Of the many dedicated Pong variants in the 70’s, Coleco’s Telstar Alpha was one of the most popular; largely due to being on the cheaper end of the spectrum. Avoiding the snazzy extras of other systems like faux-wood siding or new-fangled “controllers” like people don’t enjoy breathing on each other from 8 inches away while playing, and scrapping extra modes of the Telstar line like the previous Telstar Ranger (which came with its own light gun), the Alpha was a simple machine that allowed families to play Pong without breaking the bank. Its price is still on the low end of the after-market; I picked it up at a yard sale for $5.
Granted that I paid $5 expecting it’d still work, but the machine is not without its own problems. The On/Off switch is jammed, it lacks a power supply (fortunately it also runs on batteries), and the cable was cut. After my crushing defeat with the Intellivision, I wanted another shot at a potential resurrection.
To get at the switch I had to get access to the circuit board, which befitting an economical option for a console is stripped down to the bare minimum. The Pong game itself is limited to that central chip with the blue trim (the AY-3-8500 “Ball & Paddle” integrated circuit made by Texas Instruments, used by most every competing system worldwide).
One thing that’s actually kind of funny is that the switches aren’t entirely plastic; the switch “supports” are really just strips of cardboard with matching colors to give the illusion of a unified piece. No wonder these things are getting misaligned; there’s nothing to keep them in place!
Anyway I loosened the switch so that it could move with a little more ease, and then took a coax repair kit to the cable, outfitting the wire with a new compression connector. I threw in some batteries to see if that covered everything, and lo and behold…
The Alpha is back in business, and now the number of things plugged into my closet TV date back to the first console generation! Tennis anyone?