Updated: Feb 7
Tis I, once more. Your e’er humble Chairman~
Today, I come before you bearing the standard of the first generation of home consoles.
And none bark commands louder than the original bad boy himself:
The Magnavox Odyssey!
So let’s waste none more the time; and get straight down to business shall we?~
In the Beginning
Back in 1966, a gentleman by the name of Ralph Baer sat at his desk, dreaming of a time in which gaming could be enjoyed from the comfort of ones couch. The very idea of an at-home ‘console’ before this was entirely unheard of.
In fact, previous to this– The only electronic gaming available was in the form of mainframe games, developed specifically for the giant, room-sized computers that bear the same name. Typically of course, these could only found in giant rooms locked away in various academic or research institutes.
Luckily though, he’d managed to garner the support of his employers at the time– allowing him to develop several prototypes for his ideas.
Like this guy– The “Brown Box”
Seen above, the Brown Box was actually the seventh prototype developed, and the only one to be shown to Magnavox in ’69.
It was a lukewarm reception from the big wigs, and was almost flushed entirely, if not for the tenacity of, at the time Vice President of Marketing, Gerry Martin. Martin had agreed to produce the console, though it would be another two years of negotiations before any contracts would be signed, making it official.
It would not be long after, that Magnavox itself was tinkering with the ex- and in- ternals of the machine, bringing us the Odyssey we know today.
To Ping, or not to Pong
Now that we know some of history of this stone-age relic, let’s peer a little deeper into what it was capable of, mm?
To be honest? Not a lot.
The significant innovation here, was the ability to connect a device to ones TV, and actually control what happens on it. Before this; people were subject to whatever whims the broadcast companies felt at the time.
So you can imagine how big a deal it was at the time, for some white dots to be moving along a black background at your command! But how did they manage to make different experiences with such a simple method of display?
To answer that, I’ll remind you all of my post on the Intellivision, wherein I described a series of overlays that would fit onto the Intellivision’s controllers… The Odyssey had something similar, you see– except that the overlays would be placed on your television screen!
Yeah, these thingies.
Additionally– the Odyssey came packaged with a slew of standard ‘boardgame’ fare like dice, play-money and game boards in general. The idea here being that whatever was displayed on your television would suppliment the game you were playing on your tabletop.
This combination of included materials and white-on-black pixels made 28 different titles available to the public, including the first iteration of Pong– though birthing a lawsuit with Atari.
Theres cause and effect for you~
In the end– there isn’t a whole lot more to say about the Odyssey. Save for the fact that without it, there would likely be no Xbox One.
No Playstation 4..
No Nintendo Switch…
Well perhaps that’s a bit of a stretch– I’ve a feeling if Mr. Baer never took that first leap, someone else surely would have– but regardless. I’m glad he did.
The year is now 2018, and the electronic gaming industry is one of THE largest forms of entertainment available today.
And as far as im concerned– theres but one man to thank.