Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What is This I Don't Even: the Coleco Gemini, Plus...?

So, I was digging around through the barn at the back of the property, and hidden beneath the layers of dust, cobwebs, and other disgusting detritus (for the love of god, where is my hand sanitizer?!) was a game system I thought I'd lost forever. The Coleco Gemini was a slimline Atari 2600 clone released at the worst possible time, after the launch of three superior consoles and just before the video game crash of 1983. 

Nevertheless, the machine has its charm, along with several key advantages over the original Atari 2600. It abandoned the tacky woodgrain aesthetic of the official system, replacing it with a sleek black design that's a better fit for the 1980s. The Gemini also merged a joystick and dial into one handy controller, clearing up a lot of living room clutter and offering a clue to the system's puzzling name. (Really, what else could it mean?)

I was pretty excited about my discovery, but after I found some excess baggage hanging from this Gemini, I was just confused. Take a look at these wires dangling from the back end of the machine. There's a composite cable wedged into the hole where the channel select switch rests, and a mysterious connector pushed into the AC adapter jack (unplugged here for your convenience). An extra RCA wire leads out from the same hole into... uh, this.

I'm still at a loss about this accessory. The only thing I know for sure is that it's not official. Hell, it's three planets away from official. It looks like some guy took a handful of Radio Shack parts, threw them into a project box, and called it a day. On the left hand side of the box, the letters W and Y are scrawled into the metal casing, informing the user which cable goes where. On the right is a coax connector (which seems rather redundant with two video ports nearby) and a standard two prong power cable. 

Other holes are scattered around the edges of the box, and their functions are a mystery. Did the creator of this strange device plan to put the video jacks there before changing his mind? Were the holes designed as cooling vents? Were other ports planned for this peripheral? The only way I'll know for sure is to open it up, and in all honesty, the thought scares me. Who knows what's living inside this thing after twenty plus years of cold storage?

Whatever this contraption is, you can't seem to use the modified Gemini without it. I tried connecting the system to my Amiga monitor with a standard Atari power supply plugged into the AC adapter jack, but no dice... it just wouldn't power on. Shame too, because I've been jonesing for some Atari action, and a 2600 clone with composite video and a smaller footprint was really appealing to me. Maybe I could get this thing working after I unravel the mysteries of this box...

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