Remembering the Magnavox Odyssey


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/09/14/remembering-the-magnavox-odyss.html


#2

My dad had a Magnavox dealership, so we had all the new toys - including Odyssey! We played Pong on it, mostly, and it had a shooting gallery / gun attachment that was cool. Everything basically was a white square: For Pong, the white square bounced around between two other white squares controlled by the players. For the shooting gallery, the white square just bounced around. “Graphics” were transparencies that stuck to the TV screen via static electricity. For the shooting gallery, you had to align your shot so it hit the white square as it passed through a clear circle on the transparency. There was also a Downhill Ski game that I could never figure out.

Thanks for the memories! :slight_smile:


#3

Reckon it’s hard to be nostalgic for moving a white square around a TV screen. I had some Etch-a-Sketch templates that operated similarly. Good times, those templates.


#4

At least people remember the original Odyssey. I had an Odyssey2 in the late 1970s-early 1980s. This was Magnavox’s answer to the Atari 2600. It had an excellent Pac-Man game called K.C. Munchkin that was actually withdrawn from the market when Atari threatened legal action (they owned the home console rights to Pac-Man although the 2600 version of Pac-Man was infamously awful).


#5

Yup. My introduction to video games was in 1972 at the Magnavox store at the Fremont Hub (Fremont, CA). My parents were shopping for a new color television, and they had one of their floor models hooked up to the Odyssey. This was easily the most exciting thing I had ever seen. I distinctly remember the salesperson telling my dad that the Odyssey only worked on Magnavox sets. We bought a RCA model instead, dashing my hopes to play games on a television… :frowning:

This only briefly delayed my game playing hobby. A few years later I had a Coleco Telstar, and I’ve stayed current with games ever since. The Odyssey literally changed my life.


#6

The Magnavox Odyssey reminds me of a story I like to tell about how clueless I was about video games: I played with the first Mario game at a Seiyo store in Japan for about 15 minutes, then put it down, which may have led me to ignore all non-Atari/Vectrex video games until 1995 (Myst).

As a child I would have been bored by the Odyssey. At least with an Etch-a-Sketch you can use it to actually make something with it, in spite of the terrible interface. It took the Atari and an adventure game to hook me.

Even knowing more about their history now, had you shown me this device on the market back then, I doubt I would have grasped the potential it represented.


#7

my odyssey2 unit still works and i have about 10 games for it. i did not have k.c. munchkin, pity. i bought mine in 1980 and it made my dorm room the hot ticket for anyone broke and/or without a significant other to hookup with.


#8

The Odyssey2 had a cartridge that was sort of a pared-down dev kit - you could make stuff with it.


#9

Now that’s interesting. Not many consoles would do that.


#10

From what I recall, it was a ‘mass-appeal’ device that was relatively inexpensive in comparison to Atari. Somehow, we ended up with a Fairchild at the time, which wasn’t too shabby either. Both Magnavox and Fairchild (heck, Texas Instruments too, but I don’t recall a game proposition from them) were behind the proverbial eight ball - Atari and Mattell were slapping fishes across each other’s cheeks.


#11

We had one of these when I was a kid. I remember the plastic templates on the screens, the game cards which were just circuit traces that completed different circuits on each one. And the industrial design–this thing looked like the future, and it was so beautiful. I don’t think it lasted until we got our Atari 2600 though, and I’m not sure what happened to it.


#12

When I was in college, I dated someone who had a Magnavox TV with the Odyssey built into it (no console). Even then (1989) it was old.

The TI-99 had a cartridge slot (but that was a computer; maybe you meant a dedicated game console). I remember playing TI Invaders at the appliance store.


#13

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