The Magnavox Odyssey is the very first video game system. It was released in Fall of 1972 and was designed by Ralph Baer in 1968. The prototype Odyssey (referred to as the "Brown Box") that Baer got to work in 1968 is now in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.
The Odyssey's sales were poor due to bad marketing by Magnavox retail stores and the consumer misconception that the Odyssey only worked on Magnavox televisions.
Magnavox settled or won many court cases against various companies including Nolan Bushnell for eerie resemblance between Bushnell's Pong and Tennis for the Odyssey.
The Odyssey also had the first optical video game light gun, which was made for the Odyssey game Shooting Gallery. However, you would not need to point the light gun at the screen to be successful. It would recognize any light source as the screen. This made it so pointing the gun at any light source would count as a hit.
In total the Odyssey had about 30 games. Most (if not all) of the games were built into the system itself. The system however used cartridges to tell the system which game (or series of games) to play.
Most of the games on the Magnavox bear little resemblance to the games of today. Most of the games were two player only, and consisted almost exclusively of two white blocks on the screen which the players could move via dial controllers. To get around the graphical limitations Magnavox included various overlays with the various carts.
Some examples of Odyssey games include:
A Simon-says type variant where one moves the white block to a part of a body on an overlay of a boy and a girl.
A roulette game where players placed a poker chip on a (physical) numbered sheet, and hope that the white block goes into their desired number on the overlay.
A 50 state educational game where one player would name a state and the other would have to place the white block so it would appear in the state on the overlay
Various shooting games where the white block would appear behind an overlay lighting up various targets.
And many more of that ilk. In fact other than a basic table tennis game (which would later be copied by Atari as "Pong") a majority of the games relied almost as much on the overlay and an imagination as it did on the image appearing on the television.
- Intel 8048 8-bit microcontroller running at 1.79 MHz
- CPU-internal RAM: 64 bytes
- Audio/video RAM: 128 bytes
- BIOS ROM: 1024 bytes
- Intel 8244 custom IC
- 160×200 resolution (NTSC)
- 16-color fixed palette; sprites may only use 8 of these colors
- 14 8×8 single-color user-defined sprites; each sprite's color may be set independently
- 12 8×8 single-color characters; must be one of the 64 shapes built into the ROM BIOS; can be freely positioned like sprites, but cannot overlap each other; each character's color may be set independently
- 4 quad characters; groups of four characters displayed in a row
- 9×8 background grid; dots, lines, or solid blocks
- Intel 8244 custom IC
- 24-bit shift register, clockable at 2 frequencies
- noise generator
- NOTE: There is only one 8244 chip in the system, which performs both audio and video functions.
- Two 8-way, one-button, digital joysticks. In the first production runs of the Magnavox Odyssey and the Philips 7000, these were permanently attached to the console; in later models, they were removable and replaceable.
- QWERTY-layout membrane keyboard
- RF Audio/Video connector
- Péritel/SCART connector (France only)
- ROM cartridges, typically 2 KB, 4 KB, or 8 KB in size.
- Videopac with chess module
- The Voice - provides speech synthesis & enhanced sound effects
- Chess Module - The Odyssey2 didn't have enough memory and computing power for a decent implementation of chess on its own, so the C7010 chess module contained a secondary CPU with its own extra memory to run the chess program.