Magnavox Odyssey

This is the Magnavox Odyssey. Put on the market in 1972, it was the very first home video game system. There are no chips in it, and it doesn't use programmable cartridges. The system was normally powered by six C cell batteries, though an optional power adapter was available. The purchaser received playing cards, dice, poker chips, and other things more normally associated with board games. Scores had to be kept on paper.

Image: The Odyssey

The Odyssey only generates white dots or blocks on the television. To give the games some sort of setting, plastic screens (called overlays) are stuck to the television using static cling. Eleven different overlays came with the Odyssey, in two sizes each. The smaller set was for 18-inch to 21-inch screens, the larger set fit 23-inch to 25-inch screens.

Included overlays were for Tennis, Football, Hockey, Ski, Submarine (shown here), Cat and Mouse, Haunted House, Analogic, Roulette, States, and Simon Says. Table Tennis did not use an overlay.

Image: Game Overlay

Included with the Odyssey were six Game Cards. These are the equivalent of cartridges, but they don't include any components. All they do is make connections between the pins of the Game Card Slot. These Game Cards also acted as the power switch for the Odyssey - if there is a card in the slot, the power is on.

Image: Game Wafer

Each game card may be used for multiple games, depending on the screen overlay and the rules in the rule book. Game Card #1 is used for Table Tennis. Game Card #2 is used for Ski and Simon Says. Game Card #3 is used for Tennis, Football (for passing and kicking plays), Hockey, and Analogic. Game Card #4 is used for Football (for running plays), Cat and Mouse, and Haunted House. Game Card #5 is used for Submarine. Game Card #6 is used for Roulette and States.

As unusual as the Odyssey itself are its Player Controls. Each unit shipped with two of these strange looking contraptions. On the right hand side of the box, is the knob that controls vertical movement. On the left are the knobs that control horizontal movement (larger knob) and "English" (smaller knob). On top is the Reset button. These controls were used differently for different games, and both had to be used, positioned front-to- back, to play Submarine.

Image: Game Controller

[Hrothgar's Cool Old Junk Page] 1998-05-24