Posts Tagged ‘magnavox’
In what has become an annual tradition, Jam and Fred delve into the past in 5 and 10 year intervals. In 2017 that means any decade in gaming history that ends in either a “7” or a “2”. There’s a great deal to be had and the time flies far too fast, but we guarantee you’ll learn something you didn’t already know.
By the time the SNES was dominating and the Sega Genesis was locked in an endless sea of add-ons to save the dying console, electronics manufacturers began to step up and create many of their own consoles. As a result, the market was flooded with overpriced horrendous hardware. They seemed to have everything a gamer wanted: new media format (the cheaply priced cd was preferred by developers to reduce production cost and retail price), impressive graphics and processors, and lets not forget the large numbers like “32” and “64” prominantly displayed on the startup screens. Unfortunately they lacked one important thing: good games. Still, that didn’t prevent many manufacturers from creating a loose version of the video game crash of 1983. Thankfully one lone electronics company entered the foray with the next step in gaming – that company was Sony.
Electronics Companies Go Bananas (or Pre 32-bit Gaming)
I’m guessing somewhere around the Sega CD, boasting the ability to play your new audio CDs through your television as an added feature, electronic companies started to take notice of gaming systems. As you guide through the progression of consoles the consumer electronics market grows stronger with gamers – let’s face it, they’re the perfect early adoptors. Quickly companies scrambled to enter the gaming market including JVC, Phillips, Panasonic, Pioneer, Sony and even more. Some of these companies licensed existing hardware, like JVC did with the X’Eye, a Sega Genesis/Sega CD hybrid that was re-branded with JVC’s logo. On the other hand, Phillips, Panasonic and Pioneer – imagine keeping these companies straight as a consumer – released their own hardware with a (arguably) library of games. In the end, they all sucked and had ridiculous price tags pushing back the concept of consumer electronics meeting gaming for at least another six years. Below are the early disc-based consoles that failed so horribly.
It’s difficult to understand and discern the various console generations that have existed, so here’s a brief overview of each one and the consoles that spawned in North America during these generations. Please note that these posts cover home consoles only (and goes into broad detail on specific larger market share, not every console that released) – while arcades and PCs were a signficant part of gaming in the respective 80s and 90s, they will be covered in different posts.
First Generation (1972 – 1983)
Magnavox Odyssey – Launch Price: $75-$100 (retail dependent) – Released: 1972
Designer Ralph Baer’s team started working on the console, codenamed “brown box”, in 1966 and completed a prototype in 1968. I wasn’t even remotely alive when the Odyssey was on the market, so my experience with the console is limited to a few brief and clumsy plays of Ski at various Midwest Gaming Classic conventions.
The Odyssey had interchangeable cartridges that were purchased individually, much like more modern consoles, and also included an overlay for the television. Since it was unable to generate graphics necessary for the games itself, it would instead use the TV overlay to create the playfield and dots or lines would be the only true visual created by the console. Each cartridge would trigger jumpers in the console to generate the desired images or items on the screen. Some games would also include dice and various other items, creating a virtual board game of sorts. One of the most popular among the Odyssey titles was of course Pong, which was actually named Tennis on the console. Unfamiliarity with a device of this sort and co-branding with Magnavox stores created a public perception that the Odyssey would only work with Magnavox televisions, which wasn’t true.