. . . the first video game appeared in 1972. Introduced by Magnavox and dubbed "Odyssey," it was a simple apparatus by today's standards. The circuits weren't smart enough to electronically paint the playing field, so the player had to tape a transparent overlay on the TV screen to represent the court. The nation got its first glimpse of the new game in 1973 on a Sunday night special starring Frank Sinatra. Although the game's below-$100 price was in reach of many buyers, it remained a curiosity. Four years would pass before the videogame could become a household item.
-- Len Buckwalter, Videogames: A Complete Guide
In the mid-1970s, there were at least sixty Pong-style videogames available to consumers. Almost all of them were ball-and-paddle (b&p) systems, meaning, the only games available were Tennis, Hockey, Handball, Squash, and sometimes Catch. What made one unit more attractive than another depended on its price (typical prices: $49.95 to $89.95), brand name, and such luxury features as remote (but wired) controls, automatic scoring, color, pause, and various b&p-specific attributes such as playing speed, serve, english, and resistance to repeating patterns.
But in 1976, Fairchild with its Channel F and then RCA with its Studio II introduced programmable gaming systems. By inserting various preprogrammed ROM cartridges into these units, one could play a limitless number of games. Although the Channel F, which has color and two detached joystick-style controllers, clearly beat the Studio II (which is black-and-white and only has two keypad-style controllers, built into the unit), neither was a great success compared to the systems chosen as the "second generation." This fact, and the year of introduction, puts them in the first generation.
Dennis Brown, dgbrown (at) pixesthesia (dot) com, creator and maintainer. E-Mail me with corrections and additions. All contents copyright 2006, Dennis Brown. All trademarks are properties of their respective companies.