Announced in late 1977 and released in 1978, the Bally Professional Arcade was introduced to the market as a more sophisticated alternative to the Atari 2600. The system includes a calculator style keypad on the console, four controller ports and a unique pair of combination joystick/paddle/trigger controllers.
Many of the games for the Bally Professional Arcade resemble Atari 2600 titles, but most are regarded as superior. For example: The Incredible Wizard is a better-playing, better-looking knockoff of Wizard of Wor, and Astro Battle is a slickly produced Space Invaders clone. However, the Bally Professional Arcade, in all its incarnations, never caught on with the mainstream consumer. It was trounced in retail sales by both the Atari 2600 and the Odyssey2.
Throughout its history, this enigmatic game system went through several name changes. In 1981, Bally sold the rights to the system to a company called Astrovision. From this point up until sometime in 1982, the Bally Professional Arcade was sold as the Bally Computer System. Prior to years' end, the system was redubbed the Astrocade, a name which held until the system's official demise in 1984. Today, regardless of which version one is referring to, it is widely known as the Bally Astrocade.
The Bally Astrocade contains 8K of RAM (Random Access Memory) and the cartridges contain up to 4K of ROM (Read Only Memory). The system is expandable to up to 64K of RAM and is powered by an 8-bit Z-80 microprocessor. Up to eight colors can be displayed at once.
Games built into the Bally Astrocade console, which is available in white or the more common black and wood grain with gold trim, include the following: Gunfight, Checkmate, Calculator and Scribbling. Aspiring game programmers can pick up Bally Basic, an interface that allows users to plug a tape recorder into the system and load and save programs. As a result, there are many, many fan-created, public domain games in existence, including a few (such as Ms. Candyman) that were eventually produced in cartridge format by L&M Software. A light pen was also released, allowing gamers direct interaction with the screen when playing Creative Crayon. ~ Brett Alan Weiss, All Game Guide