Releasing a video game system in the late ‘70s, before systems like the Atari really took off, was a gamble. The Bally Professional Arcade, later renamed the Bally Astrocade, unfortunately rolled a snake eyes. Initially selling in 1977 as a mail order machine for $299 (over $1,400 today, ouch) the console was developed by Bally’s (known for pinball and slot machines at the time) video game division, Midway. Mortal Kombat fans might recognize that name, as Midway eventually fared a lot better than the console did.
Although powered by hardware that allowed for impressive graphics capabilities for the time, the system didn’t sell well, and Bally eventually sold off the division responsible for it a few years later. In 1981, the Bally Professional Arcade was rebranded as the Bally Computer System, and then as the Astrocade in 1982, and included a cartridge that could run the programming language BASIC. The catch? The Astrocade featured just a basic calculator-like keypad, not a full keyboard, which made programming a challenge. Along with many other consoles, it didn’t survive the video game crash of ‘83.