|Type||Home video game console|
|Introductory price||$99 USD|
|Controller input||Two paddles|
The Magnavox Odyssey is the first commercial home video game console. It was first demonstrated in April 1972 and released in August of that year, predating the Atari Pong home consoles by three years. It is a digital video game console, though is often mistakenly believed to be analog, due to misunderstanding of its hardware design.
The Odyssey was designed by Ralph H. Baer, assisted by engineers William Harrison and William Rusch. They began around 1966 and had a working prototype finished by 1968. This prototype, known as the Brown Box, is now at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
Like all other video game consoles, the Magnavox Odyssey is a digital console. However, many collectors mistakenly considered the Odyssey to be an analog console, which led Baer to clarify that the console was in fact digital. The electronic signals exchanged between the various parts (ball and players generators, sync generators, diode matrix, etc.) are binary. The games and logic itself are implemented in DTL, a common pre-TTL digital design component using discrete transistors and diodes.
The system could be powered by six C batteries, which were included. An optional A/C power supply was sold separately. The Odyssey lacks sound capability, something that was added with the "Pong systems" of several years later, including Magnavox's own Odyssey-labeled Pong consoles. Ralph Baer proposed a sound extension to Magnavox in 1973, but the idea was rejected.
The Odyssey uses a type of removable printed circuit board, called a game card, that inserts into a slot similar to a ROM cartridge slot. The game cards do not contain any components, but have a series of "jumpers" — simple electrical connections — between pins of the card connector. These jumpers interconnect different logic and signal generators in the Odyssey to produce the desired game logic and screen output.
The system was sold with translucent plastic overlays that players could put on their television 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.
Ralph Baer is also believed to have proposed the concept of "active cartridges" containing additional electronic components, allowing adding more game features, such as sound effects, variable net position, and variable ball speed, though the idea apparently did not catch any interest.
The Odyssey was also designed to support an add-on peripheral, the first-ever commercial video "light gun" called the Shooting Gallery. This detected light from the television screen, though pointing the gun at a nearby light bulb also registered as a "hit". Only 20,000 sales were made and the peripheral could only be used with 4 compatible games.
Baer also designed a putting game, which used a golf ball fixed to the top of a joystick which the player would hit using a putter. This idea interested Magnavox, which took the prototype for testing, and was initially planned to be released as an add-on like the electronic rifle, but ultimately was never released.
The Odyssey was released in August 1972. Close to 100,000 Odyssey consoles were sold in 1972. By the time newer models made their appearance in 1974, Odyssey had racked total sales of about 350,000 units.
Magnavox settled a court case against Atari, Inc. for patent infringement in Atari's design of Pong, as it resembled the tennis game for the Odyssey. Over the next decade, Magnavox sued other big companies such as Coleco, Mattel, Seeburg, Activision and either won or settled every suit. In 1985, Nintendo sued Magnavox and tried to invalidate Baer's patents by saying that the first video game was William Higinbotham's Tennis for Two game built in 1958. The court ruled that this game did not use video signals and could not qualify as a video game. As a result, Nintendo lost the suit and continued paying royalties to Sanders Associates. Over 20 years, Magnavox won more than $100 million in the various patent lawsuits and settlements involving the Odyssey related patents.
Baer went on to invent the classic electronic game Simon for Milton Bradley in 1978. Magnavox later released several other scaled down Pong-like consoles based under the Odyssey name (which did not use cartridges or game cards), and at one point a truly programmable, cartridge based console, the Odyssey², in 1978.
In June 2013, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) added the Magnavox Odyssey to its permanent collection of video games. MoMA's Paul Galloway described the console as "a masterpiece of engineering and industrial design" and stated that it was "hard to overstate the importance of [Ralph Baer's] place in the birth of the industry."
List of games
A total of 27 games distributed and 12 different game cards were released for the Magnavox Odyssey.
- Game Card 11 was originally planned for use with Basketball but was later canceled. Basketball works instead with Game Card 8.
- David Winter. "Pong Story: Magnavox Odyssey". Pongstory.com. Retrieved 2012-04-27.
- The Independent
- Benj Edwards (2007-05-15). "Video Games Turn 40". 1UP.com. Retrieved 2012-04-27.
- "Article: Ralph Baer: Recovering the History of the Video Game :: Smithsonian Lemelson Center". Invention.smithsonian.org. 1966-09-01. Retrieved 2012-02-20.
- "Stories From the Vaults: Pong". Smithsonian Channel. Retrieved 2012-02-20.
- Bub, Andrew (2005-06-07). "The Original GamerDad: Ralph Baer". Gamerdad.com. Archived from the original on 2006-02-13. Retrieved 2006-11-10.
- Digital Spy
- Jackson, Bebito. "The "Odyssey" of Ralph Baer: Interview w/ the Father of Videogames". Diehardgamefan.com. Retrieved 2010-05-14.
- Baer, Ralph. "How Video Games Invaded The Home TV Set". Ralph H. Baer Consultants. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
- Associatd Press (1982-10-08). "Magnavox Patent". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-02-25.
- Reuters (1983-02-16). "Magnavox Settles Its Mattel Suit". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-02-25.
- Inventor Ralph Baer, The 'Father Of Video Games,' Dies At 92. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
- David Winter. "The extra games of the Odyssey". Pongstory.com. Retrieved 2013-05-20.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Magnavox Odyssey.|
- Everything about the Odyssey by Ralph Baer's associate and video game historian David Winter
- Magnavox Odyssey The online Odyssey museum
- Information about Ralph Baer's book Videogames: In The Beginning
- Ralph Baer's story of the development of the Odyssey
- The Dot Eaters entry on the history of the Odyssey
- ODYEMU, an unfinished Odyssey simulator
- Michael McCourt reviews the Odyssey games on Armchair Arcade