The Electronic Game of the Future
With Odyssey, you participate in television, you're not just a spectator! The exciting casino action of Monte Carlo, the thrills of Wimbledon, the challenge of ski trails—can all be duplicated right in your own living room.
Devised by pioneering engineer Ralph Baer and developed at defense contractor Sanders Associates, the Magnavox Odyssey was the first dedicated videogame console to attach to a consumer television set. The Odyssey had no microprocessor; instead, it used several independent PCB modules, each governing a particular function, e.g., collision detection, horizontal syncing, player movement, etc. Swappable Game Cards re-routed connections between these modules to produce several gameplay variations. Since the Odyssey could only generate two player spots, a ball, and a center line, Magnavox included a host of accessories to supplement play, including colorful television overlays, dice, poker chips, cards, play money, and game boards.
|Graphics||Two player 'spots,' one ball spot, one center line|
|Input||Two detachable Player Control Units w/ Horizontal, Vertical, and English control knobs and a single Reset button|
The Magnavox Odyssey section of David Winter's Pong Story site has a comprehensive overview of the Odyssey's history, development, and technical specifications, including direct input from Ralph Baer. For those interested in modifying the Odyssey, the site includes details about its internal modules and schematics for the twelve commercial Game Cards.
Since the Odyssey requires no programming knowledge, it has one of the lowest barriers to entry for homebrew design. The biggest constraint is price. Finding a complete, working Odyssey system with all overlays and accessories will require some luck, patience, or several hundred dollars. Obtaining the additional Game Cards (#7-12) is even more difficult.
However, once you acquire a console, there are two possible routes for homebrew design:
Without a console, there is one other design possibility:
Since the Odyssey lacks a microprocessor, it has no programming language. Any 'programming' must be done at the hardware level, i.e., by fabricating or modifying Game Cards or modifying the Odyssey's internal circuits.