The system name of the Magnavox Odyssey was used on each of the consoles released by the company between the years of 1972 and 1978 which means that there are a number of consoles which fall into this series including the original designed by Ralph Baer, both the Magnavox and the Phillips models of the Odyssey, and finally the Odyssey² which was released in 1978.
Dedicated Odyssey Consoles (1975-1978)
This version of the console was released during the year of 1975 and used a multiple chip discrete component design which makes it the simplest of the consoles released after the original. At the time of this consoles release Magnavox was already considering the use of a single chip design but due to the desire to release the product as soon as possible the company elected not to wait for Texas Instruments to deliver their supply of single chips and pushed the system into production. The system did however use chips which were created by Texas instruments and used four multiple chip discrete components. The console was capable of playing two games, one was the Tennis game that became the inspiration for Pong and the other game was Hockey. Neither game contained the capability of on the screen scoring and they both shared the same simple buzzer sound as an audio component. The players would use 3 separate knobs in order to control horizontal movement, vertical movement, and the trajectory of the ball used in the games. The system like its predecessor was also powered using batteries and it was possible to use either a 9 volt battery or 6 C batteries.
The Odyssey 200 was also released during 1975 however this model did use the Texas Instrument’s single chip in its design making it superior to the earlier Odyssey release in a variety of facets. The 200 console also boasted a third game option which was known as Smash. The 200 system also broke new ground for the industry due to the fact that it was the first console which supported either two or four players. Another improvement over the 100 was that the 200 supported on screen score calculating in the form of a white block which would move one position towards the right corresponding to each players successful earned a point. Just like the 100 the 200 was powered using either a 9 volt or 6 C batteries rather than an external power source as well as sharing the same design for the control pad.
In 1976 the dedicated Odyssey 300 was released and unlike the previous models the 300 was meant to compete directly with an opposing system on the market the Coleco Telstar, The Telstar and the Odyssey 300 were very similar for a variety of reasons including they shared what is known as AY-3-8500 chip to control the consoles logic function and both were among the forerunners to use a single integrated chip as the primary design focus compared the previous multiple computer chips or the transistor-transistor logic regulator. Although this release did not boast any additional games for players it did provide 3 difficulty settings (Novice, Intermediate, Expert) from which to select when playing.
The Odyssey 400 was released in the same year as the 300 and was basically a slightly repackaged version of the 200 console which I am sure was disappointing to gamers. The only real modifications to the system were the introduction of digital on screen scoring which required the use of an additional Texas Instruments chip, and the ability to automatically serve the ball. The 400 used the same control pad to play the game and there were no new games released for this release.
The 500 console was also released during 1976 which means the fellas at Magnavox must have had quite a busy year. Much like the Odyssey 400 was a repackaging of the 200, the 500 was a repackaging of the 400 with one large change in the graphic. Where previous editions of the Odyssey used vertical lines to represent “paddles” the 500 rendered special graphics of a simplified human form. In each game the models of the people onscreen were slightly different and the company advertised the console as being released with a new fourth game referred to as Soccer by changing the player models on the Hockey board without really modifying the game variant.
The dedicated Odyssey 2000 was placed on the market during 1977 and much like the two previous models was simply a repackaging of the previous 300 console sharing the same AY-3-8500 single chip logic design system which would also be shared in the following release of the Odyssey 3000 later in the year. The 2000 was the first Odyssey to modify the controller pad reducing the number of knobs to control the game from three down to one. In this release the company also boasted an addition to the game library of Tennis, Hockey, Smash game types with the ability to play “practice mode” in Smash which was also known as Squash.
Like the 2000 console before it the Odyssey 3000 was released during 1977 and featured the same four game lineup. Although the interior design of the 2000 and 3000 were virtually the same the company did edit the appearance of the consoles exterior making the 3000 more angular than previous models, the another aesthetic and functional change was the addition of 2 exterior buttons which were used to control the reset and serve functions, and the size of the control knobs was also decreased. The final two new design features that came with the release of the 3000 model was the addition of circular knob which was used to select which game would be played, and the biggest design modification of all was the first addition of detachable control pads without fire buttons.
This edition would be the final dedicated edition of the console released by Magnavox and it was also released during 1977 making it the third Magnavox release in the year. The 4000 used the AY-3-8600 single chip logic design and boasted the largest selection of games available on the dedicated systems to date topping off at eight including several different variations upon the original four Tennis, Hockey, Squash, and Practice. The biggest departures from the previous 3000 console besides a newer and more powerful logic chip involved the ability to detach the joysticks and the addition of AY-3-8615 chip which allowed the Odyssey 4000 the capability to finally display in color rather than black and white.
This was the final dedicated console created by Magnavox however it never made it into general production and died at the prototype stage. This system contained 2 different chips including National Semiconductor’s MM57106 which contained seven games (the same as the Odyssey 2100) and Signetics’ CR861 also referred to as MUGS and contained a tank and helicopter game.
Dedicated Phillips Odyssey Series
Phillips had been releasing their own licensed version of the Odyssey prior to 1974 when they purchased Magnavox and they continued to release their own dedicated Odyssey consoles following the purchase.
This model was exactly the same as the model released in the United States but was released in Europe in 1976 and would eventually come to be replaced by the Phillips Odyssey 2001 in 1977.
The Odyssey 2001 was simply the Phillips model re-release of the Magnavox Odyssey 4000 with a slight variance in the available games and the use of detachable paddles opposed to joysticks. The 2001 model was released in 1977 and was designed around the National Semiconductor MM-57105 chip which allowed gamers to play Tennis, Hockey, Squash and allowed for both full color and sound on the television.
This would be the final Odyssey release until the Odyssey² and it was released during 1978 using the same case as the 2001 model. The 2100 used a National Semiconductor MM-57186N chip which allowed it to play six games with a handful of variations possible including Wipe Out (Breakout style with seven variants), Flipper (seven variants), Tennis (two variants), Handball (two variants), Hockey (two variants), and finally Football (three variants).
- Magnavox Odyssey & Interton Video 2000 (chronogamelist.wordpress.com)
- MoMA adds Magnavox Odyssey and six classics to game design exhibit (polygon.com)
- The Evolution of Consoles (wysley.wordpress.com)
- Meet the man that started the video game console revolution (theverge.com)
- In the beginning: Ralph H. Baer and the birth of the game console (arstechnica.com)
- The “father of video games” not worried about his legacy. (gamersstandard.wordpress.com)
- Magnavox Odyssey inventor Baer is certain of his own legacy (polygon.com)
- The Evolution of Gaming Consoles [infographic] (debugdesign.com)