System Failure: Konix Multi-System

The Konix Multi-System, codenamed Slipstream, was an innovative idea that went horribly wrong, all  due to a lack of funding and some lofty ambitions. 

In 1988, Konix – makers of fine joysticks, decided to embark on a project to release a console that could morph into various guises – from a steering wheel, to an aircraft yolk and motorbike handlebars. There were plans for plug-in pedals, force feedback for the steering wheel, helicopter controller, a recoiling light-gun, keyboard, exercise bike and best of all, a hydraulic chair (Power Chair) to capture that real arcade sensation (Thunder Blade style!).

Konix_slipstream

The machine was going to include 256K RAM along with a custom 3.5-inch disk drive. The 3.5-inch diskettes were allegedly going to be piracy-proof and priced at the hip pocket friendly, £15 (lofty indeed). The console was due for release in the summer of 1989. This then got pushed out to Easter 1990, with a proposed price tag of £229.

The development was constantly plagued by changes to the specifications and meddling between Konix and its partners, Flare Technologies (hardware) and Attention To Detail (software development tools). The hardware was revised and tweaked, later versions introduced 512K RAM after concerns being raised from the development community at the lack of memory. This had a flow on effect to the software development tools – it proved difficult to produce tools on a moving target. This led to a lack of games development to show-off the fledgling system.

konix

Konix sold off their lucrative joystick business to bankroll their dream of creating the Multi-System. Having all their eggs-in-one basket was to prove disastrous. The project was eventually abandoned when the money ran dry. The console never saw the light of day, however, it did make an appearance at the 1989 PCW show in Earls Court, London. The prototype was being shown off with the Power Chair minus any games to wow the crowd (rumour has it, the great Ox himself, Jeff Minter had burnt out the motor on the prototype!).

Once the project was put on ice, Flare Technologies went on to work on their Flare Two concept, which later formed the basis of the Atari Jaguar (after Atari acquired Flare) – another short-lived console.

The final verdict on the Konix Multi-System – ‘the best British console that never was’.

Specifications**:

  • CPU: 16-bit 8086 processor (running at 6 MHz)
  • Co-processor: ASIC processor
  • RAM: 256KB (in later versions upgraded to 512K)
  • Graphics:
    • Custom blitter
    • 4096 colour palette
    • Resolutions:
      • 256×200 (256 colours)
      • 512×200 (16 colours)
      • 256×200 (16 colours)
  • Sound:
    • Custom RISC-based DSP
    • Stereo sound
  • Storage: Custom 880KB 3.5″ disk drive
  • Misc: Cartridge expansion slot

** = Specifications courtesy of Wikipedia

 

 

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