Ask any of your fellow gamers what they think of the VideoBrain and you're likely to get a bunch of blank stares in return.  The VideoBrain was an obscure and ultimately short-lived system, yet it holds a special place in computer history as the first cartridge based computer system (not video game system).

When it was released in 1977, the VideoBrain came with a sculptured 36 key keyboard (with 71 distinguishable input symbols), 1K of RAM, 4K of ROM, two joysticks and sold for $300.  Built into the system where four programs: text editor, clock, alarm, and color bar generator.  New programs could be loaded into the system via cartridges which sold from $20 to $40 each.  The VideoBrain could be connected to a printer, cassette player, or a modem through special expansion modules.  While it may not sound like much now, this was very impressive for 1977.

The VideoBrain library consists mostly of productivity and educational software, with few simulation and strategy games mixed in.  Most cartridges make liberal use of the keyboard even when it probably wasn't necessary.  This was not by accident, the keyboard was one of the main features that separated the VideoBrain from pure video game consoles like the Atari 2600 and was one of its main selling points. 

Unfortunately a number of problems plagued the VideoBrain from the start and it was never able to gain a sufficient market share.  While most families own at least one computer today, back in 1977 they weren't well understood by the general public.  Not helping win people over was the VideoBrain's confusing and non-user friendly keyboard which was poorly designed and makes even simple typing a chore.  Another key to the VideoBrain's downfall was that it did not support the popular programming language BASIC, instead users had to settle for APL/S, an obscure and quirky programming language used mainly by mathematicians.  The VideoBrain also had trouble finding a target audience with it's poorly designed program library.  Most of the available programs were either productivity or educational in nature with only a smattering of action titles.  But what may have been the death nail in the VideoBrain's coffin was lack of advertising and availability.  While game systems such as the Atari 2600 were sold in toy and department stores, the VideoBrain was mostly sold directly through the company via mail order (although one former VideoBrain employee has stated that it was available through Macy's Department Stores for a short period of time).

While the VideoBrain may have been revolutionary for its time, its poorly planned and executed launch doomed the system to an early grave.  It wouldn't be until two years later with the arrival of Atari's 400 and 800 computer systems that the public warmed up to the idea of a cartridge based computer system.  Even if the VideoBrain had lasted awhile longer it's doubtful that it could have competed against the more powerful and advanced Atari 8-bit computer line.