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Ralp H. Baer Brown Box Prototype Screenshots
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Ralp H. Baer Brown Box Prototype
Completed in 1968
This machine paved the way for the video games of today. In 1967, Ralph Baer and his colleagues at Sanders Associates, Inc. developed a prototype for the first multiplayer, multiprogram video game system. Since Sanders hoped to license the technology for a commercial venture, Baer understood that the games had to be fun or investors and consumers would not be interested. In an oral history interview, Ralph Baer recalled “The minute we played ping-pong, we knew we had a product. Before that we weren’t too sure.”

Originally called TV Game Unit #7, much like the "Pump Unit" before it, it became far better known by its nickname, “The Brown Box.” The name comes from the brown wood-grain, self-adhesive vinyl used to make the prototype look more attractive to potential investors. The "Brown Box," though only a prototype, had basic features that most video games consoles still have today: two controls and a multigame program system. The "Brown Box" could be programmed to play a variety of games by flipping the switches along the front of the unit, as can be seen in the picture. Program cards were used to show which switches needed to be set for specific games.

Brown Box games included ping-pong, checkers, four different sports games, target shooting with the use of a lightgun and a golf putting game, which required the use of a special attachment. Sanders licensed the Brown Box to Magnavox, which released the system as the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972.


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Magnavox Odyssey Screenshots
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Magnavox Odyssey
Released August 1972
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 also lack sound capability (hence a silent console), which was not uncommon in early PONG systems of that era.

The Odyssey was released in May 1972. While it did not perform badly, it did not take long before it 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.


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Magnavox Odyssey 100 Screenshots
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Magnavox Odyssey 100
Released October 1975
The Odyssey 100 was an analog system which used four Texas Instruments chips. It did not use cartridges and played two games: TENNIS and HOCKEY. A simple switch selected the games, and the system was either powered by six batteries, or by an AC adaptor (such power supplies were widely used by other systems).

The Odyssey 100 was very basic and didn't have the common features of the million-seller PONG systems of the next years. The knobs were fixed: there were no detachable controllers yet. There was no digital on-screen scoring: the players marked their score using two little plastic cursors on the system. The serve couldn't be changed: it was automatic. This could seem strange compared to the first Atari PONG systems which already had digital on-screen scoring. In fact, this was just a question of technology. On-screen scoring would have required additional components, which would have increased the cost of the system. Nevertheless, on-screen scoring was added in later systems although the first attempts used archaic graphics. The first Magnavox system to offer digital on-screen was the Odyssey 300 in 1976.


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Magnavox Odyssey 200 Screenshots
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Magnavox Odyssey 200
Released October 1975
Still in 1975, Magnavox released an improved version of the Odyssey 100: the Odyssey 200. It was same as the Odyssey 100 but with two additional chips from Texas Instruments, which added a third game called SMASH and some on-screen scoring. The Odyssey 200 could be played by two or four players (first system to offer this feature), and displayed very basic on-screen scoring using small rectangles (it still had the two plastic cursors to record the scores). Each time a player marked a point, his white rectangle would shift on the right. The winner was obviously the first whose rectangle would reach the rightmost position on the screen. Although the scores were not yet digital, the Odyssey 200 remained more advanced than the first home version of Atari PONG because it played three different games for two or four players.

1975 marked the beginning of a long history. Both Atari and Magnavox released their systems, and more advanced ones were to come.


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Atari PONG Screenshots
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Atari PONG
Released January 1976
In 1973, after the success of the original PONG coin-op, an Atari engineer by the name of Harold Lee came up with the idea of a home PONG unit. Since the PONG coin-op that Alan Alcorn designed was nothing more than the game board connected to an actual television set, he thought it would be possible to scale it down a bit and modify it for use at home. This would be a new direction for the fledgling Atari consumer electronics. If they could pull it off, they would be one of the pioneers of using high tech custom integrated circuits in the consumer industry.

In 1975 it was decided Sears would sell PONG under it's own specially created Tele-Games label, and production was initially projected at 50,000 units. This was soon raised to 150,000 for the 1975 Christmass season. Atari agreed to give Sears exclusive rights for the following year, and would continue to make custom Tele-Games versions for any future consoles. This was the beginning of a long relationship between Atari and Sears, which would continue even after Nolan Bushnell sold Atari to Warner.


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APF TV Fun Model 401 Screenshots
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APF TV Fun Model 401
Released April 1976
The APF TV Fun is a series of early Pong clone consoles manufactured by APF Electronics Inc. and built in Japan starting in 1976. The systems were among the first built on the General Instruments 'Pong on a chip', the AY-3-8500, that allowed many manufacturers to compete against the Atari home pong.

The model 401 and 401a features four built in games, a built in speaker, and two controller knobs, Toggle Switches (choices are "Professional" and "Amateur") for the following settings - Angle / Bat Size / Ball Speed. There are 2 buttons - Power and Start Game, and a dial to select between the four built-in games.

The TV Fun package is the first excursion of APF into the video game market, APF was formerly a calculator and other small electronics developer. It was sold at Sears under the name Hockey Jockari. TV Fun was followed up by the 8 bit MP 1000 and then APF Imagination Machine beginning in 1979. These were made to compete in the 2nd generation of early ROM cartridge consoles, namely the Atari VCS.


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Magnavox Wonder Wizard 7702 Screenshots
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Magnavox Wonder Wizard 7702
Released June 1976
The Wonder Wizard Model 7702 was sold in 1976 and contains a Magnavox Odyssey 300 circuit board housed into a derivate of the 1972 Odyssey case. The bottom part of the case is identical, only the top differs and was made in two versions: one with silver knobs and woodgrain only in the section containing the "Wonder Wizard" name, and one (as pictured) with black knobs and woodgrain everywhere.

Like Odyssey 300, this system used a 3-position switch to choose one of three predefined combinations of difficulties, avoiding the need to change the ball speed, ball angle and bat size separately. Few systems used this design and most others used individual skill level switches.


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Coleco Telstar Screenshots
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Coleco Telstar
Released August 11, 1976 for $50.00
Telstar, Coleco's first video game system, was released in 1976 and played only three games with three difficulty levels. It was the first system to use GI's AY-3-8500 chip and was a real success: over a million units were sold.

The AY-3-8500 chip played six games with more difficulty levels, and the games could also be played in color. It was pretty obvious that Coleco would release more systems. At least 15 different games were released in two years with the only differences between the "pong" systems being the number of games, the way the difficulty levels were used, and the type of pictured (color or black and white).

An amazing detail is the way Coleco packed their video game systems, they were sold partially assembled. The systems were electronically ready to play, but the users had to put on the knobs and stick the decorative stickers on the plastic case. So far, only Coleco is known to have released their systems this way. It is believed that this was done to save on assembling costs.


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Fairchild Channel F Screenshots
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Fairchild Channel F
Released August 1976
The Channel F was the first programmable video game system, having plug-in cartridges containing ROM and microprocessor code rather than dedicated circuits. Not a very popular or entertaining system, it was nonetheless important at the time for having a number of original features which were copied by later more successful systems.

Fairchild released twenty-six different cartridges for the system, with up to four games being on each cartridge. The games included sports, such as Hockey, Tennis and Baseball, educational, such as Maths Quiz, board games, such as Checkers, and shooting games, such as Space War. The cartridges had labels that contained the game instructions on them and each were given a sequential number. In this respect Fairchild started a trend in trying to boost game sales by numbering them and so appealing to consumers who wanted to complete their collection.

The Channel F console's popularity lowered when the Atari released their VCS in 1977 as the VCS had much better graphics, games and sound.


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Coleco Telstar Classic Screenshots
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Coleco Telstar Classic
Released September 14, 1976 for $50.00
The Telstar video game console produced by Coleco first went on sale in 1976. It was a video tennis game similar to Pong. With a price of $50, budget minded consumers loved it. Coleco sold over 1,000,000 units in 1976.

Released the same year as the original Telstar, the Telstar Classic unit was essentially the same as the Telstar. It simply added a classic 1970's wood grain case to it. This unit allowed 3 games (Tennis, Hockey, Handball) and 3 different skill levels.

In the Christmas season of 1977, nine new designs of the Telstar were released, each of them doing virtually the same thing. It was labeled "Video Sports" with four different games, all of them PONG games. During it's life span, Coleco had produced about nine different variations of their machine and tossed about one million 'obsolete' machines.


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Magnavox Odyssey 300 Screenshots
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Magnavox Odyssey 300
Released October 1976
The Odyssey 300 dedicated console was released in 1976. Unlike Magnavox's previous two dedicated console products, the Odyssey 300 was meant to compete directly with the Coleco Telstar. Like the Telstar, the Odyssey 300 uses the AY-3-8500 chip as its logic and was among the first dedicated consoles to use a single IC chip as the focus of its design rather than multiple computer chips or transistor-transistor logic. The 300 has the same three games as the Odyssey 200; unlike the 200, the Odyssey 300 console has three difficulty levels: Novice, Intermediate and Expert.

Magnavox used several Texas Instruments chips, each having a special function (collision detection, on-screen scoring, etc). Atari had the advantage of using the first chips often called "PONG in a chip", but the chips were not available to other manufacturers. Each different Atari system used a special chip. Of course, a few discrete components interfaced the chip to the system (video modulator, player controls, etc). These chips replaced most of the numerous components used in analog and digital systems. Although Atari chips were a smart design, the idea of integrating complex circuits into a single chip was a common idea at that time, and other video game manufacturers would soon release their own video game chips.


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Magnavox Odyssey 400 Screenshots
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Magnavox Odyssey 400
Released November 1976
The Odyssey 400 dedicated console was released in 1976. The 400 is essentially the same as the Odyssey 200 with automatic serve and on-screen digital scoring features added. The console plays the same three games as the 200 and has the same three game control knobs. An additional Texas Instruments chip was used to implement on-screen scoring.

Like the Odyssey 100 and 200, the Odyssey 400 used the same three knobs to move the bats and control the "English" effect on the ball.


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Sears Tele-Games Super Pong IV Screenshots
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Sears Tele-Games Super Pong IV
Released November 1976
During the 1975 Christmas season, Atari released a home version of Pong exclusively through Sears retail stores. It was also a commercial success and led to numerous copies. This is the Sears version of Atari’s Super Pong and was in fact manufactured by Atari in Sunnyvale California. 1-4 players use wired paddle controllers in four events: Pong/Super Pong, Catch, Basketball, and Handball.

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Atari Super PONG Screenshots
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Atari Super PONG
Released November 1976
Atari's sales of the Home PONG console were phenomenal to put it mildly. Atari would continue to cash in of the PONG franchise by releasing yet another home version of one of its arcade game assets. This time it would be Super PONG. Now home players could select for 4 different variations of PONG games to delight and entertain them for countless hours.

Meanwhile numerous knock-off PONG-type consoles were hitting the market. However, because of Atari's now well known presence in the coin-op market, its name recognition helped it stand out. Also Atari's unusual Pedestal design helped Atari stand out in the Sears Retail Stores as well as other stores who were now carrying Atari products.

When compared to the plethora of bland and boxy "Me-Too" consoles by so many other companies, the Atari PONG line of consoles simply stood out. Atari's consoles had eye catching rainbow colors and a deep and ear catching PONG sound from their built in speaker. Most other consoles were still far behind playing catch up with Black & White displays, flimsy controllers and some even without sound.


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Magnavox Odyssey 500 Screenshots
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Magnavox Odyssey 500
Released December 1976
The Odyssey 500 was also released in 1976, and was very advanced for that time considering the technology used. It was in fact the only system of its kind. As a matter of fact, the white paddles representing the players were replaced by simple color graphics: two tennis players with their rackets (TENNIS game), two squash players (SQUASH), or two hockey players holding their sticks (HOCKEY).

Magnavox released the Odyssey 2000, 3000 and 4000 in 1977. The Odyssey 5000 was planned but never released. It was designed to play 24 games (7 different types) for two or four players. The Odyssey 4000 was the last PONG system released by Magnavox.


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Atari Super Pong Ten Screenshots
Atari Super Pong Ten
Released December 1976
The Atari Super Pong 10 added 6 new variations of games, plus the ability for up to 4 players to participate in the games. Atari would introduce something entirely new for their home console line. The addition of hand held external Paddle controllers. Video game players were no longer bound to sit up close to the console, bumping elbows with their fellow gamers. Now two additional players could sit with some comfortable space between them and play the various Pong games.

The Paddle controllers would introduce a shape and a trend that would follow into many other generations of controllers throughout Atari's designs. Their wedged shape design would influence Atari controller design for consoles such as the unreleased Atari 2700 remote control joysticks, the Atari 5200 joysticks and the Atari 7800 ProSystem joysticks. All of the controllers having the same basic wedged shaped design.


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Atari Game Brain Screenshots
Atari Game Brain
Released January 1977
The Atari Game Brain was an unreleased dedicated video game console by Atari. Intended to be released in 1977, it would only have played 10 different games. All of the planned games would have been ports of games from all of Atari's previously released dedicated consoles, such as Pong, Stunt Cycle, & Video Pinball. Its controllers were built onto the system, and included 4 directional buttons, a paddle, and a fire button. Games would be inserted in the top of the system by opening a door, and the door had a small instructions booklet on top of it.

The system was never supposed to be a huge seller for Atari. Instead, the system was just their way of clearing out their CPUs from their unsold dedicated consoles. Unfortunately by the time the Game Brain was finished, dedicated consoles were becoming obsolete against consoles with programmable ROMs, such as the already released Fairchild Channel F, the RCA Studio 2, and Atari's own 2600. Noting this, Atari cancelled the Game Brain. Today, only 3 Game Brain consoles are known to exist, as well as 5 prototype cartridges.


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Coleco Telstar Ranger Screenshots
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Coleco Telstar Ranger
Released January 1977
The 2nd Telstar model to be released in 1977 was the Telstar Ranger (model 6046). It came with 6 games, two paddle controllers and a gun.

The games included were the standard PONG games which the AY-3-8500 was programmed for i.e. Tennis, Squash, Soccer, Practice and two gun games. This was the first Telstar released to have a completely different design from the original. It was also the first to include detachable controllers.


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RCA Studio II Screenshots
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RCA Studio II
Released January 1977
RCA could not accept the fact that they let the Odyssey slip through there fingers (Ralph Baer the designer of Odyssey approached RCA with the deal first), and into the hands of there TV rival Magnavox. The RCA Studio II was their answer to the Magnavox Odyssey. Released in 1976 a few months after the release of the Fairchild Channel F, it would have been the first programmable console (Fairchild beat them to the release gate).

The console was doomed from the start. The lack of a color display and control paddles made the unit old and dated. With only 8 games released, the Studio II suffered the same fate as Channel F. Overshadowed and rendered obsolete by the Atari VCS / 2600

The RCA Studio II should have been a color console, a few games were designed for color, but the video output of the console was black & white. A Studio II clone released in the UK called The Sheen M1200 was released in 1978, and produced PAL color with RCA Studio II games and was a more successful unit.


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Atari Video Pinball Screenshots
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Atari Video Pinball
Released February 1977
In 1977, Video Pinball appeared as another Atari coin-op to stand-alone home console translation by bringing the game Breakout to home players. Offered first in the late 1970's Atari "first edition release" standard wood grain (also to be used on the Atari 2600) and then a second edition white molded plastic model. Bumper controllers on the sides or a dial on the front were used to control the games depending on the game selected. There were three game types - Pinball, Basketball, and Breakout.

Interestingly enough, Atari did follow up with an actual Video Pinball coin-op, two years after the release of their home console. It was a unique hybrid between video game and pinball technology that still has not been duplicated to this day. While some before and after tried using the video game part as a game within the game or simply to display unique animations (such as Baby Pacman, or the more recent Star Wars pinball hologram effect model), this was the first to actually use both technologies as an integral part of the game play.


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APF TV Fun Model 405 Screenshots
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APF TV Fun Model 405
Released February 1977
The APF TV Fun is a series of early Pong clone consoles manufactured by APF Electronics Inc. and built in Japan starting in 1976. The systems were among the first built on the General Instruments 'Pong on a chip', the AY-3-8500, that allowed many manufacturers to compete against the Atari home pong.

The TV Fun package is the first excursion of APF into the video game market, APF was formerly a calculator and other small electronics developer. It was sold at Sears under the name Hockey Jockari. TV Fun was followed up by the 8 bit MP 1000 and then APF Imagination Machine beginning in 1979. These were made to compete in the 2nd generation of early ROM cartridge consoles, namely the Atari VCS.

The TV Fun Model 405 offerd 4 games, Tennis, Football, Squash and Squash Practice.


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Atari Stunt Cycle Screenshots
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Atari Stunt Cycle
Released March 1977
All the thrills and chills of real stunt motorcycle riding right in your home living room, so much fun Evil Knievel must have had one! (Well... maybe). Stunt Cycle originally was an Atari arcade coin-op, then made into a stand-alone console shown here.

The original coin-op had been released in 1975 to take advantage of the then popular motorcycle stunt man Evel Knievel. Originally a motorcycle salesman who began doing stunts to draw attention to his store, by the early 70's he was a household name. Atari's coin-op attempted to capture the feel and fun of the stunt jumping Evel Knievel was famous for, and was a mild success.

Stunt Cycle gave the player a first person feel of riding a motorcycle, even though the image on the screen wasn't first person. You could jump cars and buses, if you played with the controls just right you could jump right off the screen, lots of fun!


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Coleco Telstar Combat Screenshots
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Coleco Telstar Combat
Released March 1977
The Coleco Telstar Combat! game was released in 1977 as a post-Pong dedicated video game console. Unlike Coleco's earlier home Pong games based on the General Instrument AY-3-8500 chip, it used a AY-3-8700 chip. The console was a modest success but due to having too many similar dedicated console products, Coleco nearly went bankrupt in 1980.

Telstar Combat was one of Coleco's attempts to break away from the Pong game video game rut. It's certainly unique, no other company manufactured a dedicated console with such elaborate controls. The console plays four variations of a tank battle game, very similar to the Atari 2600 Combat game cartridge.


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Atari Video Pinball Model 2 Screenshots
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Atari Video Pinball Model 2
Released April 1977
This is the later (beige) version of the Atari Video Pinball game console. It basically played the same games as the earlier (wood grain) version. The Pinball and Basketball games in this version were slightly updated.

Atari eventually released their Video Pinball as a cartridge game for their 2600 VCS system.


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Coleco Telstar Alpha Screenshots
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Coleco Telstar Alpha
Released April 1977
Coleco cashed in on the Pong craze in a big way. They managed to grab a huge share of the early home video game market partly through good marketing (their original Telstar console was half the price of Atari's Pong) and partly through good luck (Coleco was the only company that got their full shipment of the popular microchip that everyone used to manufacture their home Pong systems in late 1976).

The Telstar Alpha (model 6030) was released in 1977. It is a classic from Coleco, and uses the AY-3-8500 game chip. The system plays 4 games in three difficulty levels. It is the successor of the three older models (Telstar, Telstar Classic and Telstar Ranger), and only differs by its case and fourth game (JAI-ALAI, also known as SQUASH).

Like the first Telstar, this system was sold in large quantities as it was cheap. It was also released in Europe as the "Telstar Alpha Europa".


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Magnavox Odyssey 2000 Screenshots
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Magnavox Odyssey 2000
Released May 1977
While not the first electronic game, the earliest form of an electronic ping-pong game dates back as a game played on an oscilloscope, by William A. Higinbotham at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in 1958. His game was titled Tennis for Two.

In 1977, the Magnavox Odyssey line of PONG games represents the cutting edge of dedicated console technology. The Odyssey 2000, 3000 and 4000 were arguably the most advanced dedicated PONG console systems of the 1970's.


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Magnavox Odyssey 3000 Screenshots
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Magnavox Odyssey 3000
Released June 1977
The Magnavox Odyssey 3000 is another example of the Odyssey line for 1977. It is similar to the 2000 offering the same games in a newly styled, more modern case. The Odyssey 3000 also featured detachable controllers which allowed more freedom when playing. This was not a feature on the Odyssey 2000 model.

Magnavox lead the PONG craze with its Odyssey line of consoles. In three years, the technology had completely changed the PONG universe.


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Magnavox Odyssey 4000 Screenshots
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Magnavox Odyssey 4000
Released August 1977
The Odyssey 4000 was the last PONG system released by Magnavox. The Odyssey 4000 featured 8 exciting games in full color. The console also featured real joysticks like those offered on other console models.

After the Odyssey 4000, Magnavox goes on to release a completely different system known as the Odyssey 2, also known as Videopac in Europe. This system was designed to compete with Atari and Colecovision cartridge based game consoles.


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Atari 2600 (VCS) Screenshots
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Atari 2600 (VCS)
Released October 01, 1977 for $199.00
The Atari 2600, released in 1977, is the first successful video game console to use plug-in cartridges instead of having one or more games built in. It was originally known as the Atari VCS, for Video Computer System, and the name "Atari 2600" (taken from the unit's Atari part number, CX2600) was first used in 1982, after the release of the more advanced Atari 5200.

The initial price was $199 with a library of 9 titles. In a play to compete directly with the Channel F, Atari named the machine the Video Computer System (or VCS for short), as the Channel F was at that point known as the VES, for Video Entertainment System. When Fairchild learned of Atari's naming they quickly changed the name of their system to become the Channel F.

Atari expanded the 2600 family with two other compatible consoles. The Atari 2700, a wireless version of the console was never released due to design flaws. The Sleek Atari 2800 released to the Japanese market in 1983 suffered from competition from the newly-released Nintendo Famicom.


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Coleco Telstar Colortron Screenshots
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Coleco Telstar Colortron
Released February 1978
The Telstar Colortron was released in 1978. It is one of the only systems based around the AY-3-8510 game chip, a derivation of the AY-3-8500. The system offers 4 games instead of 6, but the picture is in color, which is much better. Sound is not unpleasant like on most of the other systems, since it comes from a little piezo beeper which produces a very discrete sound.

The game selection is done using a push-button rather than a switch (easier to use and more robust). Curiously, the system requires two 9V batteries: one for the "video" (the games), and one for the "sound" (maybe the internal circuitry of the piezo beeper).


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Coleco Telstar Arcade Screenshots
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Coleco Telstar Arcade
Released March 1978
The Telstar Arcade is maybe one of the most interesting systems made by Coleco, and also the most advanced PONG system released in America, although it played non-PONG games. Made in a triangular case, the system could play three types of games, each being played on one of the three sides of the case. Obviously, the first side allowed playing PONG games (TENNIS and the like), and the second side allowed playing target shooting games. Nothing very different from most other systems, except the gun storage. The third face was the most interesting: it allowed playing car racing games. Very few systems offering that type of games were released at this time, and the games were only played using rotary controllers or some sort of joysticks.

Coleco used a very uncommon cartridge format: a silver triangular case which connects horizontally on the top of the console. Nothing in common with the other black cartridges with plug vertically. Coleco released only four cartridges. The first one was sold with the system and the others were available separately for the price of $25. Two flyers came with the system to order cartridges #2 and #3.


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Bally Professional Arcade Screenshots
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Bally Professional Arcade
Released April 1978
Released in 1978, the Bally Professional Arcade was video game maker Bally's only entry in to the home console market, complete with typical late 1970's wood grain. The little console from the 70's that just wouldn't die, it enjoyed several rebirths similar to the Fairchild VES Channel F and significant home brew/user following.

In 1972, Bally missed an early entry in to video games, by telling one Mr. Nolan Bushnell they were not interested in his Pong video game. With Pong starting the video game arcade revolution, by 1975 Bally decided to create a video game division called Midway (referred to as Bally/Midway) for the purpose of entering this market.

It was decided to base the new console around the Zilog Z-80 microprocessor. A processor making it's way in to arcade games and fast becoming the processor of choice in the still developing microcomputer movement. The graphics system was to have an advanced display system known as bit mapped graphics. In bit mapped graphics, each pixel of the screen is mapped to a corresponding memory location.


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Coleco Telstar Marksman Screenshots
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Coleco Telstar Marksman
Released April 1978
The Telstar Marksman is a first-generation video game console that featured a light gun. It was released by Coleco in 1978. Because it had manufacturer-set amount of games, it is considered a dedicated console. It was part of a series of Coleco Telstar Pong-based consoles; it is essentially a Telstar Colortron bundled with a 3 in 1 light gun and two shooting games. The Marksman light gun is a pistol that features an attachable stock and barrel. It is similar in this regard to the later-released Stack Light Rifle and the Sega Menacer. The elongated barrel included a simple aiming sight.

In addition to the light gun, the system featured two paddle controllers built directly into the console. Its reported features included on-screen digital scoring and three different difficulty settings (beginner, intermediate, pro). It required two nine-volt batteries or Coleco's Perma Power AC adaptor to power the system.


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Magnavox Odyssey˛ Screenshots
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Magnavox Odyssey˛
Released April 1978
In 1978 Magnavox came out with their second major system, the Odyssey˛, which was totally different than the various Odyssey PONG systems. It was a computer with BASIC programming, but many people regarded it as a home video game console. It came with two controllers, RF switch with TV box, power supply, and the Speedway, Spinout and Cryptologic game cartridge.

The Odyssey˛ was the first home video game console to introduce what was to become the standard joystick design of the 1970s and 80s: a moderately sized black joystick unit, held in the left hand, with an eight-direction stick that was manipulated with the right hand. In the upper corner of the joystick was a single 'Action' button.

The area that the Odyssey˛ may well be best remembered for was its pioneering fusion of board and video games: The Master Strategy Series. The first game released was the instant classic Quest for the Rings!, with game play somewhat similar to Dungeons & Dragons, and a story line reminiscent of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.


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Coleco Telstar Gemini Screenshots
Coleco Telstar Gemini
Released May 1978
1978 saw the release of the Coleco Telstar Gemini, which was totally different from any other Telstar pong system preceding it. Looking like a common pong, it doesn't play the common pong games. This unique system offered 2 shooting games along with 4 pinball games.

This console featured 2 flipper buttons on either side which simulated playing a real pinball machine. There is also a big red button on top which was used to launch the ball in to the play field. The button simulated the real thing, a short tap will shoot the ball out slowly and a long press will shoot the ball out faster.

There were actually two completely different Coleco Gemini systems. The Telstar Gemini shown here is the older and rarer machine. The other is an Atari 2600 clone by Coleco called Gemini. Coleco probably did this to hide it from Atari's lawyer armada. This worked for a while, but soon after the launch of the console Atari unsuccessfully sued Coleco for braking copyright laws.


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APF M-1000 Screenshots
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APF M-1000
Released October 1978
The `APF-M1000` is an early 8-bit cartridge-based game console released in 1978 by APF Electronics Inc. The controllers are non-detachable joysticks which also have numeric keypads. The APF-M1000 can only be used with a color TV and comes built-in with the game `Rocket Patrol`. The APF-M1000 is a part of the APF Imagination Machine.

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Fairchild Channel F System II Screenshots
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Fairchild Channel F System II
Released April 01, 1979 for $99.00
In 1979, a company by the name of Zircon bought all the rights to the Channel F. What they had planned to do with them was not clear until when they released Fairchild's scaled-down model as the $99 Channel F System II. Zircon also licensed it overseas, where it appeared as the Saba Video Play in Germany, the Luxor Video Entertainment System in Sweden, and the Grandstand in Great Britain. The System II model played sounds through the TV set, rather than generating them through an internal speaker (that's right: sounds in the System I model came from the unit itself). Channel F System II also had removable controllers.

By 1978, Fairchild had released 23 games the Channel F, with Zircon chipping in four new titles a couple years later. The games run from single to multi game cartridges, and various options for the games are selected by the 4 main buttons on the front of the console. Probably the weirdest feature of the machine is that the games are started by first turning on the console, then inserting the cartridge, and hitting the reset button.


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Mattel Intellivision Screenshots
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Mattel Intellivision
Released September 1979
After successful test marketing in 1979, Mattel Electronics released its Intellivision system nationwide in late 1980. Armed with twelve games, better graphics and sound than its competitors, and the promise to release a compatible keyboard that would turn the system into a home computer ("Play games and balance your checkbook!"), Mattel set its sights on taking down the "invincible" Atari 2600. They got off to a good start, selling out the first production run of 200,000 Intellivision units quickly.

Many people bought an Intellivision with plans to turn it into a home computer when the keyboard was released. There was a huge marketing campaign behind this (one-third of the back of the Intellivision box was dedicated to the "Under Development" keyboard), but months and then years passed without the keyboard being released. actually, it was released in a few test markets in late '81, but the price was too high and the initial reaction poor. So in 1982, Mattel scrapped plans for the infamous keyboard, but later (due to government pressure), they had to make a computer add-on anyway.


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Atari 400 Screenshots
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Atari 400
Released October 1979
The Atari 400 was announced in December 1978, but didn't actually start shipping until late in 1979. Designed primarily as a computer for children, the Atari 400 has an "advanced child-proof design featuring pressure-sensitive, wipe-clean keyboard". It featured a single cartridge port under the front cover.

The Atari 400 boots-up into "Notepad", the only built-in program. Any other programs will have to run from cassette or cartridge - this includes BASIC, or any other programming language. Game cartridges can be inserted into the cartridge slot in front, starting instantly with no fuss. Many games were versions of actual video arcade hits, others were original or copies of other popular (or not) computer games of the 80's.


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Sears Tele-Games Super Video Arcade Screenshots
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Sears Tele-Games Super Video Arcade
Released November 1979
Mattel marketed their console to a number of retailers as a rebadged unit. This is the Sears Tele-Games Super Video Arcade, and it was functionally identical to the original Intellivision system with two exceptions: the Telegames Super Video Arcade featured detachable hand controllers and did not display the line Mattel Electronics presents on the standard game title screen. This Sears model was a specific coup for Mattel, as Sears was already selling a rebadged Atari 2600 unit, and in doing so made a big contribution to Atari's success.

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APF Imagination Machine Screenshots
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APF Imagination Machine
Released November 05, 1979 for $700.00
The APF Imagination Machine was a combination home video game console and computer system released by APF Electronics Inc. in late 1979. It was composed of two separate components, the APF-M1000 game system, and an add on docking bay with full sized typewriter keyboard and tape drive. The APF-M1000 was built specifically to compete with the Atari 2600. The Imagination Machine has the distinction of being one of, if not the first, affordable home PCs to connect to the television, and is still one of the most expandable consoles ever marketed. The full APF Imagination Machine, including the APF-M1000 console and the IM-1 computer component originally sold for around $700.

Only 15 official game cartridges were ever released by APF Electronics Inc, and 1 cartridge that came with the console, the Basic interpreter; although several game cartridges contained multiple titles. Many games were created by an active programming community of owners and distributed through their monthly newsletter, but these were all released only on tape cassette form, or in some cases, merely as a print out of the code that would have to be typed in if it was not transferred through a copied cassette.


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