Hello dear friends! After the break, I again return to writing and publishing articles in my column, sunk into oblivion. This time I begin a cycle devoted to generations of gaming systems, in other words, generations of game consoles. As part of this cycle, articles will be published in which information will be given on the generation as a whole and on any particular gaming device that played a significant role in shaping the appearance of the generation.
In today's article, you will learn how it turned out that the bulk of the first-generation game consoles are named after the second console in the world, about how people played a few games and much more.
I ask for a cut! :)
Television has always provided the population of a country with some kind of content that was previously shot, edited and prepared for display to the general public by different people - employees of the television network or television channel. Some people prepared material for others. The population watched the programs, and people could not change the broadcasting order, replace the programs, or at least reproduce on the screen the image that they want. They could not interact with the TV and perform any actions with it. They could switch channels and watch programs. Due to such limitations, the idea of interactive television arose.
Engineer Ralph Baer was working on a TV for Loral when he came up with the idea of interactive TV. Already in 1966, Baer presented his new leadership (he transferred to Sanders Associations as chief engineer) the video game Chase, the meaning of which was as follows: on the TV are displayed two points controlled by the players. One player must chase another. Everything. Yes, yes, this is the whole point of one of the first video games. Well, after the presentation of the game to management, Baer was able to obtain financial support for the development of the idea. A certain Bill Harrison, who developed the platform, and also made a light gun, also connected to it. For those who don’t know or simply don’t remember, I’ll explain that a light gun is a device made in the form of a weapon that detects light signals to determine if a player has hit a target or missed. In addition to Bill Harrison, Bill Rush also joined Baer. This team created a machine that was used to create several games, including ping pong. In general, ping-pong is one of the simplest games to implement, as well as one of the first games transferred from life to electronics.
Baer understood that his developments could bring good money, and therefore decided to sell it to enterprises that specialized in providing cable TV to the population. In one of these, Teleprompter, Baer went. He demonstrated his achievements to the then Vice-President of Teleprompter Hubert Schlafi, who appreciated the development. The result of these 1968 negotiations was an agreement between Teleprompter and Sanders Associations. This agreement contributed to the fruitful work on the gaming system, and already in 1968-1969 the first prototype was created, which was called the “Brown Box”. The “box” had two controllers + a light gun, as well as 16 games, between which you could freely switch.
Ralph Baer could only find a company that would engage in the commercial production of consoles. He negotiated with several companies. As a result of negotiations, there was one company that began production and production of Brown Box game consoles under the commercial name Odyssey. The company was called Magnavox, and therefore the full official name of the console was Magnavox Odyssey. The final version was built on 40 discrete transistors and 40 diodes, in connection with which many collectors call the prefix analog. However, Baer himself considers the console to be digital, because it works on binary diode-transistor logic, although the components of the device are discrete.
I already mentioned this console in the first article
about the forgotten first-born, in particular, I said that the device was able to display on the user's screen two points controlled by players, plus one point “ball”, as well as a vertical bar in the middle of the screen. There was no sound, but the games themselves were supplied on cartridges. I note that the games themselves were not stored in the memory of the cartridge. The cartridge had jumpers that connected different signal generators in the console itself to display the game itself on TVs.
Magnavox Odyssey Autographed by Ralph Baer
Although Magnavox Odyssey was the first gaming system in the world, it was not the first to be sold. An interesting fact is that the notorious Nintendo company also sold this console, but already in Japan, for a simple reason - they did not have such developments yet. Although, Nintendo later appeared on the game console - Color TV Game. This console came out later than anyone else in the world, among the devices of the first generation, however, it was sold best of all.
The main game consoles of the first generation:
- Magnavox Odyssey (+ many modifications that were sold separately and included in the general Magnavox Odyssey line), 1972-1975; sold 330,000 pcs.
- Atari Pong (+ many modifications), 1975; sold 150,000 pcs.
- Coleco Telstar , 1976, 1977 (Japan); 1 million units sold
- Nintendo Color TV Game 1977 (Japan); 3 million units sold
Although the first console was the Magnavox Odyssey, first-generation consoles are also called Pong-type consoles. The cheapest prefix of the above was Coleco Telstar - its price was 50 US dollars (maybe at that time). Interestingly, if you recalculate the cost of Color TV Game for today's dollars, you get an impressive size range - from $ 100 to $ 594.
Top to bottom: Coleco Telstar, Nintendo Color TV Game
I already said that the first-generation consoles are otherwise called pong-type consoles. But what kind of prefix is it and how does it stand out so much? I want to tell about this.
Pong Home Version
It all started with the fact that the programmer Allan Alkorn listened to the advice of comrade Nolan Bushnell. He decided to implement a simple game - table tennis. Bushnell offered him an idea based on a game from Magnavox Odyssey. After some time, a lawsuit from Magnavox followed, but this is not the story I am talking about.
Classic Pong Assault Rifle
It is generally accepted that Allan Alkorn, Nolan Bushnell, and Ted Dubni founded Atari in order to sell arcade machines with the Pong game - the same game that Alcorn wrote in order to just practice programming. They created a company and tried their hand at business. Having created a simple slot machine from a TV, a device with a game and a coin cup, they installed it in one of the local institutions (1972). After they saw the popularity of the slot machine, they decided to establish mass production. The success of Pong was so great that the company decided to transfer the game from the arcade machine directly to the player’s house - this is how the project of home Pong appeared. Released in 1975, it was a great success at the time, and also spawned a myriad of consoles like it. They all had similar controls (such as a paddle, an English wheel. The wheel rotated in both directions and was the only way to move a controlled point on the screen), worked on similar logic, and even looked similar in appearance. For most Pong-type consoles, the controllers were attached directly to the device case (including the original set-top box).
The gameplay of home (bottom) and regular (top) Pong
An interesting fact is that due to the fact that in 1974 the demand for Magnavox Odyssey fell, shops and large chains did not accept Pong, because they were afraid to suffer serious losses, because they considered this idea a failure. After concluding a contract between Atari and Sears, mass sales of the device began. Sales were so successful that some people stood in line for several hours, waiting for their console. 1976-1977 are interesting in that Atari produces several modifications at once, both under its own brand and under the Sears brand. At the end of the console’s life cycle, consoles focused on racing and pinball began to appear. In 1977, the release of these consoles ceased, as Atari was already preparing to introduce a second-generation console.
Allan Alcorn. The man who changed the world by simple practice.
That's all for today, dear friends! I hope this issue was informative for you and you learned something new for yourself.
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Until the next release!