The Fairchild Channel F is a game console released by Fairchild Semiconductor in August 1976 at the retail price of $169.95. It has the distinction of being the first programmable ROM cartridge-based video game console.
There are twenty-six cartridges, termed "Videocarts", that were officially released during the ownership of Fairchild and Zircon, the first 21 of which were released by Fairchild. Several of these cartridges are capable of playing more than one game and were typically priced at $19.95. The Videocarts are yellow and approximately the size and overall texture of an 8 track cartridge.
The console contains two built-in games, Tennis and Hockey, which were both advanced Pong clones.
Sound is played through an internal speaker, rather than the TV set.
The controllers are an unusual variation on an eight-way joystick; the main body is a large rectangular hand grip with a triangular handle sticking out of a hole in the top, the triangle being the portion that actually moved for eight-way directional control. In addition, the triangular handle can be twisted to activate a switch, and not only pushed down to operate as a fire button but also pulled up.
Some time in 1979, Zircon International bought the rights to the Channel F and released the re-designed console as the Channel F System II to compete with the Atari's VCS. Only six new games were released after the debut of the second system before its death, several of which were developed at Fairchild before they sold it off.
The major changes were in design, with the controllers removable from the base unit instead of being wired directly into it, the storage compartment was moved to the rear of the unit, and the sound was now mixed into the TV signal so the unit no longer needed a speaker. This version also featured a simpler and more modern-looking case design. However, by this time the market was in the midst of the first video game crash, and Fairchild eventually threw in the towel and left the market.
Source: Wikipedia, "Fairchild Channel F", available under the CC-BY-SA License.