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|Featured CED VideoDisc No. 3 - Winter 1997|
Shown on the left above is the cabinet for the Bally Midway arcade game N.F.L. Football, the only such game to use a CED of actual football footage to enhance the arcade experience. Arcade games that used NTSC video were popular in the mid 1980's when the graphics these games could produce digitally were limited in resolution. Other games of this type were Dragon's Lair and Space Ace, which were based on LaserDisc rather than Capacitance Electronic Disc technology. The choice of CED for N.F.L. Football seems rather unusual, since the contact between stylus and disc on the CED system was ill-suited for continuous playback. The two CED titles released for this game both had a "teaser" section that would play over and over to attract people to the machine when it was idle, and on most of the discs I've seen this section of the disc has been badly worn down, although the rest of the disc is usually in good condition. The same program was recorded on both sides of the CED, so the disc could be flipped over when one side was worn out.
The first disc released for this game was the San Diego Chargers vs. the Oakland Raiders followed by the considerably rarer Dallas Cowboys vs. the Washington Redskins. The first disc came in a plain white caddy with just a small 4.25" x 2.25" label, while the second disc came in a plain blue caddy with no label at all. Both discs are dual channel audio, and consist of a few hundred football plays, each ending with a still image of the final moment of the play. The plays were derived from several different actual games between the two featured teams. Dual audio was used to determine who won the coin flip, and was also used to instill variety in the plays, since a different play announcer sound track was used on each of the audio channels. A whole series of discs was planned, but RCA's decision to cancel the CED system in 1984, shortly after N.F.L. Football's introduction halted further disc production.
The three images on the right above are actual screen shots from the Chargers vs. Raiders game. The top two images were generated by the digital electronics inside the cabinet, while the bottom image is from the VideoDisc. This was a two player game where the participants would select plays hidden from each other by the football shaped shields seen in the cabinet photo. After the plays were selected, the CRT would display a video clip from the disc in which either the defense or offense prevailed. The VideoDisc player used inside the cabinet was the RCA SJT400, which can be seen installed in an interior shot near the bottom of the cabinet. The SJT400 was interfaced through the control jack, and N.F.L. Football represents the only commercial application of the SJT400 control jack outside of RCA.
N.F.L. Football was the first arcade cabinet to accept $1 and $5 bills in addition to quarters, and was also unusual in being targeted for the adult street location customer. This is especially apparent on the Cowboys vs. Redskins disc, which contains two "Miller Time" 1980's TV commercials that were alternately displayed with the teaser when the cabinet was idle.
Intact N.F.L. cabinets are nearly non-existent today, as almost all of the original units were stripped of their electronics, with the cabinet being refinished as some other arcade game. It is possible to recreate the game by assembling the loose circuit boards and hooking everything up to an appropriate video monitor, but even this is a formidable task, as the original boards are hard to find, and one board, the so-called "Squawk/Talk" board is much sought after by collectors restoring other arcade games. The discs (at least the first one) are probably the easiest part of this game to find. Look in your phone directory under "Video Games-Rent & Lease" and "Video Games-Service & Repair" or similar listings and see if the vendors listed happen to have any of these discs lying around, or if they can direct you to some vendor who does.