geo MVS

    1990–2004
    Fatal Fury 2

    SNK Neo Geo MVS

    1990–2004
    Fatal Fury 2

    SNK Neo Geo MVS

    1990–2004
    Fatal Fury 2
  • Taito

    1992–c. 1998
    Puzzle Bobble 2

    Taito

    1992–c. 1998
    Puzzle Bobble 2

    Taito

    1992–c. 1998
    Puzzle Bobble 2

    Taito

    1992–c. 1998
    Puzzle Bobble 2

    Taito

    1992–c. 1998
    Puzzle Bobble 2
  • Capcom CP System II

    1993–2003
    Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers

    Capcom CP System II

    1993–2003
    Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers

    Capcom CP System II

    1993–2003
    Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers

    Capcom CP System II

    1993–2003
    Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers

    Capcom CP System II

    1993–2003
    Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers
  • Sega ST-V

    1995–2000
    Baku Baku Animal

    Sega ST-V

    1995–2000
    Baku Baku Animal

    Sega ST-V

    1995–2000
    Baku Baku Animal

    Sega ST-V

    1995–2000
    Baku Baku Animal

    Sega ST-V

    1995–2000
    Baku Baku Animal
  • Hyper Neo Geo 64

    1997–1999
    Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition

    Hyper Neo Geo 64

    1997–1999
    Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition

    Hyper Neo Geo 64

    1997–1999
    Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition

    Hyper Neo Geo 64

    1997–1999
    Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition

    Hyper Neo Geo 64

    1997–1999
    Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition
  • Sega Naomi

    1998–2009
    CAPCOM VS. SNK: Millennium Fight 2000

    Sega Naomi

    1998–2009
    CAPCOM VS. SNK: Millennium Fight 2000

    Sega Naomi

    1998–2009
    CAPCOM VS. SNK: Millennium Fight 2000

    Sega Naomi

    1998–2009
    CAPCOM VS. SNK: Millennium Fight 2000

    Sega Naomi

    1998–2009
    CAPCOM VS. SNK: Millennium Fight 2000
  • Atomiswave

    2003–2009
    Demolish Fist

    Atomiswave

    2003–2009
    Demolish Fist

    Atomiswave

    2003–2009
    Demolish Fist

    Atomiswave

    2003–2009
    Demolish Fist

    Atomiswave

    2003–2009
    Demolish Fist

Educational

Libraries for popular game consoles often included some educational titles, but starting with Texas Instrument's Speak & Spell in 1978 consoles targeted specifically at education appeared. Companies like Vtech and LeapFrog that specialized in educational games and toys marketed consoles and tablets designed for educational games (and still do). The Speak & Spell became a cultural touchstone when it was included as a key plot element in Spielberg's E.T. the Extraterrestrial.

  • Speak & Spell

    1978–1992
    Vowel Ventures

    Speak & Spell

    1978–1992
    Vowel Ventures

    Speak & Spell

    1978–1992
    Vowel Ventures

    Speak & Spell

    1978–1992
    Vowel Ventures

    Speak & Spell

    1978–1992
    Vowel Ventures
  • Vtech Learning Window

    1985–c. 1987
    Alphabet Soup

    Vtech Learning Window

    1985–c. 1987
    Alphabet Soup

    Vtech Learning Window

    1985–c. 1987
    Alphabet Soup

    Vtech Learning Window

    1985–c. 1987
    Alphabet Soup

    Vtech Learning Window

    1985–c. 1987
    Alphabet Soup
  • LJN Video Art

    c. 1987–late 1980s
    On the Move

    LJN Video Art

    c. 1987–late 1980s
    On the Move

    LJN Video Art

    c. 1987–late 1980s
    On the Move

    LJN Video Art

    c. 1987–late 1980s
    On the Move

    LJN Video Art

    c. 1987–late 1980s
    On the Move
  • Sega Pico

    1993–2005
    Crayola Crayons: Create a World

    Sega Pico

    1993–2005
    Crayola Crayons: Create a World

    Sega Pico

    1993–2005
    Crayola Crayons: Create a World

    Sega Pico

    1993–2005
    Crayola Crayons: Create a World

    Sega Pico

    1993–2005
    Crayola Crayons: Create a World
  • Pixter

    2000–2007
    Story Composer

    Pixter

    2000–2007
    Story Composer

    Pixter

    2000–2007
    Story Composer

    Pixter

    2000–2007
    Story Composer

    Pixter

    2000–2007
    Story Composer
  • Vtech Mobigo

    c. 2010–c. 2012
    Dinosaur Train

    Vtech Mobigo

    c. 2010–c. 2012
    Dinosaur Train

    Vtech Mobigo

    c. 2010–c. 2012
    Dinosaur Train

    Vtech Mobigo

    c. 2010–c. 2012
    Dinosaur Train

    Vtech Mobigo

    c. 2010–c. 2012
    Dinosaur Train
  • Vtech InnoTab

    c. 2011–present
    Dora the Explorer, Language Arts

    Vtech InnoTab

    c. 2011–present
    Dora the Explorer, Language Arts

    Vtech InnoTab

    c. 2011–present
    Dora the Explorer, Language Arts

    Vtech InnoTab

    c. 2011–present
    Dora the Explorer, Language Arts

    Vtech InnoTab

    c. 2011–present
    Dora the Explorer, Language Arts

Software

Some early personal computers and programmable calculators loaded software (other than games) from cartridges.

  • TI 99/4A

    1981–1984
    Extended Basic

    TI 99/4A

    1981–1984
    Extended Basic

    TI 99/4A

    1981–1984
    Extended Basic

    TI 99/4A

    1981–1984
    Extended Basic

    TI 99/4A

    1981–1984
    Extended Basic
  • Radio Shack TRS 80

    1977–1981
    Spectaculator (spreadsheet)

    Radio Shack TRS 80

    1977–1981
    Spectaculator (spreadsheet)

    Radio Shack TRS 80

    1977–1981
    Spectaculator (spreadsheet)

    Radio Shack TRS 80

    1977–1981
    Spectaculator (spreadsheet)

    Radio Shack TRS 80

    1977–1981
    Spectaculator (spreadsheet)
  • HP 9845B

    1977–1985
    Graphics

    HP 9845B

    1977–1985
    Graphics

    HP 9845B

    1977–1985
    Graphics

    HP 9845B

    1977–1985
    Graphics

    HP 9845B

    1977–1985
    Graphics
  • TI-59

    1977–1985
    Aviation Module

    TI-59

    1977–1985
    Aviation Module

    TI-59

    1977–1985
    Aviation Module

    TI-59

    1977–1985
    Aviation Module

    TI-59

    1977–1985
    Aviation Module
  • Nortel Norstar Meridian

    1975–present
    Software Cartridge

    Nortel Norstar Meridian

    1975–present
    Software Cartridge

    Nortel Norstar Meridian

    1975–present
    Software Cartridge

    Nortel Norstar Meridian

    1975–present
    Software Cartridge

    Nortel Norstar Meridian

    1975–present
    Software Cartridge
  • Yamaha CX5M

    1984–c. 1988
    MIDI Recorder

    Yamaha CX5M

    1984–c. 1988
    MIDI Recorder

    Yamaha CX5M

    1984–c. 1988
    MIDI Recorder

    Yamaha CX5M

    1984–c. 1988
    MIDI Recorder

    Yamaha CX5M

    1984–c. 1988
    MIDI Recorder

Font

Fonts for computer printers are now typically downloaded from the computer, but until sometime in the 1990s, many printers could load fonts from cartridges plugged directly into the printer. ROM cartridges could hold bitmap fonts or vector fonts like TrueType and Postscript.

  • Wang

    1970s–1980s
    Letter Gothic 12

    Wang

    1970s–1980s
    Letter Gothic 12

    Wang

    1970s–1980s
    Letter Gothic 12

    Wang

    1970s–1980s
    Letter Gothic 12

    Wang

    1970s–1980s
    Letter Gothic 12
  • HP LaserJet

    1984–early 1990s
    Barcodes & More

    HP LaserJet

    1984–early 1990s
    Barcodes & More

    HP LaserJet

    1984–early 1990s
    Barcodes & More

    HP LaserJet

    1984–early 1990s
    Barcodes & More

    HP LaserJet

    1984–early 1990s
    Barcodes & More
  • Berthold

    early 1990s
    Concorde Regular and Medium

    Berthold

    early 1990s
    Concorde Regular and Medium

    Berthold

    early 1990s
    Concorde Regular and Medium

    Berthold

    early 1990s
    Concorde Regular and Medium

    Berthold

    early 1990s
    Concorde Regular and Medium
  • Dymo 4000

    1990s
    Times Roman

    Dymo 4000

    1990s
    Times Roman

    Dymo 4000

    1990s
    Times Roman

    Dymo 4000

    1990s
    Times Roman

    Dymo 4000

    1990s
    Times Roman
  • Singer Sew-Ware

    mid-1980s
    Alphabet/Numbers

    Singer Sew-Ware

    mid-1980s
    Alphabet/Numbers

    Singer Sew-Ware

    mid-1980s
    Alphabet/Numbers

    Singer Sew-Ware

    mid-1980s
    Alphabet/Numbers

    Singer Sew-Ware

    mid-1980s
    Alphabet/Numbers

Audio

In the late 1990s, there were few good options for middle-schoolers who wanted portable music. The Walkman was long gone. CDs were expensive and portable players unreliable. The iPod hadn't arrived yet. For a few years, prerecorded music on tiny ROM chips made sense, at least for an age group that might be satisfied with a one minute excerpt. Hit Clips were extremely popular during that brief window.

  • HitClips

    2000–2003
    Baby One More Time

    HitClips

    2000–2003
    Baby One More Time

    HitClips

    2000–2003
    Baby One More Time

    HitClips

    2000–2003
    Baby One More Time

    HitClips

    2000–2003
    Baby One More Time
  • HitClips Discs

    2003–2004
    I Can't Wait

    HitClips Discs

    2003–2004
    I Can't Wait

    HitClips Discs

    2003–2004
    I Can't Wait

    HitClips Discs

    2003–2004
    I Can't Wait

    HitClips Discs

    2003–2004
    I Can't Wait
  • Yaboom Box

    1999–2001

    Yaboom Box

    1999–2001

    Yaboom Box

    1999–2001

    Yaboom Box

    1999–2001

    Yaboom Box

    1999–2001
  • E-Kara Karaoke

    2000–c. 2001
    Vol. 8

    E-Kara Karaoke

    2000–c. 2001
    Vol. 8

    E-Kara Karaoke

    2000–c. 2001
    Vol. 8

    E-Kara Karaoke

    2000–c. 2001
    Vol. 8

    E-Kara Karaoke

    2000–c. 2001
    Vol. 8