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General Instrument Gimini adverts hint at unreleased dedicated games


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Whilst researching some other bits and pieces I came across a couple of General Instrument ads for the Gimini product line.  The first, from a copy of Electronics dated November 1975, suggests that before it became a range of video game chipsets the Gimini name was used to brand a CP1600 computer:



The second ad from a March 1977 copy of Electronics aims to build on the success of the AY-3-8500 Pong-on-a-chip that was launched in 1976:

gimini2.thumb.png.f39c2fbb9f97fd292b78fc9a9a618594.png gimini3.thumb.png.54a2e83fe4df65746e54a25d574a1009.png


The "screenshots" in this advert are interesting, most are mockups of the AY-3-85xx and AY-3-86xx range of dedicated chips taken from pages 4B-4 through 4B-36 of the 1977 GI catalog, for example the top left image is Tennis from the AY-3-8500 and below it is the same game from the AY-3-8550:


Here are the same images from the catalog:

gimini5.png.8b0f28d8a4980956c412f8cef7d06b4b.png gimini6.png.fd0d48ea4ffcbb20794e02cbc5d7f9e7.png

There is also a line of mock-ups of 2 and 1 player versions of Blackjack, Draw Poker, Acey Duecey and War from what would become the Unisonic Champion.  These were taken from pages 4B-40 through 4B-43 of the 1977 catalog:



Although technically plausible, there are small differences between these mockups and the games released on the Champion. 


At the bottom of the page there are a set of games also attributed to the Gimini Programmable Game Set in the 1977 catalog on pages 4B-44 through 4B-54:



These games are Combat Squares, Racing Squares, Shooting Squares (I don't know if anyone else is getting Degenatron vibe), Juggle I, Juggle II, Volleyball, Protection, Hazard, Road Race, Baracade and Submarine. None of these games could be generated by the Unisonic Champion's GIC graphics chip, for a start 6 colours are shown.  However, it should be remembered that at this point the Gimini line had not been split into the Mid-Range and Deluxe chipsets (at least not outside GI), so both the Unisonic card games and these more action oriented titles were supposed to be generated by a single chipset based on a rudementary version of the STIC that supported MOBs, but had no GRAM.


That leaves us with these four games from the centre of the page:



These are not found in the 1977 catalog, or any other we currently have access to (if anyone has the 1976 or 1979 catalogs, get it touch).  However, it seems as though these are the only mock-ups we now have of two unreleased chips, the AY-3-8888 and AY-3-8889.  These are mentioned on page 39 of the winter 1977 Electronics Tomorrow:



...and pages 217 and 219 of the 1977 Gametronics Proceedings:



In both documents the AY-3-8888 and 8889 are identified as next generation dedicated chips similar to the AY-3-8500 series Pong-on-a-Chip, perhaps explaining their position within the advert.  The AY-3-8888 was intended to play the Las Vegas style games of Black Jack and Slot Machine, with the A-3-8889 playing Tic-Tac-Toe and LEM, a lunar lander game.


These sources of information on unreleased chips do need to be treated with a little care, as Gametronics also identifies the AY-3-8800 / GIC at the heart of the Unisonic Champion and the four games from the mock-ups above as being a dedicated chip, which according to the 1977 catalog it wasn't:


Then again, given the numbering, maybe the AY-3-8800, AY-3-8888 and AY-3-8889 were originally going to be dedicated chips, and the AY-3-8800 was later migrated to a microprocessor design.


As an aside, the Gamestronics document is an interesting read, it seems David "Papa Intellivision" Chandler was at the conference promoting his game, "Tank Squadron" (p20), and the Mostek / Fairchild F8 processor it was based on (p57-60).


Any which way, it definitely seems that 1977 was a fast moving time of opportunity and change.


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  • 4 months later...
On 9/19/2023 at 6:33 PM, decle said:

As an aside, the Gamestronics document is an interesting read, it seems David "Papa Intellivision" Chandler was at the conference promoting his game, "Tank Squadron" (p20), and the Mostek / Fairchild F8 processor it was based on (p57-60).

Thank you for bringing this document to our attention. For those who didn't follow the link, p20 was a full page picture featuring Chandler. The one-line caption, hidden at the bottom of the next page, reads, "Pauline Sly listens to Dr. David Chandler describe Tank Squadron." Unfortunately, the article, entitled "Applying the F8 Microcomputer Family to Games," starting on p45, was written by Mostek Semiconductor rather than Chandler and was more about promoting the F8 than describing the gameplay of the game.


Edited by Rod
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