Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The One Chess Compuer I (Almost) Liked

The Fidelity Chess Challenger Sensory 9 from 1982

Rave - The One Chess Computer I (Almost) Liked

We'll need to take a trip in the "Way Back Machine" for this one - all the way back to 1982. Presenting the Fidelity Chess Challenger Sensory 9! My first (and best) computer chess experience.

My brother, a year or two before, had purchased the Chess Challenger 8 so he would have something to entertain himself at school. Strange to say, my brother really never played chess much - but he thought this would be a cool way to kill some time.

The Chess Challenger 8 was sort of cool - but it had some definite faults - the worse being it couldn't play chess - at least not very well, about the level of a 900-1000 player and its opening book consisted of a measly 80(!) positions. The other thing I didn't like about it was you had to trace the LED coordinates along two sides of the board to find the piece to be moved - then you pressed an enter key as I seem to remember - and you then repeated the process to find the destination square. Time consuming and awkward.

Enter the Sensory Chess Challenger 9 to the rescue! For 1982 it was an incredible technological achievement. It was a fantastic chess computer. It played very strongly - as far as I was concerned - about a 1600 rating with an opening book of 3,000 positions. It was also very convenient. The board had a "sensory" feature - to register a move you simply had to push down a piece on its square! Better yet, since each square had its own individual LED you simply repeated the press-and-move feature from one LED to the next to register the computer's move. Fantastic.

The only problem was I couldn't beat it past about level 3 or so. OK, maybe that was my problem and not its. :-)

Anyway, to this day it was the only computer chess playing experience I (almost) enjoyed.

Here's is an summary of the Chess Challenger 9 details:

  • Manufacturer: Fidelity Electronics
  • Dates from: 1982
  • Processor: 6502B 1.6MHz
  • Memory: 16 KB ROM
  • Programmers: Dan & Kathe Spracklen
  • Rating: Occasional Players / Weak Club Players (Elo 1570)
  • Other details: pressure-sensitive board with LEDs on all squares
  • Expandability; A cartridge slot for additional opening book modules - the CB9 with an additional 8160 positions and the CB16 with an additional 16,100 positions

I never did get either of the opening book expansion modules :-(

Look for the next installment of the series Rook's Rambling Rants & Raves each Wednesday.

1 comment:

Brint Montgomery said...

Hey, I had this same computer as you did, and like you I really had fun with it while stuck overseas in the Air Force at some tiny base in Germany. This machine SAVED MY SANITY!!!. Thanks for the blog entry.