First generation of video game consoles

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In the history of video games, the first-generation era refers to the computer and video games, video game consoles, and video game handhelds available from 1972 to 1983[1]. Notable consoles of the first generation included the Magnavox Odyssey series released from 1972 to 1978[2], the Atari Home Pong released in 1975,[3] the Coleco Telstar series released from 1976 to 1978[4] and the Color TV-Game series released from 1977 to 1980.[5][6] The generation ended with the Computer TV-Game in 1980 but many manufactures had left the market prior to this due to the video game crash of 1977[7] and the start of the second generation.

Games developed during this generation were native components of the consoles and unlike other generations, they were not contained on removable media that the user could switch out.[8] There were a number of methods used to create variation in games such as the inclusion of external accessories and cartridges that could alter the way the game played.[9] Graphical capabilities consisted of simple geometry such as dots, lines or blocks[10] that would occupy only a single screen[11] and wouldn't be capable of more than two colours (usually black and white) until later in the generation. Audio capabilities were limited with some consoles having no audio at all.

The first generation of video games did not feature a microprocessor, and were based on custom codeless state machine computers consisting of discrete logic circuits comprising each element of the game itself. Later consoles of this generation moved the bulk of the circuitry to custom "pong on a chip" IC's such as Atari's custom Pong chips and General Instruments' AY-3-8500 series.[12]

Magnavox, an already established American electronics company released the first console of the generation and while limited in its capabilities, it introduced a number of features and ideas that would become standard in the industry.[13] In 1972, Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney founded Atari[14] which would go onto to be one of the most well known video game companies and play a vital role in the early generations of consoles. It was also late in this generation that Nintendo entered the video game console market for the first time.[15]

History[edit]

Interactive television[edit]

In 1951, Ralph Baer conceived the idea of an interactive television while building a television set from scratch for Loral in the Bronx, New York.[16] He explored these ideas further in 1966 when he was the Chief Engineer and manager of the Equipment Design Division at Sanders Associates. Baer created a simple two-player video game that could be displayed on a standard television set called Chase, where two dots chased each other around the screen.[17][18] After a demonstration to the company's director of R&D Herbert Campman, some funding was allotted and the project was made official. In 1967 Bill Harrison was brought on board, and a light gun[19] was constructed from a toy rifle that was aimed at a target moved by another player.

Bill Rusch joined the project to speed up development and soon a third machine-controlled dot was used to create a ping-pong game. With more funding additional games were created, and Baer had the idea of selling the product to cable TV companies, who could transmit static images as game backgrounds. A prototype was demonstrated in February 1968 to TelePrompTer Vice President Hubert Schlafly, who signed an agreement with Sanders. The Cable TV industry was in a slump during the late '60s and early '70s and a lack of funding meant other avenues had to be pursued. Development continued on the hardware and games resulting in the final "Brown Box" prototype,[19] which had two controllers, a light gun and sixteen switches on the console that selected the game to be played. Baer approached various U.S. Television manufacturers and an agreement was eventually signed with Magnavox in late 1969. Magnavox's main alterations to the Brown Box were to use plug-in circuits to change the games, and to remove the color graphics capabilities in favor of color overlays in order to reduce manufacturing costs. It was released in 1972 as the Magnavox Odyssey.[19][20]

Digital electronics[edit]

Like other game consoles Odyssey is a digital console. However, like all video game consoles up until the sixth generation, it uses analog circuitry for the output to match the televisions of its era, which were analog; also, like all later consoles from the Nintendo 64 onwards, it features analog game controllers. Due to these two facts, many collectors have mistakenly considered the Odyssey to be an analog console, with the misunderstanding becoming so widespread that Baer was eventually led to clarify that the Odyssey is indeed a digital console: all of the electronic signals exchanged between the various parts responsible for gameplay (ball and players generators, sync generators, diode matrix, etc.) are binary.[21] The type of digital components used feature DTL, a common pre-TTL digital design component using discrete transistors and diodes.

This was also the first involvement of Nintendo in video games. According to Martin Picard in the International Journal of Computer Game Research: "in 1971, Nintendo had -- even before the marketing of the first home console in the United States -- an alliance with the American pioneer Magnavox to develop and produce optoelectronic guns for the Odyssey (released in 1972), since it was similar to what Nintendo was able to offer in the Japanese toy market in 1970s".[22]

Pong arcade version

Early mainframe games in the United States were developed by individual users who programmed them in their spare time. In 1962, a group of students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology programmed a game called Spacewar! on a DEC PDP-1.[23] In 1970 Nolan Bushnell saw Spacewar! for the first time at the University of Utah. Deciding there was commercial potential in an arcade version, he hand-wired a custom computer capable of playing it on a black and white television. The resulting game, Computer Space, did not fare well commercially and Bushnell started looking for new ideas.[24] In early 1972 he saw a demonstration of the Magnavox Odyssey, and hired Al Alcorn to produce an arcade version of the Odyssey's ping-pong game using Transistor-transistor logic, called Pong.[25]

On September 12, 1975, Epoch released Japan's first console, the TV Tennis Electrotennis, a home version of Pong, several months before the release of Home Pong in North America. A unique feature of the TV Tennis Electrotennis is that the console is wireless, functioning through a UHF antenna.[22]

Home video games achieved widespread popularity with the release of a home version of Pong in the Christmas of 1975. Its success sparked hundreds of clones, including the Coleco Telstar, which went on to be a success in its own right, with over a dozen models and the Binatone TV Master by British company Binatone.

Japan's most successful console of the first generation was Nintendo's Color TV-Game, released in 1977.[22] The Color TV Game sold 3 million units,[26] the highest for a first generation console.

Home systems[edit]

Magnavox Odyssey Series[edit]

In 1972 Magnavox released the worlds first home video game console, the Odyssey.[14] It was released into a market that hadn't even heard of the term "video game" and was marketed as "the new electronic game of the future" and "closed-circuit electronic playground".[27] It had many features that became industry standard in subsequent generations such as detachable controllers, an alternative controller (light gun) and interchangeable game cartridges. The Odyssey wasn't considered a commercial success although other companies with similar products had to pay a licensing fee for some time. For a time it was Sanders' most profitable line, even though many in the company had not been supportive of game development.[citation needed]

In 1974 Philips purchased Magnavox and released a series of eight US Odyssey consoles from 1975-1977.[14] These consoles differed from the original Odyssey in that they were dedicated consoles. Each subsequent release was an improvement over the previous, adding features such as additional game variations, on-screen displays and player controlled handicaps. Three Odyssey series consoles were also released in Europe with similar features from 1976-1978.[14]

Atari Home Pong[edit]

In November 1975 Atari released a home version of their popular arcade game Pong.[28] It was the first use of a microchip in an Atari product and was in development for two years under the lead of Allan Alcorn and Harold Lee.[10] By Christmas of 1975 Atari had become a major company in the home console market due to Home Pong.[25] Following Pong's success, Magnavox filed suit against Atari for infringement on it's table tennis game for the Odyssey and ended up settling out of court with Atari becoming a licensee of Magnavox.[29]

Coleco Telstar Series[edit]

Starting in 1976, Coleco released a series of 14 dedicated consoles up until 1978[10] where they suffered the effects of the 1977 crash and the start of the second generation causing near bankruptcy. The series featured a number of different styles of ball games and external accessories to enhance gamplay..The Telstar Arcade featured a unique triangular design that came with a light gun and steering wheel attached to the casing. The series was marketed at lower price than the competition and sold very well with over a million sales.[30]

Color TV-Game Series[edit]

The Color TV-Game series of five consoles were released towards the end of the decade in Japan and were the first consoles to be release by Nintendo.[31] The first, the Color TV-Game 6 was released in 1977 and the last, the Computer TV-Game, was released in 1980. Third console in the series, the Color TV-Game Racing 112 was the first project of Shigeru Miyamoto who went onto to become the creator of some of the best video games and franchises of all time. Despite only releasing in a single region, the series had the highest sales figures out of all the consoles in the first generation totalling around 3 million units sold.

Comparison[edit]

Name Magnavox Odyssey Magnavox Odyssey series*
(11 consoles)
TV Tennis Electrotennis Home Pong
Manufacturer Magnavox Magnavox, Philips Epoch Co. Atari, Sears Tele-Games
Image Magnavox-Odyssey-Console-Set.png Odyssey-300.png TV Tennis Electrotennis.jpg TeleGames-Atari-Pong.png
Launch price US$100 (equivalent to $599 in 2019) US$100–230 (equivalent to $466–1071 in 2019) ¥20,000[22] (equivalent to $346 in 2019) US$98.95 (equivalent to $461 in 2019)
Release date
Media Printed circuit board Various Inbuilt chip Inbuilt chip[32]
Accessories (retail) Shooting Gallery n/a Wireless controller[22] n/a
Sales 330,000[33] n/a 10,000[34] 150,000[35][36]

* = Does not include the separately-listed Magnavox Odyssey and the second-generation Magnavox Odyssey 2.

Name Binatone TV Master Telstar series
(14 models)
Color TV-Game series
(5 consoles)
Manufacturer Binatone Coleco Nintendo
Image Binatone TV Master Mk IV.jpg Coleco-Telstar-Colortron.jpg Nintendo-Color-TV-Game-Blockbreaker-FL.png
Launch price £35 (equivalent to £247, or $348, in 2019) US$50 (equivalent to $220 in 2019) ¥8300–48,000 (equivalent to $122–703 in 2019)[5]
Release date
Media Inbuilt chip Inbuilt chip (most models)
Cartridge (Telstar Arcade, 1977)
Inbuilt chip
Accessories (retail) Paddles and light gun Controller styles n/a
Sales n/a 1 million[37] 3 million[26]

Pong on a chip[edit]

[12] The table lists only the most known consoles and relative used chip.

Chip code/name Year Manufacturer Colors Games Consoles
AY-3-8500 1976 General Instrument No (1) Tennis, soccer, squash, practice, 2 rifle games Telstar (Telstar, Classic, Deluxe, Ranger, Alpha, Colormatic, Regent, Sportsman)
Odyssey (300,2000,3000)
Binatone TV Master
Radio Shack TV Scoreboard
Unisonic Sportsman/Tournament
Philips Tele-Spiel ES2203 and ES2204
Zanussi/Seleco Play-O-Tronic
Videomaster (Strika, Strika 2,ColourScore 2, SuperScore)
APF TV Fun (Model 401)
BSS 01
AY-3-8510 1978? General Instrument Yes Tennis, hockey, squash, jai alai Telstar Colortron
AY-3-8512 1978? General Instrument Yes Tennis, hockey, squash, jai alai, skeet, target Telstar Marksman
AY-3-8600 1977 General Instrument No(2) 8 games with balls and paddles Telstar Galaxy
Odyssey 4000
Philips Tele-Spiel ES2218
AY-3-8610 1977 General Instrument No(2)[38] 8 games with balls and paddles + 2 rifle games Videomaster Sportsworld
Philco/Ford Telejogo II
AY-3-8550 1976? General Instrument No(1) The same of 8500 but with the addition of horizontal movement of player Philips Tele-Spiel ES2208
AY-3-8700 1978? General Instrument 4 games with tanks Telstar Combat!
MPS-7600-001,002,003,004 (3)(4) 1977 MOS Technology The four versions of chip usually support 4 games. Telstar Gemini(only version 004).
Telstar Arcade(all 4 versions).
Commodore TV Game 2000K/3000H and Colorsport VIII (only version 001).
MM-57100/MM-57105 (PAL) 1976 National Semiconductor Yes Tennis, Hockey, Squash National Adversary
Philips Odyssey 2001
Videomaster (ColourScore, VisionScore, ColourShot)
Philco/Ford Telejogo
MM-57106/MM-57186 (PAL) 1977 National Semiconductor Yes Tennis, Hockey, Squash, Breakout, Flipper e Football. Philips N30
Philips Odyssey 2100
F4301 1976 Universal Research Labs Yes Two games with balls and paddles and two games of car racing Indy 500 system (Video Action 4)
Sears/Atari Speedway & Speedway IV
Interton Video 2800
MBO Tele-Ball VIII
SN76410N 1977 Texas Instruments N/A Six games of balls and paddles Tele-Match 3300R
Ricochet Super Pro (modello MT-4A)
Venture Electronics Video Sports VS-5
3659-1C/C2566 1975 Atari No Pong Atari PONG
3659-3 1975 Atari No Pong Atari PONG Doubles
Sears PONG IV
C010073-3 1976 Atari No 4 Pong games Atari/Sears Super PONG
C010073-01/C2607 1976 Atari N/A 10 Pong games Atari Super PONG Ten
C010765 1977 Atari N/A unknown Atari Ultra PONG
Atari Ultra PONG Doubles
C011500-11/C011512-05 (4) 1977 Atari N/A 7 games (example: Pinball, Basketball and Breakout) Atari Video Pinball
M58815P and M58816P 1977 Mitsubishi (for Nintendo) Yes 15 Pong games Nintendo Color TV Game 6[39]
Nintendo Color TV Game 15[40]

(1) Colors could be obtained adding the AY-3-8515 chip
(2) Colors could be obtained adding the AY-3-8615 chip
(3) PAL version code is 7601
(4) Advanced chip compared to classic Pong-in-a-chip: include a microcontroller and a little RAM.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/det/32309/Bentley-Compu-Vision/
  2. ^ "Gamasutra - The History Of Pong: Avoid Missing Game to Start Industry". www.gamasutra.com. Retrieved 2019-02-26.
  3. ^ "Gamasutra - The History of Atari: 1971-1977". www.gamasutra.com. Retrieved 2019-02-26.
  4. ^ Sfetcu, Nicolae (2014-05-04). Game Preview. Nicolae Sfetcu.
  5. ^ a b "History of Consoles: Nintendo's Color TV Game Consoles (1977-1979) | Gamester 81". gamester81.com. Retrieved 2017-02-05.
  6. ^ a b DeMaria, Rusel; Wilson, Johnny L. (2003). High Score!: The Illustrated History of Electronic Games (2 ed.). McGraw-Hill. pp. 363, 378. ISBN 978-0-07-223172-4.
  7. ^ Wolf, Mark J.P. (2008). The Video Game Explosion. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. Page xviii. ISBN 0-313-33868-X. ISBN 9780313338687.
  8. ^ Hile, Kevin (2009-10-26). Video Games. Greenhaven Publishing LLC. ISBN 9781420503067.
  9. ^ Wolf, Mark J. P. (2012-06-15). Before the Crash: Early Video Game History. Wayne State University Press. p. 56. ISBN 9780814337226.
  10. ^ a b c Dillon, Roberto (2016-04-19). The Golden Age of Video Games: The Birth of a Multibillion Dollar Industry. CRC Press. p. 21. ISBN 9781439873243.
  11. ^ Wall, David; Griffith, Arthur (1999). Graphics Programming with JFC. Wiley. ISBN 9780471283072.
  12. ^ a b "PONG in a Chip". Pong-Story. Retrieved September 13, 2010.
  13. ^ "Gamasutra - The History Of Pong: Avoid Missing Game to Start Industry". www.gamasutra.com. Retrieved 2019-02-26.
  14. ^ a b c d Wolf, Mark J. P. (2008). The Video Game Explosion: A History from PONG to Playstation and Beyond. ABC-CLIO. p. 55. ISBN 9780313338687.
  15. ^ Fleming, Dan (1996). Powerplay. Manchester University Press ND. p. 180. ISBN 978-0-7190-4717-6.
  16. ^ Griffiths, Devin (2013). Virtual Ascendance: Video Games and the Remaking of Reality. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers. pp. 14–15.
  17. ^ Purcaru, Bogdan Ion (2014-03-13). Games vs. Hardware. The History of PC video games: The 80's. Purcaru Ion Bogdan. p. 58.
  18. ^ Baer, Ralph H. (2005-04-26). Videogames: in the beginning. Rolenta Press. ISBN 9780964384811.
  19. ^ a b c Moore, Michael E.; Novak, Jeannie (2010). Game Industry Career Guide. Delmar: Cengage Learning. p. 7. ISBN 1-4283-7647-X. In 1966, Ralph H. Baer .. pitched an idea .. to create interactive games to be played on the television. Over the next two years, his team developed the first video game system—and in 1968, they demonstrated the "Brown Box," a device on which several games could be played and that used a light gun to shoot targets on the screen. After several more years of development, the system was licensed by Magnavox in 1970 and the first game console system, the Odyssey, was released in 1972 at the then high price of $100.
  20. ^ Willaert, Kate (January 10, 2018). "In Search of the First Video Game Commercial". Video Game History Foundation. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
  21. ^ Bub, Andrew (June 7, 2005). "The Original GamerDad: Ralph Baer". GamerDad. Archived from the original on February 13, 2006. Retrieved November 10, 2006.
  22. ^ a b c d e f Martin Picard, The Foundation of Geemu: A Brief History of Early Japanese video games, International Journal of Computer Game Research, 2013
  23. ^ Moschovitis, Christos J. P.; Poole (Christos), Hilary and Moshovitis (2005). The Internet: A Historical Encyclopedia. Chronology. Volume 3. ABC-CLIO. p. 27. ISBN 9781851096596.
  24. ^ Kowert, Rachel; Quandt, Thorsten (2015-08-27). The Video Game Debate: Unravelling the Physical, Social, and Psychological Effects of Video Games. Routledge. p. 5. ISBN 9781317567172.
  25. ^ a b "Gamasutra - The History Of Pong: Avoid Missing Game to Start Industry". www.gamasutra.com. Retrieved 2019-02-26.
  26. ^ a b Sheff, David; Eddy, Andy (1999), Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered the World, GamePress, p. 27, ISBN 978-0-9669617-0-6, Nintendo entered the home market in Japan with the dramatic unveiling of Color TV Game 6, which played six versions of light tennis. It was followed by a more powerful sequel, Color TV Game 15. A million units of each were sold. The engineering team also came up with systems that played a more complex game, called "Blockbuster," as well as a racing game. Half a million units of these were sold.
  27. ^ Magnavox (2012-12-20), 1972 Magnavox Odyssey promotional film, retrieved 2019-03-01
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  30. ^ Herman, Leonard (1997). Phoenix: the fall & rise of videogames (2nd ed.). Union, NJ: Rolenta Press. p. 20. ISBN 0-9643848-2-5. Retrieved 16 February 2012. Like Pong, Telstar could only play video tennis but it retailed at an inexpensive $50 that made it attractive to most families that were on a budget. Coleco managed to sell over a million units that year.
  31. ^ Firestone, Mary (2011-01-01). Nintendo: The Company and Its Founders. ABDO Publishing Company. p. 38. ISBN 9781617840951.
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  34. ^ toarcade (September 12, 2015). "Japan's 1st Video Game Console was released 40 Years ago!". Toarcade. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  35. ^ Ellis, David (2004). "Dedicated Consoles". Official Price Guide to Classic Video Games. Random House. pp. 33–36. ISBN 0-375-72038-3.
  36. ^ Kent, Steven (2001). "Strange Bedfellows". Ultimate History of Video Games. Three Rivers Press. pp. 94–95. ISBN 0-7615-3643-4.
  37. ^ Herman, Leonard (1997). Phoenix: the fall & rise of videogames (2nd ed.). Union, NJ: Rolenta Press. p. 20. ISBN 0-9643848-2-5. Retrieved February 16, 2012. Like Pong, Telstar could only play video tennis but it retailed at an inexpensive $50 that made it attractive to most families that were on a budget. Coleco managed to sell over a million units that year.
  38. ^ "??" (PDF). Pong-story.com. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 16, 2012. Retrieved November 17, 2012.
  39. ^ Subramanian, Annapoornima M; Chai, Kah-Hin; Mu, Shifeng (2011). "Capability Reconfiguration of Incumbent Firms: Nintendo in the Video Game Industry". Technovation. 31 (5).
  40. ^ "【任天堂「ファミコン」はこうして生まれた】第2回:電卓をあきらめてゲーム機ヘ". nikkeibp.co.jp (in Japanese). Nikkei Business Publications, Inc. 2008-09-30. Retrieved 2015-02-24. こうして任天堂は1977年に、価格9800円の「カラーテレビゲーム 6」と、価格1万5000円の「カラーテレビゲーム 15」を売り出すことになる。

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]