By: Paige Hemmen
April 20, 2020
Picture this scene: The year is 1983, you come home and want to unwind with some leisurely gaming. You pull out a briefcase sized object from your storage closet, plug it into your TV screen, assemble the parts, turn it on, pick your game of the day, and if you’re lucky, 20 minutes later, you are set and ready to go.
Welcome to the Mattel Aquarius, a home computing and gaming system that, despite being released by one of the most successful toy companies of all time, turned out to be a "famous flop." What went wrong?. It placed computing power directly in the hands of millions of people, with individual users having complete control over the machine. Both the physical and technical design of the Mattel Aquarius design kept the computer from being a success. It was an oddly shaped piece with various angles; you can imagine this would make it hard to keep this object in an organized space inside your home. 1 . To run the system, the user had to plug in multiple pieces to the main console. To get the computer to run, you also had to purchase additional RAM storage, because the base model could only handle a very small bandwidth of gaming power. 2
The Mattel Aquarius tried to bring Mattel into the home computing industry, but they failed to create a product that competed with others on the market. The design was a flop, and the users were not a fan of how the machine performed for how expensive it was. Although this may sound like it could have been a success, it failed 4 months after being released to the market. The Mattel Aquarius was indeed a disaster.
"Mattel Aquarius," Accession No. N/A, The Media Archeology Lab, University of Colorado Boulder.↩
Mark Halper, "Mattel Cedes Aquarius Rights to Radofin," Electronic News, January 9, 1984, 49, https://link-gale-com.colorado.idm.oclc.org/apps/doc/A3092101/ITOF?u=coloboulder&sid=ITOF&xid=880ce91a↩