Mattel Aquarius

Computer facts

Type home
Year 1983
End year 1983
CPU Zilog Z80A
Speed 3.5 MHz
RAM 4 KB RAM (20 KB max)
Text modes 40x25
Graphic modes 80x72
Colors 16
Sound 1 voice (expandable to 4 voices)
OS Microsoft-Aquarius BASIC 1.0
Mattel Aquarius

In my collection

Mattel Aquarius

American power supply
Bought from vintage game shop on Manhattan, New York, 2009 for $69.99. Maybe a bit too pricey, but had to bring something home form my vacation trip!


Aquarius is a home computer designed by Radofin and released by Mattel in 1983. It features a Zilog Z80 microprocessor, a rubber chiclet keyboard, 4K of RAM memory, and a subset of Microsoft BASIC in ROM. It connects to a television set and uses a cassette tape recorder for secondary data storage. A limited number of peripherals, such as a 40-column thermal printer, a 4-color printer/plotter, and a 300 baud modem, were released for the unit.

Looking to compete in the standalone computer market, Mattel Electronics turned to Radofin, the Hong Kong based manufacturer of their Intellivision consoles. Radofin had designed two computer systems. Internally they were known as Checkers, and the more sophisticated Chess. Mattel contracted for these to become the Aquarius and Aquarius II, respectively. Aquarius was announced in 1982 and finally released in June 1983, at a price of $160. Production ceased four months later because of poor sales. Mattel paid Radofin to take back the marketing rights, and four other companies, CEZAR Industries, CRIMAC Inc., New Era Incentives, Inc., and Bentley Industries, also marketed the unit and accessories for it. Bentley Industries, of Los Angeles, and New Era Incentives, Inc. of St. Paul are still in business, though they no longer have any affiliation with the Aquarius product line.

The Aquarius often came bundled with the Mini-Expander peripheral, which added gamepads, an additional cartridge port for memory expansion, and the GI AY-3-8914 sound chip, which was the same one used on the Intellivision console. Other common peripherals were the Data recorder, 40 column thermal printer, 4K and 16K ram carts. Less common 1st party peripherals include a 300 baud cartridge modem, 32k ram cart, 4 color plotter, and Quick Disk drive.

Although less expensive than the Texas Instruments TI-99/4A and Commodore VIC-20, the Aquarius had comparatively weak graphics, and limited memory. Internally, Mattel programmers dubbed it "the system for the seventies." Of the 32 software titles Mattel announced for the unit, 21 were released. Most of the released titles were ports from Mattel's Intellivision game console, but because the Aquarius lacked programmable graphics, gameplay of many games was better on the less-expensive console. Computer offerings from other companies who sold both computers and consoles, such as Atari and Coleco, at least matched and sometimes exceeded the capabilities of their consoles.

Shortly after the release of the Aquarius Mattel announced plans for another home computer, the Aquarius II. There is evidence that the Aquarius II reached the market in small numbers, but it was never a commercial success.

Mattel Aquarius images