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Coleco History

The Connecticut Leather Company was founded in 1932 by a Russian immigrant, Maurice Greenburg, making leather products for the footwear industry. His son Leonard Greenburg built a leather cutting machine in the 1950s and started selling handicraft kits. Towards the end of the Fifties the company, now shortened to Coleco, changed its line to plastic products, especially paddling pools, and became the world's largest manufacturer of plastic pools.

However depending almost entirely on one seasonal product was obviously not good so Coleco diversified. Its most successful move was into the emerging video games market, and Coleco was one of the first companies to sell a home video game console, the Telstar of 1976.
In the early 1980s Coleco had a successful range of table-top versions of arcade games, styled to resemble a scaled-down arcade machine, but its competitors, principally Atari and Mattel, were selling programmable consoles and it was clear that Coleco needed something similar.

Thus in June 1982 the ColecoVision games console was launched, at $195. This featured a Z80A microprocessor, had 8 kilobytes of RAM and used specialised graphics and sound chips from Texas Instruments, allowing the ColecoVision to rival dedicated arcade machines. The ColecoVision took ROM cartridges for games and several excellent arcade conversions were soon available, with the result that it became the best selling game console.

With its hardware specification the ColecoVision was similar to a home computer of the time, and in June 1983 Coleco announced an expansion module which would turn the ColecoVision into a fully-fledged desktop computer. Alternatively it could be bought as a purpose-built computer, the Adam, but which could play ColecoVision cartridge games.

The Adam was an unusual machine in that it was bundled with a daisywheel printer, which was also the power supply for the computer, and the computer's default operating mode was as a word processor. BASIC had to be loaded from the cassette drive.

The idea of a complete ready-to-go word processing system may have seemed a good one, but at its selling price of £700 in the UK the Coleco Adam was always going to struggle against the likes of the Sinclair Spectrum (£130) and Commodore 64 (£200). To make matters worse the Adam did not become widely available until well into 1984 and by then the home computer market was in steep decline. The Adam did not sell in significant numbers and in January 1985 Coleco sold off its stock of Adams and exited the computer business.

Coleco briefly recovered by launching the weird Cabbage Patch Dolls but filed for bankruptcy in 1988 and in 1989 was bought by Hasbro.

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