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Magnavox Odyssey
This is it - the machine that kickstarted a revolution in gaming that would spread round the world in a matter of years!
Called the Odyssey, it had no microprocessors since they'd only been invented in 1971 and this machine was pretty much a recased version of the Brown Box that Ralph Baer at Sanders Associates had built in 1968. The system consisted of a motherboard and several daughterboards that did individual tasks such as draw the ball or the player or the wall - basically enough circuitry to draw and move 4 objects on a TV screen - 2 players, a ball and a single centre or edge line to act as a net or a wall. Coupled with game adapters it could be 'programmed', ie the adapters changed the behaviour of the squares rather than containing games themselves. Massively groundbreaking in 1972 - 100,000 were sold that year and another 100,000 the year after.
The controllers were bizarre in that you had 3 knobs on each - a horizontal movement, a vertical movement and an 'English' movement which allows you to put spin on the ball like in Pool and Snooker. When I get my paws on a game cable for this machine (and assuming it works of course :o) I'll be able to tell you whether this makes games more difficult or not - I was crap with an Etch-a-sketch machine so I'm probably going to be similarly crap with the Odyssey controls since they work the same way!
More units would've been sold had Magnavox not marketed the Odyssey in such a way as to make people believe it would only work with Magnavox TV sets! It was only in Magnavox sales bumf and the only available extra - the lightgun - didn't sell well at all purely because of this. "I ain't buyin' a new TV AND a $100 game machine!" Numbers have lightgun sales at roughly 20,000.
Before it was released, a certain Nolan Bushnell (then at Nutting Associates, producers of "Computer Space", his version of the world's first video game "Spacewar" which ran originally on a Digital PDP-1 in 1961) attended a demonstration and rather foolishly signed the guestbook. He found the game a bit boring, and a month later he'd quit his job and founded Atari Inc. Remember them? :) He brought in an old Ampex colleague - Alan Alcorn - and the first arcade Pong system was released.
Despite the lawsuit from Magnavox (it was clear Nolan had played with the Brown Box - remember the guestbook!) PONG helped sales of the Odyssey since it was viewed as 'the home PONG experience'. Atari themselves didn't produce a home PONG till 1975 along with Magnavox who released the Odyssey 100.
All in all, 10 game adapters were available which meant there were more than the original 12 games since a single adapter could play 3 games or more.
This machine is a RUN2 NTSC machine from the good ol' US of A and is missing its game cable which means I can't plug it into my TV card, dammit. I might be able to make a replacement though. More news on that as it happens.

All images and text © Adrian Graham 1999-2024 unless otherwise noted using words. Also on