Magnavox Odyssey

By On 10 May, 2011 At 08:38 PM | Categorized As Classic | With 6 Comments

 

Magnavox Odyssey

After the rejection by the military of Raplh Baer’s idea, Baer would spend several years covertly trying to obtain the legal rights to commercially reproduce the game machine he helped design at Sanders Associates in 1966.Eventually the Pentagon became disinterested in the “TV Game” project, and Baer was allowed to pursue the prospect openly.  He approached Teleprompter, RCA, Zenith, General Electric, and Magnavox. A deal was struck with RCA, but later fell through because it involved the purchasing of Sanders Associates by RCA. 

Then in 1970 Bill Enders, who had been a part of the RCA negotiating team, joined Magnavox and persuaded the Magnavox executives to give Baer’s system a chance. The result of this was the production of the Magnavox Odyssey, the first home video game system available to non-military personnel.

The Odyssey had over three hundred seperate parts. It came with hand controls, dice, playing cards, and play money. Plastic overlays which were placed onto the screen by the consumer, provided color playing fields for the various games. The system came preprogrammed with twelve games that utilized all of the aforementioned equipment.

While it could not compete with the Pong units that would be released soon after, the Odyssey did have a very impressive first year, selling over 100,000 units at $100 each.

The real cause for the popularity of the Pong units over the Odyssey was not because of the marketing prowess of competing companies, but rather the creation of low cost LSI (Large Scale Integrated) circuits. These circuits were designed primarily for tennis, hockey, and other Pong-eqsue game mechanics. The low cost LSI’s would allow the market to be flooded by Pong knock-offs.

 

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  1. Mike B says:

    I’d just like to comment that I own one of the Magnovox Odyssey’s. It’s still in perfect condition and to this day is entertaining to look back and see how it all started.

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  2. Jt august says:

    The way games were changed on the system is not entirely complete in the above text. While the overlays must be put on the screen by the player (held in place with a few drops of water on the side that contacts the TV screen), a wafer card must also be plugged in. This card effectively alters the internal wiring of the machine so that the ICs inside it interact differently, producing varied output on the screen.
    The machine produces no sounds and the video signal is white blocks and/or bars; no colour or shades of gray.

    Rules and scoring for all games are handled by the players. This allows for players to cheat, and from
    personal experience I can state that cheating does inprove the enjoyability of some of the games (particularly
    in party situations).

    A few accessory game packages were sold for the system. Some included additional game cards forthe machine, others only provided screen overlays and table top pieces. The best known of these packages
    is the Shooting Gallery. It consists of two cards, some overlays, and a toy rifle (very realistic looking) that
    has to be cocked before it can shoot. Due to the rudimentary technology of the time, the cheat point for this unit is to point the gun at any light. The optic sees a light and blanks the dot from the screen.

    In some collectors circles, it is suspected that less than 5,000 Odysseys still exist of the original 100,000
    (with only a small portion still being complete packages), and significantly fewer Shooting Galleries still exist. From personal experience, I can state that three people I have known who had Odysseys back “in the day” simply threw theirs away, meaning that those three packages no longer exist. In the 70’s and early 80’s, few thought that anyone would ever want this stuff ever again.

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  3. Kevin Sullivan says:

    Recently, I found my magnavox games in the cellar of my parents home. As I recall, I had trouble with the controller back in 1972, and sent it back to magnavox. I do still have unopened games. I’ll have to look again to see which ones they are (one was wipeout, another was football). All the accessories are in the boxes. Are they a collectors item without the controller?
    Also, thanks for the memories – I am familiar with the Sanders story, as I worked there as a tech writer in the early eighties.

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  4. Hardy says:

    I own a odyssey-console, but made by philips, who knows something about that???

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  5. Josh Brown says:

    I have an old Odyssey and I can e-mail you a pic if you want. Well here is what I know: It was released in 1972 for a retail price of $99.99. Frank Sinatra showed the system to the public in 1973. Magnavox only sold 100,000 units and then discontinued it. The Odyssey came packaged with the core system (operated off of 6 D batteries), two bulky controllers, six chip cards when put into the system turned it on and allowed certain things to be controled by your dot on the screen. Other chip cards could be mailed away for (including a light rifle). The chips were only numbered up to 14 with 11 & 12 being the most rare. Color was simulated on the screen via plastic overlays that stayed by either tape or static electricity. There were two sets of overlays one set for floor model televisions and the other for TVs you could “carry around”. The collector value of a Magnavox Odyssey is $100 for one that is complete with everything it was packaged with (including poker chips, cards, etc.) and one can be worth $200 or more if it is in the box.

    Well, if you have any questions regarding this item let me know. My Odyssey is one of about 10 that I know to exist and one of about 4 that are completed with everything. All of my information was gathered into my memory about a year ago and I know not of who some of it can be credited.

    Sincerely,
    Josh Brown (VideoGameNut)

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  6. Christopher Nesbitt says:

    Yes I have an orignal oddessey my father game to me. I use to play it all the time especially
    games like miner 49er and other games I still have it in the suit case box it came in also. I have
    lots of the games and it all still works. My question is how much do people pay for the oddeseys
    in very good condition and the games , joysticks, etc. I’m just trying to see how much they are
    worth now a days. Do you know any web sites that sell them or any of them games. If so please
    email me this information. Thank You. Sincerley, A new classic video game collector

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