Magnavox Odyssey

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The Magnavox Odyssey is the first home video game console, predating the Atari Pong home consoles by three years. The Odyssey was designed by Ralph Baer, who had a working prototype finished by 1968. This prototype is affectionately known as the "Brown Box" to classic video game hobbyists. Unlike most video game consoles, the Odyssey is analog rather than digital, which makes its invention all the more amazing in spite of its rather crude graphics and controller responsiveness. Also, unlike any conventional console today, this system was powered by batteries. The Odyssey and its variants (excluding the Odyssey˛) also lack sound capability (hence a silent console), which was not uncommon in early Pong systems of that era.

The Odyssey used a type of removable circuit card that inserted into a slot similar to a cartridge slot; these did not contain the actual programs but altered the signal path in the machine to change the screen output. The system also came with plastic overlays that gamers could put on their TV screen to simulate color graphics, though only two TV sizes were supported. Some of these overlays could even be used with the same cartridges, though with different rules for playing. It also came with plastic game tokens and score sheets to help keep score, much like traditional board games.

The Odyssey was released in May 1972 and didn't fare too badly, but soon succumbed to poor marketing by Magnavox retail chains. One of their mistakes was misleading consumers into believing that the Odyssey would work only on Magnavox televisions. It did, however, prove that consoles for the home could be designed. Magnavox also won a court case against Nolan Bushnell for patent infringement in Bushnell's design of Pong, as it somewhat resembled the tennis game for the Odyssey.

The Odyssey was successful enough to support an add-on peripheral, a "light gun". This detected light from the TV screen, however pointing the gun at a nearby light bulb also registered as a "hit".

Ralph Baer went on to invent the classic electronic game Simon for Mattel in 1978, which became the most popular electronic handheld of all time. Magnavox later released several other pong-like consoles based on the name Odyssey (which did not use cartridges or game cards), and at one point a truly programmable, cartridge based console, the Odyssey˛, in 1978.

Nintendo's first venture in the console world was selling the Magnavox Odyssey in Japan, before the company introduced its own consoles.

External links

fr:Odyssey pt:Odyssey 100 sv:Magnavox Odyssey


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