Magnavox Odyssey

The Magnavox Odyssey was the first commercially viable home video game console and was released in 1972 allowing it to hold the market alone for about three years before the Atari Pong home systems were released in order to compete for the relatively untapped market. The Odyssey was developed by Ralph Baer who had developed the first working prototype known as the “Brown  Box” during the year 1968. Ralph Baer’s “Brown Box” is now housed in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History located in Washington, D.C. The system suffered little commercial success due to poor marketing attempts by Magnavox and the belief of many consumers that the product was only compatible with Magnavox brand televisions. Magnavox was successful in a number of lawsuits over patent violations for most of the systems that played the game Pong due to it similarity to a the Odyssey ping pong game resulting in the acquisition of lots of royalties from companies inincluding Atari, Nintendo, Mattel, and Caleco.

Console Design

The Magnavox Odyssey is a digital system despite that fact that the system uses analog circuits in order to display outputs for the television. The Odyssey uses an analog controller like many other different video game consoles. The console was not powered using a wall outlet but rather the Odyssey ran on batteries. One major shortcoming of the console was its lack of sound capability despite Baer’s urge that a sound component should be included. The Odyssey used an early form of cartridge in the form of a removable circuit board that would connect different logic components found in the system in order to play specific games. Rather than making use of colored graphics for the console the unit would ship with colored overlays which could be applied to the screen of a television which was frustrating for some players because not all sizes of televisions overlays were offered. In addition to the television overlays the console also came with dice and score sheets much like boardgames.

Accessories

The only add-on accessory which was actually made available for the system was the light gun which was used for the game “Shooting Gallery.” The light gun would react from the emitted light from the television in order to register a “hit” although it was also possible to register a positive shot by pointing at a nearby light source such as a light bulb. Two additional planned accessories were created by Baer however they were never released to the general public and can now be seen at the Museum of Moving Image in New York City. One accessory which never made it into production were active cartridges which provided additional components to the games include variable net position, ball speed, and the possibility of sound capability. The other accessory that did not make it into production was for a golf putting game which used a joystick in order to hold a ball which the player would then hit using a putter. The putter accessory was put into initial testing however it did not move past the prototype stage.

Games Available (27 games on 12 different cartridges)

  • Analogic (Cartridge 3)
  • Baseball (Cartridge 3)
  • Basketball (Cartridge 8)
  • Brain Wave (Cartridge 3)
  • Cat and Mouse (Cartridge 4)
  • Dogfight (Cartridge 9)
  • Football (Cartridge 3 and 4)
  • Fun Zoo (Cartridge 2)
  • Handball (Cartridge 8)
  • Haunted House (Cartridge 4)
  • Hockey (Cartridge 3)
  • Interplanetary Voyage (Cartridge 12)
  • Invasion (Cartridges 4, 5 and 6)
  • Percepts (Cartridge 2)
  • Prehistoric Safari (Cartridge 9)
  • Roulette (Cartridge 6)
  • Shooting Gallery (Cartridge 10)
  • Shootout (Cartridge 9)
  • Simon Says (Cartridge 2)
  • Ski (Cartridge 2)
  • Soccer (Cartridge 3 and 5)
  • States (Cartridge 6)
  • Submarine (Cartridge 5)
  • Table Tennis (Cartridge 1)
  • Tennis (Cartridge 3)
  • Volleyball (Cartridge 7)
  • Win (Cartridge 4)
  • Wipeout (Cartridge 5)

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