Classic Home Videogames Museum: First Generation

First Generation Systems: 1972 to 1976

. . . 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

The Systems


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.

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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.