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The mattel Childrens discovery system 



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about the mattel cds

In 1981 Mattel Electronics launched The Children's Discovery System and entered the electronic educational toy product market. The Children's Discovery System was targeted toward children ranging from ages 6 to 11 and was designed to look like a contemporary consumer-grade computer system. In 1981 the video game market was still somewhat in it's infancy, launching against an already crowded market with very popular consoles such as Atari 2600, Mattel Intellivision, and the Colecovision, and many others which already were popular among families and children. Perhaps the kid-aged system was doomed before it ever started?

Mattel CDS History

The Mattel CDS system was developed by Mattel Electronics with the help of UCLA professor Dr. Gordon L. Berry, who at the time was chief educational consultant on the project.

It was revealed to the public at the American International Toy Fair in February 1981 launched to retail in October of the same year for the MSRP of $125.

One of the reviews noted at how small the screen resolution was, which limited it severely, and how slow the system was to start up. There was also critisism on the included game modes for the console: the type mode did not provide feedback on its word games, music mode was described as "pointless" due to its simplicity and that the music is represented by letter graphics instead of notes. The art mode was praised for being a good introduction to computer graphics, although the process of drawing pixel-by-pixel was described as tedious.

A nationwide marketing campaign was initiated with celebrity endorsement from the Smothers Brothers in September 1982, claiming that the system could make parents "Get a smarter kid in 60 days. Or your money back", with purchase of the system and two modules made from September 1 to December 31, 1982. 

In May 1984, Jell-O had 1000 units as part of a prize pool for a sweepstake until June 30. In the Fall of 1984, Mattel Electronics liquidated the remaining 8000 units and learning modules to DAK Industries, where they sold through mail order a bundle that included the console with 14 learning modules for $79, nearly the entire library of games. It later appeared in a Lionel Kiddie City sale in December 1985 for $29.

Console Specs

The Mattel CDS used a 16-by-48 matrix LCD screen and was powered by six size AA alkaline batteries. The screen was much wider than it was tall, therefore only a grid of 8-by-2 text was possible, allowing for a maximum of 16 characters on-screen at any given moment.

The unit came preprogrammed with three modes: art mode, music mode and type mode. The Discovery System came with a specially laid-out membrane keyboard to better accommodate the built-in modes and also made use of keyboard overlays for use with expansion modules. Also included with the unit was a large activity book with over 100 suggested learning activities specially tailored for the Discovery System.

Game Cartridges

Besides the three included modes on the console, additional games cartridges were made available. Each cartridge is numbered from 1 to 21, Each game has several different modes included, and also an age range depending on the content of the game.

Originally the Mattel CDS was advertised as having 21 different boxed game cartridges, but all 21 games were not available at launch, by late 1982 only 8 game titles had been made available to the public. Additional games were developed and released after the launch with the final game count ending up being 1 through 14, 16, and 18, for a total of 16 games. 

Each boxed Mattel CDS game is a different color and when collected and displayed creates a colorful gradient with the spines. The overall box design and theme is reminiscent of the Mattel Intellivision design, including wording, part numbers, graphics, and more. 


Mattel CDS vintage commercial