Trying to capitalize on the success they found in the videogame
market with the Intellivision, Mattel brought the Aquarius to market.
Using the Z80A processor running at 3.5 MHz, the machine had
only one sound channel unless you connected the Mini-Expander
(which gave you 3 voices). The 4KB of RAM could be expanded
but the usable memory that was left over was little more than half of
what the VIC-20 had, two years earlier! Most of the software
available was ported from the licenses Mattel already had and most
of the games were not much better than their Intellivision
counterparts. An Aquarius II also shipped
in very small numbers. The model number of this unit is 5931.
Aquarius Data Recorder
The Aquarius Data Recorder is a handy and economical way to provide permanent information storage for use in the system at a later time. Without the recorder, information and programs in the Random Access Memory would be lost when Aquarius is shut off.
The Aquarius Data Recorder plugs directly into the rear of the Aquarius unit. Data is transferred onto standard cassette tapes for quick and easy storage. When the information is needed, it can be easily retrieved and "loaded" into memory. Several programs may be stored on a single tape.
The speed of transfer was 600 baud. All of the control of this unit was manual (unlike some other recorders). All in all, a very reliable unit.
This device should not be an add on. The capabilities the Mini-Expander add to the Aquarius should have been implemented in the main CPU. The mini-expander allows you to have a program cartridge AND a memory expansion cart plugged in simultaneously.
Other features of the Mini are: "The addition of 2 more sound channels and includes 2 detachable hand controllers with 8' coiled cords: 16 position disc! 6 action buttons!"
They say it has an "addition of 2 more sound channels," but in fact the sound chip on board the mini-expander has a full 3 sound channels (the same sound chip used on the Intellivision), making a total of 4. However, it seems that any games which utilize the mini's sound chip, do NOT use the CPU's built in sound generator, unless the game is played without the mini plugged in (i.e. the game cart is plugged directly into the cartridge port of the computer). So, as to not to mislead anyone into believing they would hear some 4 part harmony's Mattel opted to say that it adds only 2 sound channels Some games do not utilize the extra sound channels at all (e.g. AD&D Treasure of Tarmin, Nightstalker). This is no doubt probably due to either RAM restrictions on the computer or ROM restrictions on the cart. All Mattel games were made to be played without the need for a RAM expansion cart. Some games, however, make excellent use of the extra sound capabilities offered by the Mini-expander.
The controllers are what appear to be a cheapened version of the Intellivision controllers. First of all, there should have been a fire button. Secondly, it is difficult to find the "diagonals" on the disc controller. It's quite interesting that no program uses the full "16 positions" on the disc.
Jay on Thursday, May 08, 2008 I see you borrowed information from this site: http://members.aol.com/paparotcy . That's a good source for Aquarius information.
Kobina on Thursday, November 22, 2007 It's sad but I've have been impressing my colleagues by describing one of our first computers which was this Aquarius computer. My brother borrowed it from a friend of his and we learnt to program in BASIC on it. I rememember a game which involved to waring islands which we could never get to the end of becuase the computer would always run out of memory. Thanks for your work guys, I had forgotten what it looked like. Now I can show it to my son.