RDI Halcyon
Type Console Developer RDI Video Systems
Release Date 1985-Jan Region(s) United States
Initial Price $2500 USD (rumored) Games Released 2
     by Dark Watcher
In the 1980's arcades where booming with a new form of gaming.  Interactive games that streamed data off of Laserdiscs (the precursor to the DVD) were growing quite popular.
RDI Video Systems Inc. was a manufacturer of Laserdisc games.  In 1985, they decided to take a crack at the home console market.  The result was the first home Laserdisc video game system.  The Halcyon was named after the "Hal" computer from the movie "2001: Space Odyssey".  It was comprised of two separate components - a high-end Laserdisc player with a corresponding computer module.

The player could read double-sided discs that allowed a whole lot more footage than its coin-op arcade counterparts.  This may have been the first instance of a home game being of better quality than the coin-op.  It also came with a keyboard, 2 games (Thayer's Quest and NFL Football) and a unique voice headset which allowed the player to use voice commands instead of keystrokes.  The system is capable of recognizing 1000 words and can also be programmed with more.  The home gaming world had truly never been introduced to this level of technology.
So what happened? Well for starters this remarkable machine retailed for a rumored $2500+ USD.  Consumers were simply unwilling to pay that much money for a simple home experience.  Also by the late 1980s the popularity of laser interactive gaming began to dwindle.  RDI Video Systems soon filed for bankruptcy shortly after this console's limited release.
     by 98PaceCar
The RDI Halcyon was truly a console ahead of its time.  Created by Rick Dyer, one of the people behind the hit game Dragon's Lair, it was poised to push gaming technology into uncharted territory.  In terms of 1985 technology, it would have been more advanced than even the home computers of the time.

Named in part after the computer featured in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Halcyon was intended to seem like a living, thinking member of your family.  Featuring voice recognition, speech synthesis, and a small amount of non-volatile memory, the Halcyon was able to interact with the user on a personal level.  When someone first powered the system up, it would greet them with a welcome message followed by asking their name.  Once entered, the Halcyon would call the user by name, adding a level of personal interaction.  The Halcyon would also periodically ask more personal questions if the user didn't make a selection within a certain amount of time.  While this would be nothing to note in today's technology, in 1985 this was the stuff of Wargames.

The console itself consists of two major components.  The first part is the Halcyon computer.  The Halcyon is powered by a Z80 and features a whopping 64K of combined RAM and ROM along with a Votrax speech synthesis system.  The cartridge, keyboard and headset connections were all provided by the computer component along with a serial connection to the laserdisc player to control the selection and playback of the appropriate scenes.  The other part of the system is a re-branded Pioneer LD-700 laserdisc player.  Other than the custom faceplate, the unit is 100% the same as the Pioneer you could buy off of the shelf.

There was supposed to be an option to buy just the computer portion of the Halcyon for use with a Pioneer VP1000/PR8210, Magnavox VC8040 or Sylvania VP7200 laserdisc player.  Any of these would be controlled via an infrared emitter that the user would attach to the remote control lens of the laserdisc player as opposed to the serial connection provided with the LD-700.

The original design of the Halcyon called for the use of CED disks as opposed to laserdiscs, but that technology was made obsolete before the Halcyon was completed so the switch was made to laserdiscs.  Also, there were external modules planned that would allow the Halcyon to control household appliances to further the illusion that the system was thinking.

The games consist of two separate components.  The game logic was stored on a 16k cartridge that was unique to each game.  This had all of the game's vocabulary, node data for the laserdisc and any other game logic that was necessary to play.  The laserdisc portion of the game contained all of the sounds and video.  Since it used pre-rendered data for graphics, it was able to feature high quality full motion video or animations that rivaled the work of the great studios.
Only 2 games were released for the Halcyon.  The pack in game was Thayer's Quest and the optional release was NFL Football: Chargers vs. Raiders.  Both of these have been made available either through emulation of the arcade versions of via DVD release.  Due to being able to flip the disk during the game, both of the Halcyon versions provided expanded game play over their arcade counterparts.

Controlling the games was accomplished by one of two methods: keyboard or voice.  The keyboard is a small, membrane style keyboard that had slots for an overlay to fit into for key mapping.  The keyboard feels very sturdy, but is not especially suited for gaming.  Voice control was accomplished via a headset microphone.  The user would have to "train" the Halcyon to know the commands used in the game prior to playing.  Due to the limited amount of memory, the command sets had to be kept to a minimum.  Additionally, the voice recognition technology used was limited and ended up being more frustration than its worth.
RDI Halcyon - Thayer's Quest
Overall, the Halcyon is a very interesting system that could have turned gaming on its ear in 1985.  Little is known about the true production of the system and it is a non-confirmed rumor that the system was even available at retail.  Current information tells us that no more than 10 units were built for the investors of the company, all of them by hand.  The price of the system was to be $2500, so it was not going to be the system in every home.
Sadly, the Halcyon did little (if anything) in the market and is left to little more than a historical footnote and a few systems owned by hardcore collectors.  For the console collector, there are very few systems that will match the rarity of the Halcyon and it will be difficult to find one for sale.  If you are fortunate enough to locate one, it will be the centerpiece of any collection.
RDI Halcyon
     Officially licensed releases
RDI Halcyon
     Non-licensed hardware releases
No clones were released for this system.
     by 98PaceCar
Consoles are rated based upon the available technology at the time of its release.  A 10 point scale is utilized, with 10 being excellent.
Console Design 06 While being built around the standard 19" equipment width, the overall size of the Halcyon is  somewhere bigger than huge! But it is a very clean design and would look at home sitting next to the high end equipment of the era.
Console Durability 04 Half of the Halcyon is a Pioneer laserdisc player, which is built like a tank. The other half is housed in a relatively flimsy, plastic case which just feels cheap.
Controllers 02 The keyboard controller appears to be a slightly more rugged membrane technology while the headset is just a standard headset like one would use with a desktop phone.  Neither is particularly suited for gaming.
Graphics 04 The graphics capabilities are a mixed bag. The actual graphics engine built into the console is little more than a character generator but when coupled with video on the laserdisc, some very beautiful games could be made.
Audio 07 Again, the built in capabilities of the Halcyon itself were limited to basic 80's speech synthesis, but the ability to store audio on the laserdisc put it above all other consoles of the era.
Media 04 Unfortunately, many laserdiscs have been lost to bit rot over the years and the Halcyon disks were not immune. However, the cartridge portion of the games feels extremely sturdy.
Game Library 01 Only 2 games were ever "completed" for the Halcyon and neither is worth spending much time playing.
Gamer Value 01 Both of the games on the Halcyon made it to other platforms that are much cheaper and more attainable.
Collector Value 10 If you want a centerpiece to your collection, it's hard to beat this.  These are about as rare as you can get and do not come up for sale often.

     Interesting facts on software for this system
Software for the RDI Halcyon was distributed on laserdiscs, with an accompanying ROM cartridge that contained vocabulary and additional game data.
Sample Game Play (arcade version)
As previously stated, only two (2) games were completed before the system was abandoned - NFL Football: Chargers vs. Raiders and Thayer's Quest.  An additional four (4) games were in development for the RDI Halcyon but were never completed.  These games were Orpheus, Shadow of the Stars, Spirit of Whittier Mansion and Voyage to the New World.  Videos of these forgotten games are located below.

NFL Football: Chargers vs Raiders Box & Contents

Thayer's Quest Box & Contents

     Captured in-game images
NFL Football: Chargers vs. Raiders

Thayer's Quest

Orpheus (unreleased)

Shadow of the Stars (unreleased)

Spirit of the Whittier Mansion (unreleased)

Voyage to the New World (unreleased)

     First and third party system emulators

Great emulator capable of running most LD games
     For the hardware enthusiasts out there - all the detail you\we love.
Processor Type  Processor Speed  Other Processor Information RAM \ Video RAM
Z80B Microprocessor 6 MHz Votrax voice synthesizer chip 64 K
Screen Resolution Color Palette Polygons \ Sprites Audio
560 x 480 16.7 million colors Unknown Stereo 16 bit 44 kHz sampled
Media Format Media Capacity Games Released Other Supported Formats
Laserdisc w\ROM Data Cartridge 540 MB \ 16K 2 LD-G
Internal Storage External \ Removable Storage Game Controllers Other Game \ Peripheral Devices
None None Keyboard \ Voice None
Controller Ports Network Ports Other Ports Audio \ Video
One (1) None Antenna (75 Ohm) RF, Composite
Power Supply - Internal Other Outputs  Other Details \ Notes
AC 120V, 50\60Hz, 33W I\O port (8 pin DIN) Channel 3\4 Switch; Auto Repeat\Reject
Not available.  Can you help us out?  You will definitely receive full credit for your contribution.  Email MG@videogameconsolelibrary.com.

     Peripherals, Promotions, Commercials, Brochures, Etc.
RDI Halcyon Flyer
Interview with Rick Dyer from Computer Closet
News Coverage following the development of the RDI Halcyon
Rick Dyer Interview - Beginnings of the Halcyon RDI Halcyon Short Promo
Unreleased Game Promo - Orpheus
Unreleased Game Promo - Shadow of the Stars
Unreleased Game Promo - Spirit of Wittier Mansion
Unreleased Game Promo - Voyage to the New World

RDI Halcyon Flyer

     Visitor insights and feedback
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