Datel (previously Datel Electronics) is a UK-based electronics and game console peripherals manufacturer. The company is best known for producing a wide range of hardware and peripherals for home computers in the 1980s, for example replacement keyboards for the ZX Spectrum, the PlusD disk interface (originally designed and sold by Miles Gordon Technology) and the Action Replay series of video game cheating devices.
Datel was the brainchild of Mike Connors, who still runs the company and has been mentioned in The Sunday Times as one of the country's top thousand richest people.
Datel started off selling AM CB radio transceivers in the UK. These AM-band radios were made illegal in the UK and even the importing of them was deemed illegal. Datel then started to import the CB radios in component form and build them up.
The company started to manufacture products related to home computers that were popular in the 1980s such as the Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC and ZX Spectrum. Such devices included light pens and memory expansion. One of their first commercial successes was joystick interfaces for the ZX Spectrum.
The greatest commercial success of Datel was the Action Replay, first for the Commodore 64 and then the Commodore Amiga. The Commodore 64 version was designed by Richard Bond, with six versions ultimately developed in all. The Commodore Amiga version was authored by two German students, Olaf Boehm and Joerg Zanger, who had been inspired by the earlier Commodore 64 version.
The Commodore 64 and Amiga Action Replays included the ability to save the entire contents of a home computer's memory to floppy disk or compact audio cassette, and then to reload very quickly. This proved extremely popular with people, especially when the Commodore 64 could take 20 minutes to load a game from notoriously unreliable tape. It also did not escape people's attention that could use Action Replays to copy games. The name Action Replay referred to the fact that could instantly restart a game from the position that had saved it.
Another feature the Amiga and Commodore 64 versions had in common was the ability to add POKEs, or cheats. They also had a system for finding pokes called a Pokefinder, or trainer.
Datel also made numerous unique copy devices for various systems that proved extremely popular. Devices such as the Syncro Express as well as the Action Replay exerted a heavy toll on the fledgeling video games industry. It has been said that Datel in part was responsible for the demise of the home computer games market. Hundreds of thousands of Syncro Express units, each copying 10 to 100 games, may have had an impact. The 1988 Act Copyright law of the United Kingdom was designed to halt the casual copying of games in this way.
During the 1990s, many companies that had been successful in the 1980s started to struggle. Miles Gordon technology sold their innovative PlusD drive to Datel to assist their ailing SAM Coupé project. The OCP Art Studio painting software was also successful, in part due to the bundled mouse, which was a novelty on 8-bit systems.
During the mid-'90s, home computers, which were almost exclusively used for games, started to be replaced by video game consoles. Datel took the Pokes and Pokefinder features of the earlier Action Replays and created Action Replay for the Sega Mega Drive. This was followed shortly after by the Action Replay Pro, which used a superior system sometimes referred to as RAM stuffing. This, combined with a built-in Trainer, allowed users to easily find their own codes.
The Action Replay was in competition for some time with Codemasters' Game Genie, which was distributed by Galoob. At first, Codemasters tried to protect the Game Genie as they had filed a patent on cartridge cheat devices, Datel defended this by saying that they had been cheating at games since long before the Game Genie existed. Action Replay improved on the Game Genie's functionality by adding an enable/disable switch. The cheat codes, at the time, were published in a more logical hexadecimal format compared with Codemasters' obfuscated system. This meant that users, along with the trainer, could make their own cheat codes.
Ultimately Codemasters and Galoob dropped the Game Genie entirely leaving Datel as the only cheat device manufacturer in the world.
Datel initially struggled to maintain a presence in the North American market, but in late 1995 they signed a deal with InterAct Accessories. InterAct took over the production and distribution of Datel's new cheat devices for the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation in North America, allowing Datel's products to reach the major retail chains for the first time.
After numerous unsuccessful attempts at breaking into the huge USA market, Datel finally started dealing with Interact Accessories with a new name, the GameShark. The GameShark was hugely successful. By now Datel had produced dozens of cheat devices for numerous systems. The most successful being the ones for the Game Boy, and the PlayStations 1 and 2.
Interact, the distributors for GameShark, went out of business in 2005 and their parent company sold the GameShark brand name to Mad Catz for US$5 million. Currently Datel are selling that product under their Action Replay brand.
Datel, creators of the Max Media Dock line, also makes hard drive add-ons and wireless adapters for PSP, Nintendo DS and Wii. There is an active homebrew community surrounding the Max Media Dock for Nintendo DS.
In 2008, the company released the Wii Freeloader, which allows users to circumvent regional lockout on the Wii video game console.
In 2009 the TurboFire was released for the PS3. It has a modified design and offers turbo functions for the buttons. Unlike most aftermarket controllers the TurboFire uses Bluetooth and connects wirelessly to the PS3 without the need for an adapter.
Datel operates the TV station Max TV, on Sky Digital, Channel 675.
In the 1990s, Sony filed a lawsuit in California court against Datel Electronics and Interact Accessories. Datel had allegedly logged on using Interact Accessories' Sony developer user name and password and accessed official developer software from an IP that resolved to datel.co.uk. The case was settled out of court.
In early 2009, Sony filed a suit against Datel for its Lite Blue Tool. The product was a sequel to the Datel Tool battery, which acted like a Pandora battery which caused a Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) to enter into Jigkick or Factory programming mode, allowing the execution of the boot code from a removable storage. The Lite Blue tool compensated for the fact that the new factory mode was encrypted. Datel withdrew this product shortly after action was announced.
On 20 November 2009, Datel filed a legal complaint against Microsoft in the Northern District of California for violations of §§1–2 of the Sherman act and §3 of the Clayton Antitrust Act; for unfair competition; and for tortious interference with prospective economic advantage. In response Microsoft has filed patent infringement suits over the styling of their wildfire controllers.