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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 Atariís 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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1970s Video Game Consoles | 1980s Video Game Consoles | 1990s Video Game Consoles | 2000 and Beyond
GameConsoles
Top 10 Game Consoles of All Time | 10 Game Consoles That Didn't Catch On | Game Console Clones
GameConsoles
Top Brands:Magnavox | Atari | Coleco | Mattel | Nintendo | Sega | Sony | Microsoft
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