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Odyssey I Home Video Game System
This nOde last updated October 10th, 2004 and is permanently morphing...
(13 Cimi / 9 Yax (Green) - 26/260 -

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odyssey (òd´î-sê) noun
plural odysseys
1. An extended adventurous internal linkvoyage or trip.
2. An intellectual or spiritual quest: an odyssey of discovery.
[After the Odyssey a Homeric epic recounting the wanderings of Odysseus after the fall of Troy, from Greek Odusseia, from Odusseus, Odysseus.]

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Magnavox Odyssey 1.71 internal linkFAQ 10/29/97

Compiled by Shaun Gegan a.k.a. Loomis

Please link and credit me when using the FAQ. Thanks.

Inherent Mirth Odyssey Museum
Searching for info on the Odyssey 600 and 1000.

Contributors: (SUPER THANKS !!!)

Anthony Leckington <ael@teleport.com>
Lee K. Seitz <lkseitz@hiwaay.net>
Jerry Greiner <JerryG@hevanet.com>
Van Burnham <van@wired.com>
Matthew Kiehl <waffles@swbell.net>

Some info gathered from:
Phoenix: The Fall and Rise of Video Games, by Leonard Herman
(Rolenta Press, ISBN 0-9643848-2-5) $19.95 1st edition

The Magnavox Odyssey 1 was the very first home video game system. On January 27th, 1972, Magnavox began production on the machine, and the system was released in May. The system was heavily advertised and reportedly sold 100,000 units in 1972 for around $100 each.

In 1966 Ralph Baer, who had immigrated to the U.S. from Germany after WWII, began work on a system roughly based on a game being played on internal linkoscilloscopes in research labs. This revolutionary tennis simulation game was invented in 1958 by the late physicist William Higinbotham at the US Department of Nuclear Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory. Higinbotham programmed the "Tennis for Two" game using trajectory paths on an analog computer with two control boxes (each with direction knob and "serve" button) and a 5" B/W oscilloscope screen. He demonstrated the program as an "Instrumentation" display during Visitors' Day at the facility. He never had any plans to market his tennis simulator and chose not to patent the game. internal linkEight years later, Baer, the manager of consumer product development for Sanders Associates (a military electronics consulting firm) further developed the game toward military training. Soon after, Baer recruited engineers Bill Rusch and Bill Harrison to assist with this top secret 'TV Game.'
Ralph Baer - Odyssey

By 1967 the trio had completed a rather sophisticated prototype of a video game console containing both a 'Tennis' and 'Hockey' ball-and-paddle game to be shown to a Pentagon review board. The project remained classified until the Pentagon finally lost interest due to the machine's lack of internal linkdefense potential. Finally, Baer was permitted to continue development for the commercial market.

In 1968 Baer began applying for patents on his invention that, once approved, would entitle them to the exclusive rights to make, use and sell video ball-and-paddle games. All other makers would require licensing to manufacture the games. Later that year, they preview the game to Teleprompter, a NYC cable company, as an interactive cable game system but the company is skeptical.

In 1969 the team demonstrated their final prototype for RCA, General Electric, Zenith, and Magnavox for consumer electronics licensing.

In 1971 Ralph Baer patented the Television Gaming Apparatus. Patent Abstract:

"The present invention pertains to an apparatus [and method], in conjunction with monochrome and color television receivers, for the generation, display, manipulation, and use of symbols or geometric figures upon the screen of the television receivers for the purpose of [training simulation, for] playing games [and for engaging in other activities] by one or more participants. The invention comprises in one embodiment a control unit, an apparatus connecting the control unit to the television receiver and in some applications a television screen overlay mask utilized in conjunction with a standard television receiver. The control unit includes the control, circuitry, switches and other electronic circuitry for the generation, manipulation and control of video signals which are to be displayed on the television screen. The connecting apparatus selectively couples the video signals to the receiverinternal linkantenna terminals thereby using existing electronic circuits within the receiver to internal linkprocessand display the signals generated by the control unit in a first state of the coupling apparatus and to receive broadcast television signals in a second state of the coupling apparatus. An overlay mask which may be removably attached to the television screen may determine the nature of the game to be played or the training simulated. Control units may be provided for each of the participants. Alternatively, games [training simulations and other activities] may be carried out in conjunction with background and other pictorial internal linkinformation originated in the television receiver by commercial TV, closed-circuit TV or a CATV station. " After an initial deal with RCA falls through, the unit is further marketed and Magnavox is licensed to manufacture and distribute what is released in May of 1972 as the 'Odyssey Home internal linkEntertainment System.'
Information in formation

On a side note, the system was sold primarily through Magnavox-affiliated stores. Retailers (and perhaps Magnavox themselves) implied to potential customers that a Magnavox television was required in order to use the Odyssey. This was probably done to increase television sales. But alas, the limited distribution combined with the shady/uninformed retailers proved to be fatal blunders that ultimately backfired and killed the machine within a year.

The Odyssey was a very simple machine by today's standards. The unit could not keep score, was black and white, and had very minimal graphic capabilities. Microchips were very expensive in 1972, for Intel had just released the microprocessor in 1971. Subsequently, the Odyssey was designed with only 40 transistors and 40 diodes. To get around this simplistic design the Odyssey's games came packaged with color overlays, which were to be taped onto one's television or stored when not in use. The Odyssey also came bundled with over 300 parts, including cards, paper money, dice, and poker chips. These items helped to improve the machine's aforementioned simplicity. The Odyssey's packed-in games came on six small numbered circuit boards, and it should be noted that these were not cartridges so to speak, for they held no ROMs. These circuit boards merely reprogrammed the machine.


   Master control unit (ITL 200  1of 4 pcs.)
   2 Player control units (ITL 200  1of 4 pcs.)
   Game cord (ITL 200 1 of 4 pcs.)
internal linkAntenna game switch with 2 hanging hooks (ITL 001) came in its own box.
   6 red-label Eveready C internal linkbatteries

Game cards #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 and #6:

    #1 Table Tennis
    #2 Ski, & Simon Says
    #3 Tennis, Analogic, Hockey, & Football (for passing & kicking)
    #4 Cat and Mouse, Football (for running) & Haunted House
    #5 Submarine
    #6 Roulette & States

Overlays (2 each, one big and one small for different televisions):

   Cat  and Mouse
   Haunted House
   Simon Says

Standard game accessories:

   Stick on numbers (642978-2)
   Football Game board field/Roulette Layout board (642898 0001)
   Odyssey stadium scoreboard (642964-1)
   2 Football tokens (attached to the Odyssey stadium scoreboard)
   2 Yardage markers (attached to the Odyssey stadium scoreboard)
   20 Pass cards
   20 Run cards
   10 Kick off cards
   10 Punt cards
   2 Pass card
   2 Run card
   2 Punt card
   30 Clue cards
   13 Secret message cards
   50 chips (16 red 16 blue 18 white) with ziplock bag
   Money (approximately 100 each of $5  $10  $50 and $100)
   28 Simon says cards
   50 States cards
   Affairs of states (answer folder) (591549-1)
   States study map (591550-1)
   Pair of dice

Loose documents:

   Odyssey installation and game rules book (IB2622-2)
       36p ("Run 1 a" and "Run 2") 1972
       24p ("Run 1 b") 1974
   "How to get service" card (EL2811-2)
   "Thank you" card (EL3018-1)
   "Notice" card (EL3028-1)
   2 key punch inspection cards
   A coupon that promised "free games" with registration (Percepts?)

* Fun Zoo, add-on game which came in a black box, 1x 4 x 17 long.
#ITL900. Included two overlays, 28 Fun Zoo Cards, and instructions. Used

card #2 supplied with base system.

* Percepts, add-on game which may have been a "freebie" or included as a pack-in with some systems. Very very scarce. Included two overlays, two decks of 15 Percepts cards (one green, one purple) and instructions. Used card #2 supplied with base system.

* Baseball, add-on game which came in a black box, 1x 4 x 17 long.
#ITL700. Included two overlays, game board, scoreboard, 26 Line Up Cards

(13 Red, 13 Blue), 10 Power Cards, 10 Big Break Cards, 12 runner tokens
(4 red, 4 blue, 4 white), a pair of dice and instructions. Used card #3
supplied with base system.

* Invasion, add-on game which came in a black box, 1x 4 x 17 long.
#ITL801. Included two overlays, 40 Treasure Loot Cards, 300 army tokens,

4 token ships, dice, invasion game board and instructions. Used cards
#4, #5 and #6 supplied with the base system.

* Volleyball, add-on game which came in a black box, 1x 4 x 17 long.
#ITL702. Included two overlays, game card #7 and instructions.

* Handball, add-on game which came in a black box, 1x 4 x 17 long.
#ITL701. Included two overlays, game card #8 and instructions.

* Wipeout, add-on game which came in a black box, 1x 4 x 17 long.
#ITL800. "... advance your car along the game board as you complete your
laps. you must be fast, but also accurate, as you are timed and
penalized by the timer light. (For 2 to 4 players)" Included two
overlays, game board (folds into thirds), 25 pit stop cards, four car
tokens (small, skinny plastic cars similar to the one in monopoly- red,
yellow, green, and blue), and instructions. Used game card #8 (or 5?)
and instructions.

Electronic rifle games:

#9 Shootout, Dogfight, and Prehistoric Safari
#10 Shooting Gallery

  Carry case with loading instructions (EL2942-1)
  AC adaptor (1A9179) output is 9V DC 40 mA
  Electronic Rifle

So far, four different versions of the Odyssey have been discovered.
The first style is marked "Run 1" on the tab located on the bottom of
the machine (attached to the serial number). This machine will be called

"Run 1 a".

Run 1 a- games (included the corresponding parts):

Table Tennis
Cat and Mouse
Haunted House
Simon Says

The instruction book for this combination is copyrighted 1972 and is 36
pages long.

The second Odyssey is also marked "Run 1", but it is marked in red ink
from a handstamp over the serial number sticker. This machine will be
called "Run 1 b".

Run 1 b- games (included the corresponding parts):

Table Tennis
Wipe Out
Simon Says.

The manual is copyrighted 1974 and has 24 pages. Note that games Wipe
Out and Volleyball are the same as the add on games of the same name and

the parts included reflect this. Missing are the games, instructions,
and parts for Football, Cat and Mouse, Haunted House, and Roulette and

Note that the boxes are also different in that each reflects the
corresponding screen shots and names of the enclosed games.

The third Odyssey is marked "Run 2", on the tab located on the bottom of

the machine (attached to the serial number). This machine will be called

"Run 2 a".

"Run 2 a" is identical to "Run 1 a". It has the same games and the same
36 page instruction book from 1972! One would think that it would have
the later 1974 instruction book but apparently not so. Whether or not "Run 2"
used the "Run 1 a" box I do not know.

The fourth variation, "Run 2 b" is identical to "Run 2 a" except that
the white "Magnavox" logo, which is usually located on the right side of the
woodgrain is absent.

internal linkNolan Bushnell attended one of the early Odyssey demonstrations in Burlingame, CA on May 24, 1972. After founding internal linkAtarion June 27, 1972, Bushnell and Al Alcorn (his first employee) built the famous prototype coin-op Pong machine and installed it in Andy Capp's, a local Sunnyvale bar. Soon after Magnavox sued for copyright infringement. Although Bushnell insisted that he did not copy PONG from the Odyssey, US District Court Judge John F. Grady was not convinced that Bushnell had conceived Pong prior to seeing the 1972 Odyssey demo and ruled that Atari must pay royalties to Magnavox in order to market its games. A $700,000 settlement was awarded in the first ever video game lawsuit.

Nolan Bushnell plays go Atari

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