BBC Bridge Companion
Type Console Developer BBC Enterprises LTD., Unicard LTD.
Release Date 1985 Region(s) United Kingdom
Initial Price 199.99 GBP Games Released 9
     by Marriott_Guy
During the mid 1980s, just about everyone was hopping on the video game bandwagon after Nintendo's extremely successful Famicom / NES system.  Among these new players included the British Broadcasting Company (BBC).  Though at first glance this may sound like an odd marriage, the BBC was no stranger to the electronics field.  Partnering with the Acorn Computer Company, they developed a relatively successful line of computers known as the BBC Micro with the first in the series debuting in December 1, 1981.  Their entry into the console world was the BBC Bridge Companion.

The BBC Bridge Companion is exactly what you would think - a gaming machine for teaching the card game bridge.  The system was developed by Andrew Kambites, an avid bridge player who sought to capitalize on his computer programming background and his passion for the game.  The console was released in 1985 and was exclusive to the UK market.
A total of nine (9) game cartridges were released, with each providing an interactive tutorial on various aspects of the game of bridge.  Players controlled the action via keypad that was integrated into the top of the system.  For some odd reason, the cartridge slot is located on the back of the system.  A power jack and RF output are the only other interfaces.  The console is powered by a Zilog Z80 A (8-bit) CPU with a Texas Instruments TMS9129NL video controller.  The console generates an eight (8) color display with primitive audio.
The BBC Bridge Companion saw a limited release in the UK with only one version having been released.  This obscure system slipped underneath our radar until a fellow gaming enthusiast from across the pond brought this to our attention.  A great oddity in the history of the video game console.
     Officially licensed releases
BBC Bridge Companion
This is rather an elusive console to find in North America, but this is not the case in Europe where they seem to be quite common.  The following pictures are from an old listing on eBay UK.
     Non-licensed hardware releases
No clones were released for this system.
     Interesting facts on software for this system
Software for the BBC Bridge Companion was distributed in the ROM cartridge format.  There were a total of nine (9) games released for the system, with I believe "Bridge Builder" being packaged with the console.  The games were distributed in clamshell style casing with a rather large spiraled manual accompanying the software.  The list of available titles, listed alphabetically:
Advanced Bidding
Advanced Defense
Bridge Builder     
Club Play 1
Club Play 2
Club Play 3
Conventions 1
Duplicate 1
Master Play 1

BBC Bridge Companion Game Cartridge & Manual Pictures

     Captured in-game images
The following are screen captures from a couple of eBay listings.
     First and third party system emulators

MESS (Multi-Emulator Super System) is a DOS based emulator capable of running many
 systems including this one.  It has a Windows based GUI and is extremely user friendly.
     For the hardware enthusiasts out there - all the detail you\we love.
Processor Type  Processor Speed  Other Processor Information RAM \ Video RAM
Zilog Z80 A (8-bit) 3.579 MHz (not confirmed) TMS9129NL (video) 16 KB
Screen Resolution Color Palette Polygons \ Sprites Audio
280 x 216 8 Colors N\A Yes (specs unknown)
Media Format Media Capacity Games Released Other Supported Formats
Cartridge Unknown 9 None
Internal Storage External \ Removable Storage Game Controllers Other Game \ Peripheral Devices
None None Keypad (intergrated) None
Controller Ports Network Ports Other Ports Audio \ Video
None (controls built into system) None None RF
Power Supply - External Other Outputs  Other Details \ Notes
Input: AC 240V, 50Hz
Output: Unknown
None None
Not available.  The picture below is a snapshot of the PCB courtesy of MESS

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