Beyond the Mind's Eye - Thoughts & Insights from Marriott_GuyBeyond the Mind's Eye - Thoughts & Insights from Marriott_Guy

Posted on Mar 6th 2008 at 07:34:49 PM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under System Overview, Memorex, VIS, Tandy, Microsoft

In the early 1990's, the rage in video game hardware development was all about being an all-in-one device.  The following lists the prominent companies that took a swing at providing the buying public with the 'one' product that would satisfy allmost of their multimedia needs:

o 1991 - Philips CD-i (games/music/edutainment/movies)
o 1991 - Commodore CDTV (games/music/edutainment/movies)
o 1993 - Panasonic 3DO (games/music/edutainment)
o 1993 - Pioneer LaserActive (games/music/edutainment/movies)

As you can see, the above lists some pretty big hitters in the electronics industry.  In 1992, Memorex, owned at the time by Tandy Corporation (owner of RadioShack stores), released yet another 'wonder' machine into the fray with the release of the VIS (Visual Information System).  This obscure system left a very small imprint on the sands of video console history due to a few reasons.

The VIS was essentially a stripped down Windows PC in a VCR style casing.  A 16-bit Intel 80286 processor running at 12.5 MHz powered the system that produced games in 16.7M colors at a resolution of 640 x 480.  A customized version of Windows 3.1 is the backbone of the system and audiovideo performance.  At the time, this was quite antiquated in terms of overall technical horsepower.  The chassis itself does not even merit further dialog, as the picture of this system obviously displays.  Wireless controllers were a nice touch and did differentiate it from its competitors, but the button alignment and offerings mirrors the chassis - nothing to write home about.  The media choice was sound as all VIS titles were released on CD-ROM (Audio CD was also supported).  So what about those titles?

Almost ALL VIS titles can be categorized into the edutainment genre - with about 50% of those targeted directly to children in the age range 8-15.  Compton's Encyclopedia was included with the initial purchase of the VIS, but no true games were.  There were a great deal of rumors out there of PC ports for this system that never went into production (King's Quest V, Space Quest IV, et al).  The only true game that I can attest to being in existence, apart from the educational point-and-click safaris, is a release from Access Software called Links: The Challenge of Golf.  Some of you may remember this popular 386 PC classic (which the Links franchise and company was later bought out by Microsoft).  The graphics for the VIS are slightly less than their 386 counterpart, though navigation is a bit easier.  All told around 70 titles or so were released for this system.

Two versions of the VIS were released.  The Tandy version retailed for $699 and was only sold in RadioShack retail outlets (actually hit store shelves in December 1992).  The Memorex model was released in 1993 as an exclusive catalogue-direct sale from the parent company, but retailed for $399 (no changes at all to the hardware or included software).  The re-branding of the VIS to the more popular Memorex label and lowering the price did nothing to save this console from its demise.  To be honest, this system could have retailed for $39.95 and would still have been a bad value for the consumer - this console is truly that bad.  Tandy's foray into the video game console market was extremely short-lived and ended up being an extremely costly venture for them.  They do not even acknowledge the existence of the VIS in their company's historical timeline.

The Memorex VIS is only recommended for the true console collector - not at all for the gamer of any level.  The system is rather hard to come by.  Approximately 11,000 units were actually sold (total for both models).  Expect to pay about $150 USD for a bare console, $225 USD or so for a CIB unit.  This estimate is entirely dependant upon the source you are buying from.  Since the VIS is sometimes mistaken for being a standard CD player, you might be able to grab it for $20 from someone who doesn't know what they truly have.  If you are a collector - get one from a trusted peer.

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WOW what a hunk of crap. Sad that Tandy doesn't put it in their time line. A little part of video game history could be lost. Impressive that you have a CIB one.

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