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Bill Loguidice's picture

Working Through My Collection: The Mattel (Radofin) Aquarius (01)

In my ongoing quest of late to make more profound use of my collection, I broke out the Mattel (Radofin) Aquarius stuff last night. In the opening to the Aquarius chapter in my as-yet unpublished book, "Videogame and Computer Entertainment Systems: The First 15 Years," I describe the computer as follows:

The Mattel Aquarius is another “quaint” entry in the encyclopedia of home computers. The April 1985 edition of Compute! magazine declared it the computer “with one of the shortest life spans” in history, and indeed, only 20,000 units were ever sold outside of liquidation centers. Production ran for only four months, from June to October 1983. The Aquarius became an unmitigated disaster for Mattel’s Mattel Electronics division because the system was sadly obsolete even before it arrived in stores. With Mattel’s Intellivision videogame console (discussed elsewhere in this book) hosting two failed computer add-ons of its own, these events did nothing to help steel the company heading into The Great Videogame Crash.

  • “WHEN MATTEL DEMONSTRATED THIS COMPUTER AT A TRADE SHOW IN 1983, EMPLOYEES HAD TO CONCEAL ONE OF THE KEYS WITH MASKING TAPE. FOR SOME BIZARRE REASON KNOWN ONLY TO MATTEL ENGINEERS, THE AQUARIUS HAD A CONVENIENT KEY THAT INSTANTLY REBOOTED THE COMPUTER AND WIPED OUT ALL YOUR DATA.” —FROM BYTE MAGAZINE, SEPTEMBER 1995

So, yeah, not exactly inspiring tech, but the system and its accessories are certainly lookers, even if the hardware inside is lacking.

Here are some views of my Aquarius collection, spread out:

Mattel/Radofin Aquarius Collection (1 of 2)

Mattel/Radofin Aquarius Collection (2 of 2)

And with just the hardware out of the boxes:
Mattel/Radofin Aquarius Collection - Hardware out of box (1 of 2)
Mattel/Radofin Aquarius Collection - Hardware out of box (2 of 2)

Some items of note in there are some of the rarer cassettes and a newsletter that were generally only available overseas, and specifically in the UK, where a low end system like this could do a little better and last on the market a bit longer versus the less price conscious North Americans, who soon settled almost exclusively on a disk-based Commodore 64 for their needs in this area. There's also a homebrew 32K memory expander (typical sizes were previously 4K and 16K--those are mixed in there too) and the superior multi-cart, Aquaricart, which REALLY ramped up recent interest in the system.

I hope to get through this system and have some fun doing various things in the coming weeks. I'll see what I can further document/share. One of my goals is to fully catalog everything, identify some duplicates, and then sell off or trade some of the said duplicates.

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