Hong Kong, 1981. Electronic handheld games and toys manufacturer
VTech attempts to
join the rising home videogaming market by engineering an original
system capable of competing against VCS 2600 and Intellivision, which
The idea is certainly clever: offering users what the competitors can't
offer, that's the chance to programme their own software on a powerful
console hardware by expanding it with computer-style periphherals such
as keyboard, cassette tape player/recorder, printer, etc. This is not
the first "hybrid" computer/console system, actually: the American
electronic manufacturer APF sold their
in 1980 - a console which could be expanded into a complete home
The CreatiVision project is quite ambitious and VTech engineers decide
to endow it with the most recent available hardware such as the
microprocessor running at 2 MHz, the
TMS9918/9929 (NTSC/PAL) video display processor managing up to 32
sprites on a 256x192 pixels screen at 16 colours, and a Texas
Instruments SND76489 sound chip, generating 3 mono + 1 noise channels.
Such a powerful hardware has never been seen on a home videogame and
computer system before!
Such a technological wonder would be very expensive if it's to be
manufactured in USA or Europe... but VTech is located in the very cheap
Hong Kong - hence costs can be reduced quite a lot. For this reason, the
CreatiVision system is even cheaper than "obsolete" gaming-only systems
such as the VCS 2600 and the Intellivision.
Hardware is done, so the next step is writing dedicated software. At
first, programmers focus their efforts on designing games. They did
choose the cheapest way: "cloning" the gameplay from top selling
videogames and then changing the graphics, sounds and plot - such a
procedure is quite common in the 80's, even though often causing
In a result, we have Police Jump
etc. There's even a
clone named Crazy Pucker, which is then retired from shops due to legal
issues with Namco, and then reissued with the name of Crazy Chicky: the
"new" game hero is a chicken (Pac-Man) filling a labyrinth with eggs
(dots) and foxes (ghosts) trying to get her.
The CreatiVision system hits the Hong Kong market early in 1982. A few
months later it's also distributed in Europe (Italy, Germany, Sweden,
Austria, Switzerland), Israel, South-Africa, Australia and Japan. The
"CreatiVision" name is kept for all markets except Australia and New
Zealand, where it sells through
Dick Smith Electronics
(a very popular appliances chain) as "Wizzard", and Israel, where it
sells as "Educat 2002".
All boxes, manuals (in several languages) and accessories are produced
in Hong Kong and then provided to distributors, and all consoles do
share the same hardware. It's a PAL-only system except the Japanese
version (NTSC) which is extremely rare and sought after by collectors.
The Venezuelan (NTSC) version is still a mystery as it's uncertain
whether it's a commercial product, or a prototype.
The complete list of distributors is:
CreatiVision is promoted through a massive advertising campaign and
it's claimed as being the most powerful home gaming computer system on
the market. Promo leaflets feature comparisons with other home computers
Atari 400 and
TRS-80 - and of course CreatiVision is said to be the best of all. A lot
of additional peripherals are shown on promo pictures - many of which
are just "mock-ups" and will never be actually produced.
The Wizzard sells very well in Australia, due to the popularity of the
eccentric enterpreuner, Mr.
and his electronic supermarkets where the system sells in exclusive
right. Dick Smith Electronics not just sells Wizzard systems and
software, they also produce new games and utilities, which are sold on
tape format for use with the BASIC cartridge and the "Cassette storage
module". Very popular books are written by Australian programmers and
computing experts, and they sell through the "Dick Smith Publishing"
division. Dick Smith sells Wizzard units, software and books from 1982
to 1985, then Bente International becomes a sort of "official"
distributor for CreatiVision (not Wizzard!) stuff in Australia.
What about the Japanese market? Rumours say that CreatiVision doesn't
sell well - maybe there are already too many other popular home
computers, or simply users don't take interest into the cheap "hybrid"
coming from Hong Kong.
A CreatiVision fan club is set up with the name of "CreatiVision Club"
and is maintained by VTech in Hong Kong. Subscribers pay a yearly fee
and receive a periodic newsletter full of news and bits of information.
They are also granted to buy software at discounted prices. After the
release of the "Laser" home computer series, the fan club name changes
into "Laser Computer Club".
Another importan fan club is based in Melbourne, Australia, and the
name is "Wizzdom". Gentleman
Barry Klein, the
founder, writes a very interesting three-monthly newsletter by using his
typewriting machine and his big talent. Contents are pretty "technical"
and lots of obscure facts about hardware and software are unveiled with
each issue - that's especially about the BASIC interpreter. Wizzdom
lives between January 1984 and the first half of 1985, while the "Laser
Computer Club" ceases to exist far after 1988.
Maybe aiming at selling more console units, in late 1982/early 1983
VTech decides to re-release CreatiVision with a new shape and a new
name: "Funvision" (also sold as
"Rameses" in Australia and "VZ 2000" (in France ?) has the same hardware
as before, except the "CreatiVision" logo which is removed from the
console boot sequence (hacked BIOS). The connectors layout is changed,
and there are no side panels to be removed in order to connect
additional peripherals. Also the cartridge slot is different and doesn't
allow the use of the "old" CreatiVision carts (an early form of country
Later in 1983 VTech gets ready for a new challenge: to go beyond the
concept of videogaming home computer, and to focus their efforts into
the promising home computer market. A new brand of home computers is
set and the name is "Laser". Various models are produced with the names
of Laser 100/110, 200/210 and 300, they're all very cheap and feature
popular hardware such as
The CreatiVision brand is about to disappear forever. The unsold units
are repackaged and named "CreatiVision Mark II". Actually it's the same
old console with a new logo, a few hardware changes made to allow the
use of the unreleased "Colecovision converter" peripheral, and a "Laser
500" text printed on the console front - so users would think it's a
computer from the newest "Laser" series. VTech is trying to erase the
home videogaming experience from their history.
The "Laser 2001" home computer is this story's last star. It hits the
markets in late 1983/early 1984. It features almost the same hardware as
the CreatiVision and it's empowered with more RAM, a professional
keyboard, many peripherals and... yes, it's a true home computer!
CreatiVision cartridges are fully compatible with Laser 2001 and many
games are repackaged in new boxes with Laser logo and layout printed on
them. A few games are even released on cassette format, which were
originally available on cartridge for the CreatiVision system.
There's a last piece of hardware of remarkable interest: the "Laser
Expansion Module #1". Rumours spread about an additional peripheral used
on CreatiVision, but it's in fact released for the Laser 2001 computer.
A few units sell in Finland and have the same aspect as the Finnish
version of Laser 2001, named "Manager" and sold through
full description with pictures can be found at the
web-museum. We have no proof of it being also produced for CreatiVision,
even though such information appears on the CV Mark-II unit box.
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