The Videopac Chess module is an add-on that Philips released for the Videopac in 1982. The chess module is shaped like a rectangular black bar that you can click on the back of your Videopac G7000 and by pushing the dummy cartridge of the chess module into the regular cartridge slot of the Videopac.
Only one variant of the Videopac Chess module is available. This only works with the Europese Philips variants of the Videopac, including its subsidiaries Siera, Radiola, Brandt, Jopac and Schneider. It does not work with the popular Magnavox Odyssey 2. Although the chess module must be specifically developed for the G7000, it also works with the other Videopacs, including the G7200, G7400 / 1, Jet 27, Schneider 7200 etc. Due to different dimensions compared to the G7000, the chess module cannot be robustly mounted on these consoles. The chess module came with a thick spiral-bound manual that explains the game of chess in detail.
The chess module is a fine piece of technology. The regular Videopac G7000 was not powerful enough to serve as a chess computer and perform the complicated calculations that chess strategies require. It lacked a sufficient amount of RAM as well as computing power. Philips therefore decided to equip the chess module with an additional processor, the NSC800 MOA microprocessor running at 4.43 MHz, which was z80 compatible. Furthermore there extra RAM in the module provided an additional 2KB of RAM and 8KB of ROM. The power of the module was transferred via a cable from the module to a dummy cartridge, which transferred it via the cartridge slot to the console.
The chess module does not have its own power supply. The module, and therefore its microprocessor and memory, receive the necessary power from the Videopac. The 5v low voltage is supplied via the cassette, which is attached to the chess module via a cable. An extraordinary achievement at a time when performance per watt was not yet one of the priorities for console developers.
The chess module comes with a high-quality manual. Just like the box, the manual is beautifully designed and bound in a ring binder. Contrary to what you might think, the manual does not contain any specifications of the chess module.Information about the hardware is limited to a brief explanation of how to connect the chess module to your Videopac and the following remarkable disclaimer:
De Videopac Schaak module bevat zeer geavanceerde en gecompliceerde microprocessors en electronische circuits om het welhaast eindeloos grote aantal spel-situatie te kunnen verwerken. Howel de module uitvoerig getest is, is er altijd nog een kleine kans dat zich een onvoorziene situatie voordoet, die de computer niet kan verwerken. In zo’n geval loopt het spel vast en kunt u slechts één ding doen: op RESET drukken en een nieuw spel beginnen.’
The Videopac Chess module contains highly advanced and complicated microprocessors and electronic circuits to handle the almost endless number of game situations. Although the module has been extensively tested, there is always a small chance that an unforeseen situation will occur that the computer cannot handle. In such a case, the game freezes and there is only one thing you can do: press RESET and start a new game.’
So the developers in these early days of microprocessors were not sure that their dedicated and advanced chess computer would not yet adapt to all the possibilities that a resourceful player offered it.
However, the main part of the manual is a chess textbook. And it starts at the beginning. The first page consists of an interesting historical background n the origin and development of chess. The basics are explained in a very understandable way on the following pages. Various game situations are depicted for support and clarification. All in all, a very successful attempt to make starting (young) players enthusiastic about the (chess) game.
The chess module is sometimes advertised online as one of the rarest Videopac accessories. Perhaps to increase the price of this accessoire in the retro gaming market a bit. However, the chess module is not as rare as is often outlined. Although a model in good condition and including the box, certainly costs a penny, it is regularly offered on the internet. In addition various unopened batches of the chess module have appeared on the second-hand market in recent years. However, because the Chess Module was not released outside of Europe, collectors in other parts of the world may find it somewhat difficult to obtain.
|Videopac Chess Module
|100 euro (Europe)
150 euro (rest)
|SC800 MOA @ 4.43 MHz (z80)
|2KB RAM, 8KB ROM
|via cart slot