The Very First Gaming Console (Magnavox Odyssey)


Right Now, the Playstation 4 and Xbox One
are two of the most powerful and popular gaming
consoles ever made, but why don’t we take
a step back.
Let’s talk a bit about the very first gaming
console ever made.
Lets talk about the Magnavox Odyssey.
All the way back in 1972 Magnavox had released
the Magnavox Odyssey, a home video game system
based on the “Brown Box,” a prototype
invented by Ralph Baer.
In 1966 Ralph Baer, Chief Engineer for Equipment
Design at the defense contractor Sanders Associates,
began work creating a technology where a simple
game could be played on a television monitor.
One year later this became a reality when
Baer and his team created a simple game consisting
of two dots chasing each other around the
screen.
The Government initially planned to fund this
project to use a military training tool, but
that did not go according to plan.
Six years later the top secret status was
dropped and Sanders Associates licensed the
tech to electronics company Magnavox.
The Brown Box was renamed, slightly redesigned
and released as the very first gaming console
system for the home market – the Magnavox
Odyssey – and this started the revolution
of console gaming.
The console came with the following parts
upon release.
A Master Control Unit, 2 Player Control Units,
the Game Cord, an Antenna-Game Switch with
mounting hooks, 2 sized sets of 11 Overlays
for medium and large television screens, 6
Game Cards and Multiple game and score cards.
The Magnavox Odyssey featured an unconventional
design that resembled a model spaceship, and
its controllers were equally oddball, clunky
paddles with twisty dials on either side.
The system was incapable of sound output and
it was barely able to produce graphics.
The games playable on the device consisted
of two bars of light that players moved around
the screen using the controller’s dials.
Games came on removable printed circuit boards
and relied on TV overlays to add visual detail
and colour.
Depending on which overlay was plastered over
the screen, the Odyssey could transform a
television display into a tennis court, American
football field, a haunted house, shooting
gallery, a casino and more.
Due to the design of the console, this meant
gamers had a more active role when actually
playing video games.
They had to interact with the physical console
a bit more than how things work today.
Very soon after the console’s release the
world’s first light gun peripheral was made
public alongside the console.
The Odyssey’s light gun was called Shooting
Gallery and it had a design that would probably
leave manufacturers open get attacked by the
public, since it had more in common with an
actual rifle than the kid-friendly accessories
that followed it to market in the ensuing
years.
The console itself was more of a success,
shifting 100,000 games within its first year
and moving around 350,000 units by the time
its successor, the cartridge-based Magnavox
Odyssey 2, arrived in 1974.
The launch price was $99 US, which is just
over $500 in today’s currency.
Looking back at this console, it can clearly
be seen that things have moved very far since
the initial release.
We now have extremely powerful gaming consoles
and I think we should be thankful for the
power that we can get from what we have.
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