FM Subcarrier

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In 1984 Atari asked Larry Karr to design an alternative method of distributing games. His answer was FM subcarrier transmission, the pre-Internet's broadband technology. Karr said FM subcarrier transmission could transmit up to 12 Kbits/s per radio station, and that the technology could be multiplexed to increase bandwidth further.

The prototype was a massive cartridge that plugged into the Atari 2600's game slot. Inside, a jumble of passive components did what today small semiconductors do: received the FM signal, downloaded the game, and stored it inside the cartridge for playback. Field trials were successful, Karr said. Unfortunately, the device never appeared.

The device was to be used by Electronic Publishing Systems (EPS), a joint venture of Atari and Activision in late 1983, who developed the Electronic Pipeline, a game service for the Atari 2600 that was to sell wireless game cartridges with which users could select and play up to 40 different games each month for a low monthly subscription fee. The service was in alpha testing and four days from installing the transmission equipment in the first test market when it was indefinitely postponed due to Warner's sale of Atari in 1984.

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