Have you ever heard of the Magnavox Odyssey? I actually had not until a few years ago when I got into studying video game history. The weird part is, I had always thought Atari had made the first home video game console. Well I was wrong, the Odyssey was conceived years before Atari hit the shelves. Though somehow it has avoided the long-lasting popularity and nostalgia for many, despite the enormous impact it has had on the gaming industry as a whole.
The system was based on a prototype designed by Ralph Baer, who came up with the idea for the video game system. Naturally, given the limitations of technology at the time, the system could only produce the most minor of graphics. Though they found a brilliant workaround for this, which involved placing overlays directly on to one’s TV set, this along with being able to adjust the speed of the and position of the lines on the screen allowed for a large variety of games. The system also came with supplementary game pieces, such as play money.
The system had 12 games, could use two controllers and a light gun. Which honestly, displays how far the designers went to make sure the system got plenty of use. Sure light guns were used in arcade games but having usable with the first home game system is pretty neat.
Sadly, it was not all fun and games as some lawsuit issues came up with several companies including Atari who had picked up popularity with its Pong game. A game heavily influenced by the Odyssey’s tennis game. Despite the conflict, the Odyssey went strong until 1975 and had several successor consoles.