The short-lived Mattel Aquarius computer system was released by the prolific toy manufacturer in 1983. It was designed by Hong Kong-based Radofin, makers of the 1970s Tele-Sports Pong game and the Intellivision video game system. The original manufacturer’s suggested retail price was $160.00.
The soft rubber-buttoned keyboard has lots of BASIC shortcut commands, and an overall cool retro look like something out of a 1970’s Science Fiction B-Movie. The system comes loaded with all the modern amenities like pre-installed 1982 Microsoft BASIC programming capabilities, and a whopping 4K of RAM, expandable up to a blazing fast 16K with the Mini Expander, shown below.
Mattel Aquarius Mini Expander
Mattel’s programmers jokingly referred to the Aquarius as the “system of the seventies”. It only lasted five months before it was pulled from the market, and only about 20 or so of the 36 promised game cartridges were ever produced. Below is the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons cartridge, along with a short YouTube video we made testing the game.
The Aquarius is load of fun to play around with, and this system is a great way to get you started in the amazing world of vintage computing. You can even save your programs with the Aquarius Data Recorder. It’s a cassette recorder which allows you to save your meticulously-typed programs and data on standard blank cassette tapes.
Mattel Aquarius Data Recorder
In addition to the huge instruction manual, which is full of cool programs to keep you busy for months, the Aquarius comes with a convenient “Simplified Instruction Cards” wire-bound stand-up book to get you computing in a flash. Think of it as the “Quick Start Guide” that comes with modern computers and peripherals. The Aquarius is a fun way to get back to your “BASIC” computing roots. I had total ’80s flashbacks typing in some of the programs in the instructions. You too can relive the frustration of typing a 50-line program and getting a syntax error message!). Below is a screenshot result of the “Circles” BASIC program, along with another YouTube video of a simple animation.
Mattel Aquarius Thermal Printer
The Mattel Aquarius also had its very own printer! The 40-column thermal printer is totally primitive. It’s really just a glorified receipt printer! Check out our YouTube video of this funky little thing in action!
The Mattel Aquarius utilized the old-school RF cable like other vintage gaming & computing systems. You will need an RF adapter to attach it to a newer TV. For a few dollars, you can get a convenient modern adapter that will connect a your old Atari, Intellivision, Coleco, and Mattel Aquarius to your new TV!